WHEN you work in the City, free time is as rare as a penniless hedge fund manager, so you want to ensure that you choose the skiing trip that maximises your slope time and minimises your tedious travel time.
Switzerland’s Laax resort, located 150km south of Zurich airport, promises to do exactly that – whisking you from your stuffy desk to the clean air of the slopes in a mere four hours.
An hour pre-flight at City airport, followed by 75 minutes in the air to Zurich and finally a 90 minute shuttle direct to Laax ski resort completes the desk-to-piste journey. And if you don’t make the shuttle (our flight was delayed by fog), then there’s also a train or you can hire a car.
Laax is a chic resort, as cool as the mountain air, and attracts a self-consciously hip European crowd, so make sure you pack your up-to-the-minute ski gear.
The self catering apartments in Rocksresort – so called because they are hewn from local quartz and slate – look just like the boulders strewn through the region by a colossal landslide 10,000 years ago. They bring uber-sleek design to the once traditional resort, and bagged it the Wallpaper magazine design award for Best New Ski Resort last year. They’re stunning.
But while the apartments are rugged on the outside they are relaxing on the inside. Settling into our two-bed apartment – which offered its very own spa room complete with steam room, power shower and zen-like bath, it was easy to wash away the day’s stresses.
The giant floor-to-ceiling windows meant we could admire the splendour of the majestic Swiss Alps from the warm comfort of our rooms. And having had our fill of admiring, by the morning we were desperate to actually hit the snow – something made even easier by our apartment’s location just a two minutes’ walk from the main cable car.
At the top we were somewhat bewildered by the sheer amount of the white stuff. While snow is what you expect when you ski, when we visited in mid-February, Laax, like the rest of Europe, hadn’t seen snow in almost a month, but due to the resort being based around the Vorab glacier and the consequent cold temperatures that provides, you would never have known it. The area boasts 220 kilometres of pistes, which means there is plenty to chose from whether you are a skier or snowboarder.
Wide open pistes, perfectly groomed and not too busy – with no queuing for lifts – the skiing was about as good as it gets. The resort offers a good selection of slopes – with plenty of varied terrain for the beginner right through to the daredevil freestyler with a frankly terrifying-looking half-pipe if you want to somersault your way down.
Fortunately you’re not allowed on there without experience – which is provided by the much less terrifying and rather fun indoor freestyle academy.
The first such place in Europe, it lets you try out acrobatic-style moves with the safety of foam-filled pits beneath you. If freestyling tricks are a step too extreme for you – you can still enjoy the foam pits on a Tuesday and a Thursday at the so-called flying ant sessions where kids under five and their parents can jump in and out of the foam – extreme fun without any risk of accident.
And getting back to the slopes, if skiing is not your thing – there’s a large network of winterwanderwegs – or marked footpaths – through the snow that allow you to gently ramble your way around the slopes without any special equipment at all.
Generally, in fact with a wide selection of bars and restaurants centred round a small piazza and the ski slopes right there, Laax is a great choice for non-skiing partners, as well as skiers and snowboarders and small children.
We took along our 18 month-old son, who although too young to ski, was well-catered for by the on-site crèche, which provided a mixture of indoor and outdoor play in the snow, and he had a ball – even making some Swiss toddler friends to boot. Laax is definitely a good choice for your ski holiday, but a word of advice to maximise your slope time – allow ample time for the shuttle bus, or perhaps to give you maximum flexibility hire a car. Avis offers hire from £225 for three days, and parking’s free at Rocksresort. That way you can ensure that every moment of your free time is spent on the slopes rather than en route.
Katie flew to Zurich from City airport with Swiss International Air Lines which offers seven flights a day with a return fare starting from £116 including all taxes and fees. www.laax.com; www.rocksresort.com.