Crans-Montana's is especially good for intermediates, and although there are relatively few difficult pistes there are good opportunities for skiing off-piste. The ski area includes 140km of marked pistes (15km black, 70km red, 55km blue), and at Aminona there's an impressive 50,000 m² snowpark with Boardercross, quarterpipes, big-air and rails, together with a bar and deckchairs in the middle of the snowpark. There's also free speed skiing at Cry d'Er, a free slalom course at the Pas du Loup sector and night skiing at Grand Signal, Cry d'Er.
Although predominantly south-facing, Crans-Montana's ski area - which stretches from the Glacier Plaine Morte at 3,000m down to village level at 1,500m - is mostly high enough to retain good snow conditions and cold enough to allow snow cannons to create artificial snow when needed. With the majority of Crans-Montana's guests busy devoting their time to other activities, the ski slopes are not overcrowded. Queuing for ski lifts is minimal except occasionally at the very busiest times.
Crans-Montana's ski area includes wide-open runs and significant off-piste for freeriding, with panoramic Alpine views above 2,000m and scenic tree-lined routes down from 2,000m to the base stations. Signposting leaves room for improvement, especially once you ski away from the main lift stations, and difficulties caused by inadequate signposting and an absence of numbered piste markers is not compensated for by the Crans-Montana ski map which is not as well-referenced as it might be for route finding, and can be confusing at times.
Crans-Montana is served by 27 ski lifts, with three more button lifts for beginners on the golf course. A free ski bus connects Crans, Montana and each of the four main lift stations in Crans, Montana, Violettes and Aminona. The ski bus is useful when you need to start or end your ski day far from where you are staying, but a more frequent bus service is needed. Presently the buses run only every half hour, which is too long to wait, especially when it's cold, and another reason why so many of Crans-Montana's guests prefer to come by car.
Although there's just one black piste marked on the ski map, snow conditions permitting, there are good opportunities for advanced and expert skiers to venture into deeper snow between the pistes and to ski off-piste at higher altitudes. But there are numerous cliffs which look good for extreme skiers, but dangerous if you venture off-piste unaware, so for safety's sake it's always best to hire a local mountain guide.
There's night skiing every Friday night (19:00-22:00) on four kilometres of floodlit pistes, 15km of snowshoeing paths and 65km designated for walking. Crans-Montana also has one of Switzerland's best toboggan runs, a 6km descent from 2,400m down to 1,500m, which is popular in the evenings and customarily followed by a fondue.
There's 35km of cross-country skiing on the glacier and on trails at lower levels from Crans to Aminona. It's also quite common to encounter skiers with touring skis and skins working their way up the edge of some ski pistes - a good fitness work-out!
Crans-Montana has invested heavily in new lifts in recent years, along with improvements to many of its pistes. Four million Swiss francs have been injected into the modernisation of the Piste Nationale - used for the 2010 Women's World Cup races, slalom and GS races. A new quad-chairlift has replaced the Cry-d'Er cable car and the old T3 button lift, running to the top of Bellalui (2528m) with its stunning views of Mont Blanc and the Rhone Valley. The new lift is reputedly 20% faster and takes 2,400 people an hour over a distance of almost a mile.
The comfortable six-seater National Express chairlift, which opened in 2007/08, halved the time taken to ride back up to the top of the National piste. There are no pull-down hoods on chairlifts for protection in bad weather, arguably because hoods are seldom needed in this sunniest of Swiss resorts.
Each of the lifts is numbered and clearly marked on the map, and although the runs themselves are not numbered and are less well signposted away from the lift stations, it's easy enough to navigate your way around the ski area. Skiing or boarding in the forest is prohibited in order to protect trees, fauna and wildlife.
There are pay car parks close to the main lift stations in Crans, Montana and Violettes and free car parking next to the lift station in Aminona. If you do not have a car and you do not want to carry skis and wear ski boots between your hotel and the lifts, you can rent a ski locker for a week, two weeks or a longer period if necessary.
A hands-free electronic ski lift pass system is in operation for lift passes of more than two days duration, otherwise day tickets are issued if you're skiing for just a day or two. For hands-free cards, a photo is necessary and can be obtained at the lift ticket offices.
If you're skiing more than one resort in the Valais region you can buy a personal prepaid Valais Ski Card which is valid for up to two years in more than 40 Valais ski resorts. Day tickets are available at reduced prices for non-skiers wanting to access the lift system.
Free lift passes are available for children under six years old. A discount of 10% is available for families purchasing the same ski pass for three or more family members, staying at the same address in Crans-Montana.
Free lift passes are available for children under six years old. A discount of 10% is available for families purchasing the same ski pass for three or more family members, staying at the same address in Crans-Montana.
Le Signal area is a good starting point for beginners, with the gentle terrain and wide, uncrowded pistes providing an opportunity to learn to ski or board without disruption. With plenty or restaurants nearby, this is Crans-Montana's best area for families with young children learning to ski - and ideal for skiers staying in Montana, with the Grand Signal gondola providing easy access to the area. However, with a free bus service available between the four gondolas at the base of the ski area, beginners can access Le Signal via Montana without needing to ski any trickier runs. It is worth the journey to allow beginners to take advantage of the area's peaceful environment.
The cluster of blue runs down from La Toula, Les Violettes and the Petit Bonvin areas are well suited to improving beginners, and particularly good for those staying in Aminona and not wishing to use the bus. With slightly steeper terrain, this area will test whether beginners are ready to move on to more challenging pistes, as will the red runs which must be skied in order to navigate elsewhere on the mountain.
The Cry d'Er section provides a natural progression for beginners ready to move on to intermediate red runs. While the red slopes here are also quite wide and not too steep, this part of the ski area is busy with cruising intermediates. But beginners also have the alternative of a T-bar-served blue run down to Chetseron should the busier reds prove too demanding.
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Your preferred skiing itinerary will largely be decided by where you are staying and your first lift up in the morning. But as a general rule ride the lifts and get high to grab the best snow and keep your eyes peeled for mountain huts.
If you're staying in Crans, take the gondola to Cry d'Er (2267m). Stay on and ride past the middle station at Merbe to Mont Lachaux (2140m) - or, if you're staying in Montana take the gondola to Arnouvaz/Cry d'Er. Confident intermediates and above can kick off by skiing National, then ride the super comfy six-seater Nationale Express chairlift back to Cry d'Er and ride the cable car to Bellalui (2543m). Ski down a short way and ride the Zabona button lift back up before skiing down to Les Violettes (2250m). From here you can take the Funitel up to Glacier Plaine Morte (3000m). From Plaine Morte there's a good red (and some interesting off-piste possibilities) to the bottom of the La Toula chairlift. Then check out the Cabane des Taules hut for a drink or house-speciality: raclette.
Be sure to ski over to the Aminona sector, ride the Teleski Ecole gondola from the bottom station to Petit Bonvin (2400m) and ski down to the snowpark - past it or through it, as you prefer. Maybe pause a while to see who's freestyling and boarding that day as you'll likely see some impressive performances. Head back to Les Violettes sector and check out the runs down to Barzettes-Violettes before making your way back to loop the Nationale Express chairlift and Piste Nationale a few times. Then ski back to Crans or Montana from Cry d'Er.
The Nationale is a fun red-run with a comfy and fast ride back up on the 6-seater Nationale Express chairlift. This allows time to spot interesting deeper snow possibilities on Pas de Loup, which holds good snow, skier's right of Nationale Piste, switching to skier's left below the middle station and cutting down in the gap between the forest below the chairlift.
In good snow conditions there are plenty of good off-piste itineraries for advanced and expert skiers in the upper reaches of the centre of the ski area - beneath the Glacier Plaine Morte 3000m down to Les Violettes 2,250m.
The glacier itself is flat, with 360° panoramic views, but below it, along Tubang (2826m), Mont Bonvin (2995m) and La Toula there are wide open pitches and opportunities to traverse high to find a steep line and the best available untracked snow.
The slopes off-piste below Bella Lui between Mont Lachaux, Col du Pochet and Les Violettes feature many ridges and cliffs, and it's tempting while riding the lifts to contemplate drop-off descents when the powder is fresh and deep enough.
Looking north from the ridge running between Plaine Morte to Mont Bonvin and Petit Bonvin (2400m), there are backcountry possibilities in the direction of Les Faverges (2968m) for ski touring with a guide. These include sections of the route followed by the demanding Defi des Faverges ski-mountaineering race (www.defidesfaverges.ch) held in Crans Montana every two years.
Less serious racing for most participants is the Crans-Montana Mont Lachaux Trophy open downhill ski race at the end of March each year. The downhill race from Bella Lui to Crans is open to all ages from 14-99 years with team races on Saturday and individual races on Sunday, 24 categories including snowboard, telemark, snowbike, fancy dress and according to age. The event concludes mid-Sunday afternoon with prize giving, entertainment, eating and drinking at Crans Cry d'Er cable car station.
When snow conditions are favourable, Crans-Montana has excellent terrain for boarders and freestyle skiers alike, including boardercross, as well as rails, boxes, kickers and a wall ride. There's also night skiing and boarding every Friday 19:00 - 22:00 at Cry d'Er and Verdetts.
The lower runs that wind their way back down to resort level are true blue, but narrower than the higher reaches. And with early-stage skiers and boarders needing more time and space to make turns it, can be a little busy on the narrow home runs back to Crans-Montana.
The Snowpark, formerly at Aminona, was moved to Cry d'Er where snow is guaranteed thanks to snowmaking. Covering an area of 50,000 m², Crans-Montana's Snowpark includes a halfpipe, boardercross course, slope style for beginners, rails, jumps, a wallride, box, hip, C-rail and rainbow.
South-facing Crans-Montana is one of the sunniest resorts in Europe, with spectacular views south from town and especially higher up on mountain. That said, mountain restaurants in Crans-Montana are arguably not as good as some other Swiss resorts, and not on a par with the restaurants in town; but it's still worth heading up the mountain for lunch and to appreciate the views. Non-skiers can buy a reduced-price lift ticket to meet family and friends for lunch at the Arnouva restaurant above Crans, Merbe above Montana or La Cure in Aminona.
The ruins from Bellalui down to Chetzeron, and from the Plaine Morte glacier to Violettes, via the World Cup Nationale run - in the heart of the ski area - are dotted with good restaurants. The Cabanes Taules, a little hut with a corrugated iron roof to the left of the La Toula chairlift, with the bowler-hatted proprietor preparing raclette dishes outside, is a fun place to stop for a drink or lunch, but with a limited menu. The house speciality - "as much raclette and potato as you can eat" - is good. Bellalui is worth it just for the view.
The Buvette Pepinet is also worth a visit, if you can find it. It's perfectly visible on the map, but when you're skiing down the blue run from Les Violettes lift it's easily missed, in spite of a small signpost which appears to point in the direction of the piste but actually means to say turn sharp right away from the piste. It's worth riding the Colorado gondola back to Les Violettes and skiing down the red run on the other side, skier's right, as the restaurant is visible below on the left from this run.
Dutch owned and named after the Rotterdam 010 dialling code, Zerodix is a stylish new bar restaurant conveniently located next to the Cry d'Er gondola base station and worth visiting for lunch and/or apres ski. The attractive south-facing sun deck includes huge red umbrellas and heaters when needed, tables and seating for around 50 covers outside and a similar number inside including one large table for 12 people.
Chez Erwin Tel: +41 (0) 27 480 17 43
Refuge Mt Lachaux Tel: +41 (0) 78 913 02 34
Merbe Tel: +41 (0) 27 481 22 97
Arnouva Tel: +41 (0) 78 655 33 88
Amadeus 2006 Tel: +41 (0) 78 655 33 89
Chez Nanette Tel: +41 (0) 79 332 18 21
Cry d'Er Tel: +41 (0) 27 481 24 10
Bellalui Tel: +41 (0) 27 481 29 95
Plaine-Morte Tel: +41 (0) 27 481 36 95
Violettes Tel: +41 (0) 79 503 46 21
Cabane CAS Tel: +41 (0) 27 481 39 19
Buvette Pepinet Tel: +41 (0) 78 722 43 90
Cabane des Taules Tel: +41 (0) 27 485 89 10
Snowpark Tel: +41 (0) 27 485 89 10
Buvette Prabaron Tel: +41 (0) 79 729 20 58
Petit Mt Bonvin Tel: +41 (0) 27 481 65 95
Plumachit Tel: +41 (0) 27 481 25 32
La Cure Tel: +41 (0) 27 481 04 98
Zerodix Tel: +41 (0) 27 481 00 90
The neighbouring communities of Crans and Montana lie to the west and east respectively of the small Lac Grenon. The villages are quite spread out, with a ribbon-like development either side of the roads running between. And although there is a free bus service between Crans, Montana and Aminona, it runs only once every half hour, which is not really frequent enough. The real estate, shopping opportunities, hotel accommodation and village environment in Crans is generally more upmarket than neighbouring Montana, but both are attractive places to stay.
With the main access road running some two kilometres from Crans to Montana, at first it seems there is no focal point to the villages. In Crans in low season, many privately owned chalets and apartments are unoccupied, and in stark contrast to the impressive mountain views, when their window shutters are down the sequence of eight-storey chalet apartments that line the road is unattractive. On further investigation on foot, especially in Crans, as you walk south from the main road towards the Crans-sur-Sierre golf club, you will find the main focal point of town - a delightful arrangement of boutiques with shop windows glistening with expensive Swiss watches and designer fashion brand. There's also an ample selection of restaurants and bars as well as a few nightclubs.
Few ski resorts in Switzerland can match Crans-Montana for shopping. According to tourist office literature there are as many as 168 shops and the shopping in Crans is superb, with names such as Bulgari, Chanel, Hermes, Hublot, Louis Vuitton, Moncler and Prada represented, to name but a few. In addition to shops owned by or selling major fashion brands the shops in the centre of Crans include upscale art galleries, the Bonvin cigar shop, a Chocolatier and Laiterrie de Crans "Le Terroir" cheese shop which also sells Swiss cow bells, the biggest of which will set you back 3,500 Swiss Francs. But if you fancy something bigger and even more expensive, Crans-Montana has as many as 34 estate agencies, most of them in Crans, where the best chalets and apartments cost several million francs.
The resort is steeped in ski history. It was back in 1911, on January 7, that the first "Roberts of Kandahar" Challenge Cup took place here - claimed to be the first official Alpine ski race in history. It was set up by Sir Henry Lunn, the celebrated promoter of British pre-war tourism in the Swiss Alps, whose son Arnold pioneered Alpine skiing. The centenary of this historic race was celebrated in April 2011 with a downhill race from the Plaine-Morte glacier. The skiers used long wooden vintage skis and wore period costumes.
1911 was also the year when Crans-Montana built its funicular - claimed to be the longest in Europe - to allow tourists, golfers and sanatorium patients to connect with Sierre, shortening the journey from four hours (by mule!) to 35 minutes, using two connecting funiculars. The journey time was further cut to 12 minutes in 1997 with the construction of a new single funicular. Today the journey takes either 20 minutes (stopping at each stop en route) or 12 minutes direct. There are two funiculars an hour, one at a quarter past the hour, which stops on the way and the other at a quarter to the hour, which is direct.
Approximately 55% of Crans-Montana guests are Swiss, with around 10% coming from each of France and Italy (benefiting from fast rail connections from Paris and Milan or a relatively easy road journey), about 8% from each of Germany and the Benelux countries and around 3% from Britain. A high proportion of guests are repeat visitors and the resort is keen to attract more visitors from Britain, both summer and winter.
The apres ski in Crans Montana is laid back rather than lively, but that suits Crans-Montana's regular clientele, mainly families and couples, who are content to return to their hotel or apartment for wellness or to indulge in a few hours retail therapy before dinner.
Crans-Montana may not be buzzing between 4pm and 9pm, but with 168 shops, more than 70 restaurants, 25 bars, six cafes, four tea rooms, a cinema and a casino it's not dull either. There's plenty happening in Crans-Montana, more than in most ski resorts, but it's definitely not Club 18-30 and pleased to remain that way. Zerodix next to the Cry d'Er gondola base station in Crans and Senso bar in central Montana are welcome additions and worth visiting.
There are three discotheques in Crans-Montana and a casino next to the ice hockey stadium in Montana, so if you fancy a flutter after dinner, head over there for a game of roulette, black jack or poker, or try your luck on the fruit machines.
According to tourist office literature, there are over 100 eating and drinking establishments of one kind or another in Crans-Montana - including restaurants, mountain restaurants, seven cafes, 25 bars, snack-bars and four tea rooms.
For fine dining off the mountain, there are more than 70 restaurants offering dishes ranging from traditional Swiss dishes to Argentine, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, French, Italian, Lebanese, Portuguese and Spanish. It's best to explore Crans-Montana on foot to find them. Standards and prices are high so it's by no means the cheapest of ski resorts for dining out, but most restaurant menus are displayed outside so you check whether the menu suits your tastes and budget or not.
The Restaurant Giardino and Restaurants des Alpes, both within the Hotel Guarda Golf, Restaurant Le Mont Blanc at Le Crans Hotel and Le Relais at Grand Hotel du Golf & Palace are recommended for fine dining. Three restaurants in Crans-Montana are listed in the Swiss edition of the Gault Millau guide. The Cafe Cher-Mignon has 13 points, and specialises in "bistronomy" - a fusion of bistrot and gastronomy. The restaurant at the Pas de l'Ours has 17 points and the Le Mont Blanc restaurant at Le Crans has 15 points.
Wine lists in restaurants and bars include selections of good-quality local wines. The region produces a number of famous Valais wines, including Johannisberg, Petite Arvine, Amigne, Humagne and Cornalin - few of which get the chance to be exported as the majority of wine output is consumed locally within Valais. There are also plenty of classic wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Italy and new-world wines on offer.
Pick up a copy of Guide des Restaurants (French language only), distributed freely in most hotels and available at Crans-Montana Tourist Offices.
Bar 1900 Tel: +41 27 480 1900
Caprice at Le Plaza Bar Tel: +41 27 481 20 83
Le Bar du Mirabeau Tel: +41 27 480 25 30
Le Bar du Valaisia Tel: +41 27 481 26 12
Le Bowling Tel: +41 27 481 50 50
Le New Pub Tel: +41 27 480 25 98
Lounge at Hotel Guarda Golf Tel: +41 27 486 20 00
Miezdor Tel: +41 27 485 90 10
Pub Old G&D Tel: +41 27 480 22 48
Senso Bar Tel: +41 27 481 81 81
Sporting Club Tel: +41 27 481 11 77
Vinoteque at Le Crans Hotel Tel: +41 27 481 41 98
Zerodix Tel: +41 27 481 00 90
Chez Dominique Tel: +41 27 481 25 80
Le Pacha Club Tel: +41 27 480 13 94
Xellent Club Tel: +41 27 481 65 96
Harry's Club Tel: +41 79 938 74 86
Aux Noctambules Tel: +41 27 481 68 06
Dun Huang (Chinese) Tel: +41 27 481 90 80
Bistro des Ours (Classic) Tel: +41 27 485 93 33
Cafe Cher-Mignon (Classic) Tel: +41 28 483 25 96
Caviar House & Prunier (Classic) Tel: +41 28 480 48 00
Crans-Sapin (Classic) Tel: +41 28 483 14 41
La Hotte (Classic) Tel: +41 28 485 41 11
La Veranda (Classic) Tel: +41 28 485 90 10
Le Chaudron (Classic) Tel: +41 28 481
Le Christina (Classic) Tel: +41 28 481 37 67
Le Continental (Classic) Tel: +41 28 481 49 28
Le Fer a Cheval (Classic) Tel: +41 28 485 44 00
Le Plaza (Classic) Tel: +41 28 481 20 83
Le Relais (Classic) Tel: +41 28 485 42 42
Le Rhapsodie (Classic) Tel: +41 28 481 11 15
Zerodix (Classic) Tel: +41 27 481 00 90
Marquise (Spanish) Tel: +41 27 481 42 92
Las Tapas (Spanish) Tel: +41 27 481 12 12
Hostellerie du Pas de l'Ours (Gourmet) Tel: +41 27 485 93 33
Le Mont Blanc at Le Crans (Gourmet) Tel: +41 27 486 60 60
Chez Dominique (Italian) Tel: +41 27 481 25 80
Creperie Chez Cuccu (Italian) Tel: +41 27 481 28 65
Il Padrino (Italian) Tel: +41 27 481 85 25
L'Arva Cafe (Italian) Tel: +41 27 481 11 15
Le Raphaele (Italian) Tel: +41 27 480 31 50
Pizza Mania (Italian) Tel: +41 27 480 12 14
Restaurant Giardino at Guarda Golf (Italian) Tel: +41 27 486 20 00
Le Baalbeck (Lebanese) Tel: +41 27 485 42 42
Le Thai du Pouchkine (Thai) Tel: +41 27 481 82 82
La Desalpe (Traditional) Tel: +41 27 480 44 61
La Plage (Traditional) Tel: +41 27 481 27 87
Le Chalet (Traditional) Tel: +41 27 481 05 05
La Channe (Traditional) Tel: +41 27 480 41 38
Petit Paradis (Traditional) Tel: +41 27 481 21 48
Restaurant des Alpes at Guarda Golf (Traditional) Tel: +41 27 486 20 00
Sporting Club (Traditional) Tel: +41 27 481 11 77
Chez Chicco Parilla (Argentine) Tel: +41 27 481 22 19
La Poste (Chinese) Tel: +41 27 481 80 81
Cafe du Centre (Classic) Tel: +41 28 481 36 68
Gerber (Classic) Tel: +41 28 481 62 47
Le Beau Soleil (Classic) Tel: +41 28 481 02 98
Le Belvedere (Classic) Tel: +41 28 481 17 95
Le Savoy (Classic) Tel: +41 28 485 09 00
Senso (Classic) Tel: +41 27 481 81 81
Le Michelangelo (Italian) Tel: +41 27 481 09 19
Le Victoria (Italian) Tel: +41 27 481 43 66
Le Vieux Moulin (Italian) Tel: +41 27 481 17 18
Oliveto (Italian) Tel: +41 27 480 22 22
Chez Fernando (Portuguese) Tel: +41 27 481 36 84
La Dent Blanche (Traditional) Tel: +41 27 481 11 79
Le Farinet (Traditional) Tel: +41 27 481 36 15
Le Greni (Traditional) Tel: +41 27 481 24 43
Le Mayen (Traditional) Tel: +41 27 481 29 85
Le Pavilion (Traditional) Tel: +41 27 481 24 69
Les Vignettes (Traditional) Tel: +41 27 481 23 31
Bellavista Istanbul (Turkish) Tel: +41 27 480 29 79
La Bonne Fourchette (Classic) Tel: +41 28 480 40 66
Le Trianon (Classic) Tel: +41 28 486 66 00
Edo (Japanese) Tel: +41 27 481 70 00
Auberge la Diligence (Lebanese) Tel: +41 27 485 99 85
Le Bergerie du Cervin (Traditional) Tel: +41 27 481 21 80
Besides 140km of alpine skiing, there are 63km of designated paths for walking, with varying degrees of difficulty, and five different snowshoe routes totalling 15km marked out on the golf course, in the forest and around the lakes.
There's cross-country skiing on the Plaine Morte glacier where you can appreciate the amazing 360 degree views of the most beautiful 4000- metre peaks in the Alps while skiing.
There's also a six-kilometre sledging track which runs from an altitude of 2400m down to 1500 metres. It's open in the evening, and a good way to build up an appetite, followed by a fondue. There's snow-tubing on the golf-course.
Crans and Montana both have outdoor ice rinks for skating and curling. There are eight public indoor pools in hotels, a heated salt-water pool and nine wellness centres.
Crans especially is packed with high-quality boutiques selling just about every brand of Swiss watch and designer fashion brand you can think of, and a few less well known but special brands too. Quality foods, including caviar and local dairy products, wines and interior furnishings, are exceptionally well presented - so if you can afford to splash the cash you'll find plenty to tempt you If not, it makes for good window shopping. Likewise, there are dozens of real- estate agents offering mostly upmarket chalets and apartments for sale. If you feel like taking it easy, there is a cinema in the centre of Crans, with a good variety of up-to-date films, and there's a casino too (+41 (0) 27 485 90 40 www.partouche-casino-crans-montana.ch. There are several internet cafes and a library of more than 30,000 books and CDs.
From May to October, there are many summer activities including walking, biking and especially golf. Crans is an important destination for golfers, and the hundred-year-old Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club hosts a number of important golf tournaments.
In summer there's around 280km of walking paths in the mountains, forests and around the lakes, plus 170km of cross-country trails for biking, 40km of downhill bike trails, and a special bike park next to the Cry d'Er lift station in Crans, which is busy throughout the summer months and the car park is full of experienced bikers fully kitted out in protective clothing and helmets preparing to tackle the bike trails. There's also a climbing wall and 16 fitness centres (10 of which are in hotels).
Crans-Montana is a great destination for golf. How many other ski resorts have four golf courses? The Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club is home to the Swiss Open and in September each year is home to the Omega European Masters, the second most prestigious PGA event in Europe after the British Open. The highly regarded 18-hole Severiano Ballesteros golf course was described by Greg Norman as one of the most spectacular tournament sites in the word. There's also a nine-hole Jack Nicklaus course and the Super-Crans and Noas courses are open to beginners (no handicap necessary). The golf courses are open from May to October. The resort also has Europe's first high-altitude year-round golf Performance Centre, replacing the old driving range with an indoor putting green. Recognized by the European Your, it specializes in bio-mechanics coaching and has a simulator, a driving swing analyser and video. www.golfcrans.ch
For tennis lovers, Crans boasts two tennis halls, 20 outdoor courts and seven indoor courts, and is now the only ski resort in Europe to host an ATP Tour Event. If you are with the family and looking to entertain your children there, is year-round horse-riding at Le Centre Equestre de Montana (a short bus ride away) with private tuition and a Shetland mini club for children. Or an archery programme for adults and children over 10.
Crans-Montana has a long and rich history of ski racing. In 2011 the resort celebrated the centenary of what is generally recognised as the first downhill ski race in the world - organised by the Sir Henry Lunn (father of the Alpine ski pioneer Sir Arnold) on the Haut Plateau from the Plaine-Morte glacier down to Mollens. Since then the resort has hosted more than 20 European Cup and 19 World Cup races, two World Cup finals, and the memorable 1987 Alpine World Championships.
After 12 years in Courmayeur, the prestigious City Ski Championships moves to Crans-Montana in 2012. This fun packed race weekend attracts celebrities and over 200 skiers from more than 40 firms from London's financial community to race against each other (there are race categories for all abilities) and to party!
Other winter sports events from January to March are numerous, including La Foulee Blanche cross-country ski race, Swiss Curling Championships, the "Swiss R Project" National Freestyle snowboard competition, the Trofeo del Mont Lachaux open downhill ski race, the Defi des Faverges ski mountaineering race, and the Crans-Montana Snowgames.
Most weeks throughout the year, at one time or another, there is one or other special sporting or cultural event ranging from the International Hot-Air Balloon Meeting, special Musical Weeks, an Antique and Arts Fair, a Wine Gala, a 'Nuits des Neiges' charity evening, the Caprices Festival of music and comedy, International Bridge Week, waterskiing and wakeboarding competitions in August and many more.
September - Omega European Masters
October - Rally International Valais
December - Cristal Advertising Festival
January - International Hot-Air Balloon Meeting
January - Swiss Curling Championships
February - FIS World Cup Men
February - Children's Mardi Gras
March - City Ski Championships
March - Defi des Faverges ski mountaineering race
March - La Foulee Blanche cross-country ski race
March - Mont Lachaux Trophy open downhill ski race
April - Caprices Festival of music and comedy
April - Crans-Montana Snowgames
For more information about festivals and dates go to www.crans-montana.ch