With 220km of ski pistes, Flims Laax offers its guests a diversity of terrain across a substantial area of 81 hectares - nearly triple that of the renowned St Moritz's ski area. Furthermore, the majority of pistes (70%) in Flims Laax are above 2000m, meaning excellent snow quality for truly exceptional skiing. This is further enhanced by Flims Laax's south-east location in the Swiss Alps. This area receives more and better snow fall than the south-west regions and is thus called the 'White-Arena'.
The most popular areas of skiing are the runs leading from Crap Sogn Gion (2228m, the Vorab glacier (3018m) and the area between La Siala (2810m) and Nagens (2127m). Each area offers something special, whether it be fantastic free-ride, park or tree-lined skiing. However, if you're looking for steep, difficult terrain, you may be disappointed by some of the black runs at Flims Laax. Nevertheless, each of the resort's slopes are unique and offer something which is bound to please all but those who are thrilled only by the extreme steeps.
The Vorab glacier (3018m) provides the management of Flims Laax with the opportunity to offer an extended season of winter sports. Opening in October, it is possible to ski the 2-3km glacier two months before most resorts open. Whilst it will take about an hour to get there from any of the three towns, riders are often more than happy to make their way 10,000 feet above sea level. Once at the summit, riders can enjoy the super pipe, an array of large kickers and the dozen or so rails which the glacier offers during its opening two months. Once the whole resort has opened, these features are relocated to the Crap Sogn Gion area, creating a massive expanse for skiing on the glacier. From the summit of the glacier, the views are spectacular, affording a panoramic view of the inspiring neighbouring peaks- provided the weather is clear. If, however, the weather isn't great and there is a strong wind, the chill factor is extreme and your main motivation will be to ski the glacier's beautifully groomed, wide piste to a more sheltered area.
From the base of the glacier, the best skiing is to be found by heading towards Nagens (2127m). You have the opportunity to ski either easy or intermediate slopes, or if there has been a good dump of snow, the free-ride areas may attract you to some awesome powder skiing. These free-ride areas are consistent with Flims Laax's serious skiing/snowboarding attitude, offering areas of piste which are not groomed, thereby providing opportunities for natural powder skiing. In total, Flims Laax offers 40km of free-ride piste.
Nagens is situated just above the tree line and the wooded area continues all the way down to the three resorts. From Nagens, you should continue down to the town of Flims. Whilst you can get there on a choice of numerous runs, all of which are magnificently scenic, the best must be run number 18. The run starts off wide but gradually gets tighter and tighter, meandering through dense wood land and at one point narrows to a mere few metres' width as it passes in-between two immensely huge boulders. The ever changing gradient, width and surrounding of this particular slope makes it something very special and will remain one of your lasting memories of the resort. Once you have reached Flims, you can stop off at Legna or Iglu bar for a drink or go straight back up the Arena Express 1, a cable car which takes you back to Plaun.
Plaun (1630m) is one area in-between Crap Sogn Gion and Nagens, where a great, fast, long run from Crap Masegn finishes. If your stretched Swiss francs can afford it, you should reward yourself with a magnificent gourmet meal at the Argentinean La Vacca or 'Tipi' restaurant, or just grab a drink from the mountain bar next door. From here one can either go up to Nagens or towards Crap Sogn Gion, which can lead to Crap Mesegn or to the Vorab Gletscher.
Similar to Nagens, Crap Sogn Gion (2228m) is located just above the tree line. Whilst the Nagens side of the mountain offers plenty of free-ride skiing, this side of the mountain focuses on park skiing, offering enough kickers, rails and half-pipes to keep any pro rider happy- and I mean seriously happy!
Piercing the sky on top of Crap Sogn Gion, sits Flims Laax's signature landmark, the building which houses the cable car station, two restaurants and hotel and a bar. Surrounding this there are three snowparks, each of varying difficulty, offering kickers, boxes, rails and a wall.
Next to the Crap Sogn Gion cable car station is café no-name- a modest bar, but a bar with an awesome atmosphere none the less. With its cranked up music banging out over its snow covered terrace, it has spectacular views looking down the tree-covered valley and the two half pipes. This is a truly inspiring place to have a drink before you drop into either the 'beginners' 100m half-pipe or the 140m super-pipe.
If however, park skiing is not your thing, there are still plenty of slopes leading to and from Crap Sogn Gion to keep you more than entertained. One particularly special run is the black number 65, running from Crap Sogn Gion all the way down to Laax. Similarly, starting and finishing at the same place is red run number 60. Both have a vertical drop of over 1,100m. The latter is a less taxing run and passes through Curnius and right next to 'Tegia Curnius'- a perfect Swiss mountain bar. Being so close to the bottom of the slope, it is ideally located to have one, or if you want to adopt the Swiss ski culture- half a dozen drinks, before the final stint of skiing to Laax.
There are 4 cable cars, 7 gondolas, 8 chair lifts and 10 drag lifts. You seldom queue for more than 5 minutes at the most and then only at the busiest times. Weekends are usually the busiest, but even then the number of skiers and riders on the mountains is typically little more than half of Flims Laax's 43,000 maximum lift capacity.
The Flims Laax's ski map is easy to navigate and from each base station town, one can quickly get above the tree line by cable car or gondola for great skiing. From Fallera and Laax, make your way to Curnius from where you can take a 4- man lift to Crap Sogn Gion. Here you can repeatedly session two of the three parks which are supported by drag lifts. Recently however, Flims Laax has built their 'xbox' gondola which has eased the traffic from the Laax base station and whisks you straight up to Crap Sogn Gion. From Flims, skiers have two options, either to take a cable car to Plaun or take a combination of three lifts to Cassons for some awesome free-ride skiing.
A shuttle bus service runs between the towns of Flims, Laax and Fallera so you can easily get back to your home resort if you've decided to finish your day's skiing or start your après ski in one of the other two towns, but be prepared to pay up to CHF10 for the privilege, which, being Swiss, will always be on time regardless of the weather conditions.
Ski lift passes in Flims Laax cost around 50CHF for a half day, 64CHF for a full day and 360CHF for 6 days. Discounts are available for children and seniors or if you only wish to ski in the park. In addition, if you are getting to Flims Laax by train, when you buy your rail ticket from Switzerland's national rail company you can also buy a discounted lift pass. And if you stay at the Riders Palace, the price of your accommodation includes a full ski pass for the length of your stay.
The area above Flims offers a number of blue runs for beginners to learn and gradually increase their confidence. One of these runs is blue number 10 which gently snakes its way through the wooded area back to Flims. Another fabulous stretch of skiing to be enjoyed by beginners, are the combination of blue 52, 54 and 53 to Fallera. Once beginners have successfully skied these runs and need a new challenge, they should venture up to the base of the Vorab Gletscher, to ski the long, blue 30 to Nagens. From here they can either attempt the red 18 which rejoins the blue 10 to Flims or get the cable car down.
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There are also some great red runs through the tree line which are an absolute joy to ride and you'll finish the run in one of the three towns feeling ecstatic. An epic ski journey which characterises this is the 14km from the Vorab Gletscher to Flims, made up of a combination of red and blue runs.
Another great run is that of red number 66, which takes you from Crap Sogn Gion to Plaun. Start off by going over some of the kickers on the left and you can open up for some great carving and even get some air as you go over some of the ridges as you hit the tree line. Two amazing runs are those of red number 18 and 60 which run to Flims Laax and Flims respectively. Cutting through the wooded area, the gradient and direction of the runs continually change, letting you enjoy the varying scenery as you pop off little bumps and carve past the towering trees next to you. Be sure to enjoy these runs in the morning and mid-day however, as they can become slightly crowded towards the end of the day as people head back to their resorts.
There are, however, areas where some testing skiing can be found. The black run which starts from the Vorab Gletscher all the way to Alp Ruschein is a monumental ski run. From here, make your way over to Crap Sogn Gion and you'll be tested by black run 67 to Plaun, or black 65 which will take you all the way back to Laax through the gorgeous tree line- although you will probably be distracted by the stunning scenery. Also, the testing off-piste area from Cassons has the potential to shake the nerves of even a great skier.
In addition to these runs, the massive area which Flims Laax's 220kms of slopes cover, means that there are always little treats of demanding off piste to be found. One such area is on red number 60. Stick to the right hand side and you'll find yourself skiing along a ridge which you can drop off, back down on to the main slope.
Flims Laax attracts a large number of snowboarders to its slopes. The several snowboarding events hosted by the resort, its snowparks and the fact that the resort's owner is the president of what was the International Snowboard Federation (ISF) facilitates this influx of boarders. In fact, in a survey by Swiss boarders, Flims Laax was voted the best snowboarding resort in Switzerland.
Perfectly situated just below Café No-name, two of Flims Laax's most prominent freestyle features attract many riders and onlookers- the 100m half pipe and 140m super-pipe which, because of its six meter high walls is aptly referred to as a 'monster-pipe'. The daily maintenance of the half-pipes using the resort's 'Pipe Dragon' and 'Zaugg Pipe-Designer' shapers ensures that the pipes are always at their world-class condition ready for anyone, including the many pros like Nicolas Muller who frequently session here.
The features of Flims Laax's three snowparks, which can be accessed from Crap Sogn Gion vary in difficulty, to suit aspiring riders as well as pros. They vary from 3m to 15m kickers, about 20 rails (including rainbow, straight and A-rails), boxes (including kink, straight, S and C-boxes) and a wall. There really is something for anyone to try out. In addition, the Crap Sogn Gion area also features an impressive boarder/skier-cross. The layout of the course includes tables, steep curves, large moguls, double jumps, bumps and dips and is approximately 600m long.
For those who are serious about backcountry free-styling, there are plenty of areas where you can build some kickers in the off-piste areas for some serious fun.
Flims is divided into two parts: Flims-Dorf, the traditional village where you will find the base station, along with most amenities and Flims-Waldhaus where the majority of Flims' hotels are located. Flims is much quieter than Laax and hence more suited to families with younger children, especially because of the number of blue runs above the resort.
For the last three seasons, the town of Laax (1100m) has had a relatively one-dimensional feel to it- it lacks character and fails to capture the excitement of those who need more than just skiing from their winter holiday. Offering a supermarket, post office, a few shops and bakery, the only activity worth sampling, other than drinking in one of the bars, is recuperating from the days skiing in the Signia-Sport Golf Hotel's 'well being centre'. Offering two saunas, a steam room and a swimming pool, it is a great place to relax after a tough day's skiing. The shy should be warned however, it is unisex and removal of swimwear is compulsory. Other than this, visitors to Laax will be left wanting more, unless they can be fully entertained by the nightlife of a few bars and one night club for the duration of their stay.
However, it is probable that the character and provision of entertainment in the village will change. In early 2008, the building of the 'Rockresort' was complete- a building complex of apartments which are available to rent during the ski season. Along with this build, it is likely that other facilities will be established, such as a hair salon, more than a dozen shops and an additional six bars and restaurants.
Falera (1220m) is a very small town with a population of less than 600. It is however a beautiful village, renowned for its attractive church. The town is primarily occupied by the Swiss as a holiday home and with only one hotel, it is very rarely used by tourists.
When Laax is busy, the night life can be great, but don't make the mistake of thinking its going to be Val d'Isere or St Anton. After a day's skiing, head to either the Legna bar in Flims or the trendy Crap Bar in Laax. This is often busy with boarders and skiers having a few beers before they catch the bus back to Chur to head back home. It has a good, happy atmosphere. If you want something a bit more Swiss, head to the WaWa bar tent right at the foot of the slope. It plays some brilliantly bad European dance music, something we all love on our ski holidays! The atmosphere is great and the Jagermeisters are in serious flow in this bar.
Later in the evening head to either Casa Veglia, a fun night club full of cheesy music, with youngsters up for a great laugh, fuelled on very overpriced drinks. If there is an event on at the Riders Palace night club which takes your fancy, make sure you get your tickets in advance. It's a great venue, often playing host to some world-famous DJs and performers. If neither of these venues take your fancy, hop on the nightline shuttle bus over to Flims and pop into the Arena bar with its basement club.
As a result, it is quite likely that once you have found a restaurant you like, you will be eating there again before the end of your holiday. In Laax, one such restaurant to frequent is the Pizzaria Cristallina, they offer great pizza and pasta dishes with a great salad bar to start. In Flims, the Arena Restaurant (part of the Arena hotel) may fulfil your desire for traditional Swiss meat and cheese, whilst the Barstow Inn Steakhouse serves huge steaks if you need something more filling. For something really Swiss, try the raclette evenings at the Hotel La Siala's restaurant.
The bars in Laax and Flims are a little more engaging. The Crap Bar and WaWa bar offer the most atmosphere, whilst the Riders Palace lobby is slightly more chilled out (unless there is a big event on). In Flims, the Iglu bar which is made of glass and surrounded by palm trees, as well as the Legna bar are great places to go for a lively Swiss atmosphere.
The nightline shuttle bus which runs between the three villages, operates through the night so you can enjoy the somewhat subdued nightlife in both Laax and Flims.
The resort claims to offer other activities such as tobogganing, ice skating and paragliding, but these are so poorly promoted that one wonders whether they are actually available for guests. The potential for shopping in the villages is also extremely limited; don't expect nice boutiques or gift shops.
It is quite possible, however, that this will change due to the new Rocks Resort (opened 2009/09 season), which is expected to increase the provision of amenities within Laax.