Was this actually a ski resort? It was laborious to inform after we arrived on the empty automotive park simply exterior Evolène, in Switzerland’s Val d’Anniviers. The standard ski resort paraphernalia – pylons, large flashing piste maps, noisy bars – was absent. I couldn’t even see any lifts at first. Then we spied a path resulting in a lone rickety-looking, two-man chairlift that clunked up by means of a milky fog, with an attendant overjoyed to see clients.
An extended, painfully gradual trip led to rolling powder runs of the Evolène T-Bar Resort, which we skied by means of a blizzard, right down to an unspoilt village of centuries-old sun-blackened larch chalets, and fairly La Petite Auberge de Lannaz for a chocolat chaud.
We had been to find a number of sleepy locations like these – mountain hamlet first, ski resort second – on our tour of Switzerland’s extremely conventional Val d’Anniviers. Skiers who wish to tick off the big-league resorts equivalent to Val d’Isère, Chamonix and Verbier would possibly flip their noses up at its assortment of small resorts however, surprisingly, it’s the centre of one of the crucial necessary developments in European snowboarding.
Final winter noticed the launch of the Magic Cross, a season lift-pass protecting 30 Swiss resorts. Many of those are tiny (the smallest, Mayens de Conthey, has only one carry) and even the most important ones – Crans-Montana, Grimentz-Zinal and Villars-Gryon – aren’t well-known to Brits. The scheme shines a highlight on attention-grabbing little spots which may in any other case be missed, whereas future-proofing them and saving them from closure.

Going downhill quick on groomed snow at Chandolin,. {Photograph}: Christoph Jorda/Getty Photos
Not all resorts within the scheme are within the Val d’Anniviers, however essentially the most pleasant of them lie on this remoted, 15-mile lengthy valley encircled by 4,000-metre peaks, and accessed by sheer-sided zigzagging roads and tunnels. We rented chalets in two to make use of as a base from which we may drive out to a number of extra.
It was a particularly chilly week, with lows of -18C, and on our first morning in Chandolin, one among Europe’s highest villages at 1,936 metres, a spellbinding frost made even the air glitter. I snuck out of our chalet, Pin Noir, earlier than the children woke and stood with a espresso on the terrace – the spire of a church under was virtually shut sufficient to the touch, the Matterhorn and the serrated ridges of the Zinalrothorn above – relishing the silence.
Leaving the children with their grandparents, we found a different resort of quick blues and reds, and steep off-piste gullies from the Arête des Ombrintses, then took a shortcut dwelling by means of pines, larch and fir, and throughout snow-buried gardens. Solely 5 lifts, however nonetheless, an thrilling resort. Within the village – which has two fancy delis, ski retailers and a small grocery store – the arrival of the horny, upmarket Chandolin Boutique Resort two years in the past indicated an optimism for funding even in these tiny locations, fuelled partially by the brand new move.

Chandolin, at 1,936 metres above sea stage, is one among Europe’s highest villages. {Photograph}: Alamy
Chandolin is linked by carry to Saint-Luc – which is once more small, with simply six lifts – however stunning and historic. It’s dwelling to the Bella Tola, the valley’s first correct lodge, in-built 1859 and a stunning place for tea amongst antiques, unique panelling and stucco, even in the event you don’t keep. I requested long-time proprietor, Ann-Françoise Buchs, how the village had modified since her childhood. “Effectively,” she contemplated, “not a lot. There was one sport store, and now there are two…”
Close by, at Claude Antille’s Petit Musée, an previous cellar filled with vintage farming instruments, Claude confirmed us entire cheeses that had been historically given to folks of their youth, stored for all times and consumed by their family members at their funeral. On this journey we regularly discovered ourselves doing issues not often anticipated of a ski vacation; it felt like journey, not sport.

A ski slope in Val d’Anniviers. {Photograph}: Alamy
Our second base, Chalet Altitude within the previous city of Vercorin, just a few miles west, felt like a time-capsule of folksy Alpine antiques and primitive farm furnishings. Unchallenging slopes right here had been enjoyable and excellent for youths and intermediates, and one night within the village corridor we loved a free tasting of scrumptious wines made with petite arvine and chasselas grapes, plus much less acquainted blends of 60 native grape varieties. It made me assume what a disgrace it was the Swiss export little or no wine.
From there we drove to Evolène after which to Grimentz. The latter is without doubt one of the largest and most developed resorts on the Magic Cross, with essentially the most thrilling snowboarding and a beautiful centre of historical darkish wood chalets. Even right here, the prime après exercise is a tour of the Bourgeoisie, a 16th-century village home, to style vin du glacier, which is made by mixing new wines with previous yearly in a barrel that’s been going since 1886. In 2013, Grimentz was linked by a significant gondola to neighbouring Zinal, one other terrific ski space, giving entry to some superb off-piste beneath its wires. We lapped these, encountering no tracks however our personal.

The view from the chalet balcony in Chandolin. {Photograph}: Gemma Bowes
Pascal Bourquin, director of the Grimentz-Zinal carry firm, was a number one drive behind the Magic Cross. He informed me it was modelled on America’s Epic Cross, a season move launched by Vail Resorts a decade in the past that now has variations protecting 65 resorts within the US, Canada, Japan and Europe.
“Within the majority of resorts, the variety of skier days was taking place,” he stated. So the purpose was to encourage locals and common guests to ski extra usually, by dropping the season move to an irresistible value. All resorts get a proportion of the earnings, so the smallest are protected even when they obtain few guests or have a nasty snow yr.
“We had been afraid the three massive areas can be like a vacuum cleaner and pull everybody,” stated Bourquin, “however that hasn’t been the case. It appears everybody goes to all of the resorts, even the smaller ones which can be actually for native folks to study to ski. We had been stunned.”

Gemma Bowes finds a piste only for her in Evolène. {Photograph}: Gemma Bowes
By the top of final season, skier days had been up 48% in contrast with the earlier winter. And people skiers weren’t simply locals. Some lovers have made a problem of making an attempt to ski all 30 resorts within the move, or are touring them by campervan.
Plainly, opposite to the established knowledge that solely growth and improvement guarantee a resort’s longevity, skiers are starting to understand the standard locations, too. • The season-long Magic Cross prices 899 Swiss francs (£712, little one half value). Alternatively, a Val d’Anniviers ski move prices £127 grownup/£76 little one for 3 days, £229 /£138 for six days. Flights had been offered by Swiss, which flies from Gatwick, Heathrow and London Metropolis to Geneva from about £120 return. In Vercorin, Chalet Altitude sleeps eight from £174 an evening. In Chandolin, Chalet Pin Noir sleeps eight in 4 bedrooms from £1,971 every week. Automobile rent from Geneva airport prices from £240 every week with easyCar. For extra info see valdanniviers.ch and myswitzerland.com
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