The twin resorts of Crans and Montana share a high-altitude ski area that is more famous for its sunshine, lovely views, elegant mountain restaurants and non-skiing activities than its pistes. But Crans-Montana has good easy skiing for relaxed intermediates and beginners, and some interesting off-piste for advanced skiers and freeriders.
Crans-Montana faces south. If it was purely a ski resort that would be a definite disadvantage but around 50% of winter guests come here for reasons other than skiing and boarding. There’s a wide range of snowsports on offer including cross-country skiing, tobogganing, snowshoeing, ice-skating and curling, but perhaps the most popular activities are simply walking on the specially prepared paths that crisscross the mountains and then soaking up the sunshine in over 25 mountain restaurants. And back down in the twin towns of Crans and Montana, the activities continue: there are more than 150 shops and boutiques for retail therapy, and 70 restaurants for dining out, plus a casino, a cinema, a sports centre and numerous bars and clubs, including some edgy ones in Montana. So these are bustling all year round holiday resorts rather than picturesque rustic Swiss mountain villages like those than can be found in nearby Val d’Anniviers.
And whilst skiing is just part of Crans-Montana’s appeal, it’s still pretty good. The mid-sized ski area ski area gets a lot of sun, so it best suits relaxed skiers who like cruising around but don’t want to start first thing in the morning (when the slopes can be icy) or carry on until the lifts close (when they get slushy) and who don’t mind stopping regularly for a drink, or a bite to eat, or just to admire the gorgeous views.
Beginners are well catered for: the golf course in Crans transforms into some easy nursery slopes and there are plenty of gentle blue runs for them to progress onto, particularly around Cry d’Err, and a good choice of ski schools and instructors. Intermediate-level skiers might think they will be tested by all the red runs on the Crans Montana piste map, but many would be labelled as blues in other resorts, and most of the black runs are relatively easy to tackle unless the snow is in poor condition. Intermediates can check their fitness, however, on the the beautiful 11km long piste snaking down from the glacier up at Plaine Morte at nearly 3000m to tree-lined Les Barzettes approximately 1500m below.
Advanced skiers won’t face many on-piste challenges unless they ski very fast on the World Cup downhill course (Piste Nationale) or seek out icy moguls. But there are 10 ungroomed ski routes marked on the map that are fun in fresh powder, and mountain guides can reveal more extensive off-piste challenges, especially for anyone prepared to strap skins onto their skis or split-boards and do some ski touring.