Apres Ski in Crans-Montana
The ski resort of Crans-Montana is made up of three communities: Crans Sur Sierre, Montana and Aminona. Crans is upmarket, Montana is quieter and more family orientated, and Aminona is the proposed location for a major hotel and apartment complex, but by mid 2011, approval had yet to be given.
Crans and Montana Villages
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.
Apres Ski Bars & Nightlife in Crans-Montana
Crans-Montana apres ski is laid back and quiet in comparison to some resorts but with over 70 restaurants and 25 bars, pubs and nightclubs, six cafes and four tear rooms there’s plenty of entertainment on offer.
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.
Popular Bars in Crans-Montana
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
Discos & Nightclubs in Crans-Montana
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
Restaurants in Crans-Montana
There are over 100 eating and drinking establishments 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.
Other Activities in Crans-Montana
Crans-Montana is genuinely an all-year round resort and a sophisticated one at that, with plenty of activities besides skiing. In fact, only 30% of guests come to Crans-Montana to ski, so the non-skier is especially well catered for.
Winter Walking and Snow-shoeing in Crans-Montana
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.
Cross-Country Skiing in Crans-Montana
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.
Tobogganing and Snow-tubing in Crans-Montana
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.
Ice Skating, Swimming and Wellness in Crans-Montana
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.
Superb Shopping in Crans-Montana
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.
Summer Activities in Crans-Montana
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.
Walking and Biking in Crans-Montana
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).
Golf in Crans-Montana
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
Tennis and Horse-riding in Crans-Montana
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.