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THE JOURNEY UNFOLDS - James Cove, Crans-Montana.
Friday January 13, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

It's goodbye to the resorts of the Val d'Anniviers in Switzerland as we cross the Rhone Valley and head to the ski resort of Crans-Montana on our 7-day rail trip in the Swiss Alps.

Well, strictly speaking the first part of this day's journey wasn't by rail.

It was on one of the network of Post buses that criss-cross the Swiss Alps and link many ski resorts and alpine villages to the rail stations in the valleys below.

Rail tickets are recognised on the distinctive yellow buses.

On the road againOn the road again
















As I left Zinal the snow had started to fall again.

And the road itself is not for the faint-hearted.

At Sierre it was then a short walk from railway station to funicular train.

Crans-Montana, SwitzerlandCrans-Montana, Switzerland
















It took me to the centre of Montana that sits on a sunny south facing plateau above Sierre.

It boasts 300 days of sunshine every year.

But this is what greeted me from my hotel view - snow.

Crans-Montana, SwitzerlandCrans-Montana, Switzerland
















Which I didn't want to see.

The last thing I wanted in Crans-Montana was fresh powder snow.


You see I'm in the town for a 2-day international snowsports conference, The European Mountain Travel Summit.

200 delegates from 20 countries across the world are attending.

They had come from as far afield as China and South America and we were holed up in a large conference centre.

European Mountain Travel SummitEuropean Mountain Travel Summit
















I shall be writing separately about the conference as the great and good of the international snowsports world considered the state of the global market and the challenges ahead.

It was fascinating stuff and do check back for a later report, but the view out of the window as I listened to the experts was somewhat distracting.

Crans-Montana, SwitzerlandCrans-Montana, Switzerland
















The following day, though, we made up for it.

The skiing in Crans-Montana is rather underestimated in my opinion - it is seen as an intermediate ski area by many but there is plenty of challenging skiing both on and off piste.

The Kandahar run from the top of Plaine Morte at 2,927m is in my personal list of the Top Ten red runs in the Alps.

Possibly Top Five.

I was with my colleague and PlanetSKI senior reporter, Katie Bamber.

She is one of 7 other PlanetSKI reporters out in the mountains at the moment and happened to be nearby.

So she popped over for the day, and she will be writing a full feature on what the ski area has to offer and what is new for the resort in the coming days.

Crans-Montana, SwitzerlandKatie eyes it up
















Katie BamberKatie Bamber
















She seemed to like the piste sking as much as me.

We were on an international press trip of specially invited journalists and were the only British journalists in attendance.

I am a huge fan of these trips as a bunch of international ski writers are thrown together for a few days. 

Most of us have never met before and most of us will never see each other again.

We are simply ships in the night.

And most of us know our stuff.

On this trip were writers from China, the Czech Republic, Spain, Russia, Canada and the USA.

There is usually one muppet on ski press trips and ski hack folklore says that if you don't think there is one then it is probably you.

I liked them all.

We had formal dinners.

Crans-Montana, SwitzerlandThe International Press Contingent
















And a few less formal moments.

Ms China and Mr CoveMs China and Mr Cove
















Mr Spain and Mr CoveMr Spain and Mr Cove
















Mrs USA and Mr CoveMrs USA and Mr Cove
















I find it fascinating to hear the views of my foreign colleagues on ski matters.

And to try new snowsports with a competitive international edge to them.

Team GB regularly wins Olympic medals in curling.

.International competitionInternational competition















However we didn't trouble the scorers on this particular occassion.

Letting GB downLetting GB down
















And the next day we woke up to heavy snow.

A decent powder day as 30cm of snow fell.

The only problem was that the itinerary of the press trip required us to forgo the powder and head to an alpine museum down in the valley.

The 'rules' of travel press trips are simple: an agenda is prepared as the resort authorities design a programme to promote what they wish to showcase and woe betide anyone that steps out of line. 

I have a different policy - I will always participate in the activities and meetings that I decide I will write about, but I will not waste my time snowshoeing, visiting farms and the like if I am not writing about it.

Also if a better way to spend my time comes along then I will follow that.

I find alpine museums fascinating and often write about them and the history of skiing - but not on a powder day.

Myself and Katie made our excuses and left the pre-planned schedule as the big snowstorm that everyone had been waiting for hit the Alps. 

There were turns to be made and pictures to be taken.

We headed off to take the first lift at 9AM.

However the overnight snow had been accompanied by high winds and avalanche danger.

The main lift was shut.

Bad newsBad news
















Another guy waiting said he thought a single lift was running at the other end of town but he wasn't sure.

We took our chances and jumped on a local bus to reach it.

Good call.

Crans-Montana, SwitzerlandCrans-Montana, Switzerland
















Good newsGood news
















We only had time for a couple of runs as we had to depart at mid-day and the closed lifts had eaten up time.

We hammered round the single open lift but couldn't resist a third and final run despite the ticking clock.

"I would have paid £1,000 for that last run," said Katie as we did it in a clean and straight high-speed run.

We reached the bottom with legs burning but with massive grins on our faces.

Now I am not known for getting my wallet out of my pocket and would pay rather less than Katie, but I will remember that single run for a long time.

It was magical.

We made it back to the hotel and packed quickly.

We both had trains to catch.

I headed off to the museum in Brig slightly later than the rest of the group and Katie was off on her next PlanetSKI assignment - a digital detox break in the resort of Ponteresina on the far side of Switzerland.

She had a 6 hours and 8 minute train journey.

Mine was 28-minutes to Brig but little did I know what lay in store on arrival in Aletsch...


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