Crans Montana Ski Resort Guide
Technically speaking, Crans Montana is actually Crans and Montana.
The two towns are nestled less than a mile apart in a quiet Swiss valley. Developments along the adjoining road has led to the two towns becoming one larger resort with two distinct centres.
Mainly overlooked by traditional tourists, Crans Montana holds the unofficial yet widely recognised title of being the sunniest resort in Switzerland.
Long south-facing runs, beautiful tree-lined pistes set against the towering Mount Bonvin make Crans Montana a stunning place to visit.
One the best parts of having two villages in one resort is that there are two distinct feelings to the area. Crans has a slightly more luxurious, sophisticated feel; the nightlife here revolves around fancy bars and nightclubs while Montana is full of traditional bars and pubs packed full of students and young adults.
The resort was originally a well-known spa and sanitorium destination with several of the health spas now renovated into hotels. The area grew on funding from the wealthy clients who came to rejuvenate and relax outside the city. As such, the area has an affluent vibe and most accommodation is on the pricier side with luxurious spas on offer in most hotels.
That’s not to say there isn’t some budget options as well. There are some surprisingly good youth hostels and cheaper hotels as the younger crowd are starting to become aware of this peaceful haven.
B&Bs are common in the area and the number of decent restaurants makes finding an evening meal easy although not always affordable. Most restaurants in the area are expensive, even by Swiss standards. However, the quality is exceptional and new stylish restaurants are opening every season so you won’t be short on choice.
There are several cheaper pizza and takeaway burger places for those on a budget. Options at the cheaper end of the scale are limited but they can be found if you know where to look.
Most accommodation in the resort is family friendly. There are family friendly restaurants as well but Crans Montana is not a cheap resort so although families are welcome, the costs can stack up pretty quickly. There are only a few ski-in/ski-out options but most hotels are only a short walk to the lifts
The resort itself retains some of the history from its spa destination beginnings and is a beautiful and luxurious place to stay, albeit a little on the pricy side. If you can afford the Crans Montana prices, its one of the most beautiful, somewhat undiscovered resorts in Europe.
On the slopes
The ski area at Crans Montana offers a fairly decent 140km of groomed pistes. Most of these are reds and blues meaning that the resort is an intermediate skiers dream. Some of the longer runs down off Petit Bonvin are really fantastic; long, beautiful and interesting.
There are some more difficult runs with a long black coming off the top of the resort’s highest point, Plaine Morte at 2,927m. The views from the restaurant near the top are incredible. If you want to test your endurance, following the black route back down to the village to enjoy one of the longest runs in Europe.
There is a small beginner’s area but it isn’t huge so is often very busy with ski school lessons. The endless red and blues mean it’s perfect for anyone who has skied a few times before and is looking to gain confidence and enjoy the sunshine.
There are decent snow-making facilities on several pistes so when the sunny weather starts to turn the snow to slush at the end of the season, the cannons kick in to top up the snow. With so many days of long sunshine, the afternoons can get slushy and icy patches can be revealed.
Most people choose to rise early, lunch late and return to the resort early. For this reason, several lifts close at 4pm so keep an eye on the time.
While most pistes cater for intermediate skiers, there is still plenty of off-piste for the more advanced skier. The tree-lined lower slopes offer some beautiful routes between the trees with small jumps and the trees provide shelter from any wind.
Near the top of the mountain, the exposed slopes offer wide, long off-piste sections. However, when the weather does close in it can be difficult to find clear routes down. When visibility is bad, sticking to the tree-lined areas is much safer, and generally more enjoyable.
If you do plan on skiing off-piste regularly, you can book an off-piste lesson with an instructor who will not only help you tackle the deep powder but will show you the best off-piste sections of the mountain.
Crans Montana attracts a large number of freestyle skiers due to the three large parks in the area. Although technically not off-piste as the snow parks are groomed overnight, they are a great place to practise something out of the ordinary.
The parks features range from beginner-level to professional so no matter how skilled you are, you’ll find something for you. The ski school offers freestyle lessons based in the parks to help you improve and in nearby Lens there is a huge indoor freestyle practise area with foam pits and trampolines to help practise new moves before tackling them on the slope.
If you’re looking for something other than skiing that Crans Montana also offers cross-country skiing tracks on the summer golf course and a beautiful dog-sledding area if you want to try something new. The cross-country skiing starts from just €10 a day so its perfect if you want to give it a go without committing.
Every Sunday the resort offers a free introductory session to Ski touring. Ski touring involves climbing up the mountain without using the lifts in order to access the most remote, and often then most beautiful, areas for some great back-country skiing. It’s a great introduction and its free, something which is rare in the rather pricey resort.