Skiing in Crans-Montana

Crans-Montana ski area is almost entirely south-facing with one of the best 360 degree panoramic views in the Alps – from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn.

Crans-Montana Ski Area Overview

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!

Beginner Skiing in Crans-Montana

Crans-Montana’s family friendly ski area includes plenty of gentle terrain for beginners to gain confidence on wide uncrowded slopes with nearly 40 percent (55km) of Crans-Montana’s ski pistes classified blue.

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.

Ski Schools & Ski Lessons in Crans-Montana

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Intermediate Skiing in Crans-Montana 

Crans-Montana ski area is an intermediates’ playground. If you’re feeling adventurous you can test yourself on the jumps in the snowpark and find plenty of opportunity to experience deeper snow between the pistes.

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.

Advanced & Expert Skiing in Crans-Montana 

With most of Crans-Montana’s ski area designated red and just one fairly easy black run, the piste skiing in Crans-Montana is best suited to intermediates. Although advanced skiers are unlikely to find on-piste conditions very challenging, the marked runs are nonetheless very enjoyable and good for working on technique and there are good opportunities for skiing off-piste.

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 ( 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.

Boarding & Freestyle in Crans-Montana

Crans-Montana is widely regarded as a good destination for snowboarders of all abilities. There are few flats and lots of wide-open and mostly uncrowded intermediate red runs for carving – plus easy access to a reasonable amount of off-piste at higher altitude, and some good terrain jumps.

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.

Mountain Restaurants in Crans-Montana

Crans-Montana has 18 mountain restaurants ranging from hidden away mountain huts to self-service eateries. Some of them have limited seating indoors and are reliant on good weather to pack the sun terraces. Luckily Crans-Montana genuinely gets a great deal of sunshine!

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


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