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SWISS SKI RAIL TRIP - James Cove, Switzerland
Saturday January 7, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

Regular readers will know that we're rather fond of short visits to the mountains taking in a number of resorts. Normally we do it by road but this time we're on the train.

Pretty much every cliché you have heard about Swiss Rail is true.

The trains run on time, they are spotlessly clean and the views out of the windows are stunning. 

There is always a seat and it's always comfortable.

Swiss Rail is the definition of the word 'efficiency'.

For me they are one of the best ways to meander round the mountains.

It is one of the few forms of modern travel that I actually find relaxing.

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Even if I do have to carry around my worldly ski possessions in my, er, well-used rucksack.

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On this week-long trip round the Valais I am visiting Val d'Anniviers - home to the ski villages of Grimentz-Zinal and St Luc-Chandolin in the Valais canton.

The plan is then to cross the Rhone Valley to ski in nearby Crans-Montana, where I am due to attend an international snowsports industry conference, before heading round to my favourite resort for a day - Zermatt.

Then its on to the glacier area of Aletsch.

No doubt there will be a few changes of plan en route - I have an 8-day ticket that I can use as often as I like.

Unlimited rail miles with views to match.

Switzerland by railSwitzerland by rail
















Swiss ski rail tripSwiss ski rail trip
















These sort of trips, whether by road or rail, give me the opportunity to be spontaneous and go where the wind takes me.

It is important to have a plan, but important to ignore or change it if circumstances dictate.

I tend to bump into a few old friends and make many new ones.

First stop Val d'Anniviers - and its villages.

It is the last French speaking valley before the language changes to Swiss German - known by some as the Rosti line.

"Some people will find the slow pace of things here irritating.....most of the villages have unspoilt rustic cores, with old wooden houses lining narrow lanes. Approach the area with the right attitude and you may find it all quite a refreshing change from big-name resorts with high-speed everything."

So says the guidebook 'Where to Ski & Snowboard' in its introductory remarks to the Val d'Anniviers area.

The book claims it has excellent and extensive off piste, reliable snow cover and no crowds or queues.

Having already been in Verbier, St Anton, Val d'Isère and Soelden this winter I could easily forgo the après ski and the so-called high-life for a few days.

As I passed through Martigny, where I normally change trains to take the local train to Verbier, I was happy to remain in my seat and forgo the St Bernard Express.

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Then it was a local post bus from Sierre up to Zinal.

The description by Where to Ski & Snowboard seemed apt.

This to to be my home for the next few days.

Swiss ski rail tripZinal, Switzerland
















I was staying with some old friends who I had last seen in Zermatt a few years ago - Penny and Eric Kendall.

They run the company, Ski Zinal, and they had kindly offered to put me up as I passed through.

I had the whole 5-bedroom chalet to myself as their guests arrive next week.

Swiss ski rail tripChalet Edelweiss, Zinal
















My friend, the mountain guide Nick Parks, also lives in Zinal and he offered to show me round the slopes over the next couple of days.

First though we went into town for the evening.

It was even prettier than I expected it to be.

Zinal, SwitzerlandZinal, Switzerland
















Zinal, SwitzerlandZinal, Switzerland
















And then... guess what?

It started snowing - a rare commodity so far this winter in much of the Alps.

Zinal, SwitzerlandZinal, Switzerland
















Zinal, SwitzerlandZinal, Switzerland
















"It's not a huge amount but it should freshen things up for the morning. In fact let's take some ski touring kit and we might be able to find some fresh tracks. Let's get the bus at 8.30 and see what happens," said Nick.

If anyone can find some fresh snow it would be Nick who knows the area like the back of his hand.

We weren't planning on much touring, just a bit of walking up hill with skins on the bottom of our skis so we could access some terrain that the others skiers wouldn't be able to reach.

With an early start and a bit of skinning in prospect I managed to avoid the opportunity to savour Saturday night in Zinal's main bar: Bar-e- Vox.

Lucky, as I learnt afterwards it was Karaoke night.

My trip was underway and I was looking forward to a full day with Nick and a couple of his mates, taking a look round the slopes of Zinal and Grimentz.

An area I had wanted to ski for years but had never quite made it.

It looked like we might have a little bit of fresh snow to play with and the first spontaneous action was set to take place - some unplanned skinning and off piste.

Then it was to be followed by 24-hours in my personal favourite resort in the world - Zermatt.

I hadn't glanced at the Matterhron for a couple of years and am rather looking forward to it.

Life could be worse.

James will be updating this Swiss blog throughout the week, so do check back if you want to keep up to date with his adventures.

For further details about Mountain Tracks then see here and for more information about Ski Zinal then check out its web site.

Nick also offers personalised guiding for clients - see here for further details.



For more information on Switzerland visit

Call ther Switzerland Travel Centre on the International freephone 00800 100 200 30 or e-mail, for information

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