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Get out of the rain.

The Valais is always sunny. Many people think that Switzerland is a place where it snows every day, and is probably a nice place to go if you want to ski? Canton Valais, the sunniest region in Switzerland, boasts an average of 300 sunny days and as many as 2300 hours of sunshine per year.

Swiss Summer Mountains

The Valais is surrounded by mountains and has its own micro-climate.

Every time I go it seems to be sunny.

We travel a lot, but find Switzerland to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world. In winter you have the fantastic ski slopes of the Valais, with the 4 valleys ski area, with 412 kilometres of slopes. And some of the best skiing in the world. The Swiss Olympic ski team train here, as the conditions are ideal for serious skiers. If you’re foreign, It’s a very friendly part of Switzerland.

But if skiing isn’t your thing, your kids will love the sledging, or Luge as they call it here. We like to go to La Tzoumaz, when we are there as the kids love the huge sledge or luge run, with over a kilometre to slide down, kids love this. My wife also loves it. You can go on a snow mobile safari, glide down on a parachute, be pulled by a team of husky dogs, or just go for a walk and take in the stunning scenery.

If all this seems like hard work, you could spend a few days  shopping or eating in the oldest town in Switzerland, medieval Sion. With its castles and wonderful old streets and up market restaurants.
Even though we are always with our kids, you always feel safe at night in Sion. People are very friendly, it does help if you can speak at least some French.

Sion Village

You don’t get many Brits there because English is not their first language,  like it is in Spain. So, its extremely rare to see someone wearing union jack shorts, singing football songs , so drunk they can’t walk.

If you go to Sion at night, try the Bagdad café-nice place to eat or get a drink.
One of our favourite places to eat is in the ski resort of Nendaz, the “TCHIN TCHIN” restaurant. The pizza here is THE BEST. A great little Italian après ski place , great for the family.

In the summer, long after the snow has left the mountain tops, you have the summer visitors who come to enjoy the amazing walks, or mountain biking.

Or, if you are more adventurous , you could try parascending. Jumping off the top of a mountain whilst strapped to an instructor as you float down via a parachute taking in the stunning Valais scenery.

Many Europeans go to this area to enjoy the summer golf in some of the most glamorous locations in the world at altitude. Like Crans Montana. The home of Roger Moore the retired James Bond.
Personally, I love going to Montreux, its only 30 minutes by car from Sion and we just walk along the lake front, slowly taking in the scenery with the snowy mountain backdrop, whilst baking in 32 degrees of sun. The promenade in Montroux is an experience in itself. You’ll be passed by women walking their dogs with huge diamond collars and a variety of nationalities on roller skates whizzing by you in the daily posing parade. My advice, just take a small walk and sit down for a nice coffee in one of the lake front cafes and take in the hot sun.

Montreux Lake

Travel about 5 minutes tops and you’ll arrive at the big aqua park. Our kids love this place. Bit too hectic for an old bloke like me, but still, can be fun.

There are many places to go in the Valais, but the main point I want to make is, its nearly always sunny.

Not true of Britain right now. So if you’re looking to get out of the rain, check it out.

Get out of the rain in Valais

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Switzerland is home to one of the world’s most thriving economies and also one of the happiest populations on the globe. So what’s the Swiss secret sauce? The tiny, landlocked central European country is known for investing in its people. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Human Capital Report, Switzerland invests more in the health, education and talent of its people than any other country in the world.

Leveraging the skills and talents of its people is key to the future of any country or institution, and will determine how prepared a country is to face the demands of a competitive global economy, the WEF Human Capital Report explains. WEF’s comprehensive index examined 51 indicators to determine how various countries invest in their people, and how they’re leveraging those investments in terms of productivity and a robust economy.

Happy place

“Countries that invest in human capital end up getting returns in terms of economic growth,” says Zahidi. “And then countries that have that economic growth are able to reinvest further in human capital. So you have this virtuous cycle that’s established.” Human capital is a function of four pillars: health and wellness, education, work and employment, and what WEF calls an “enabling environment,” which includes factors like legal framework and infrastructure that allow for returns on human capital. Switzerland topped the index by generating high scores across the four pillars, coming in first in the health and wellness and workforce and employment categories, second for enabling environment and fourth in education — which goes a long way in explaining the success of the Swiss economy.

When it comes to health and wellness — taking into account longevity, infant mortality, the general state of physical and mental health of the population, and quality of healthcare — the Index places the Swiss in the number-one spot. Thanks to the Santésuisse system, the Swiss have the lowest government spending on health care in the developed world — and some of the healthiest citizens.

Happy place

“The Swiss have universal coverage, the healthiest population in the Western Hemisphere, and a government that spends a mere 2.7 percent of GDP on health care: about a third of what ours spends,” writes Forbes’s Avik Roy. “The Swiss system isn’t perfectly transposable onto the United States, but it is vastly superior. And the Swiss do it with a top federal income tax rate of only 11.5 percent, compared to 35 percent in the U.S. of A.”

Switzerland was ranked the world’s third happiest country in the UN’s 2013 World Happiness Report, and it was also rated among the countries with the highest levels of well-being on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s Better Life Index 2013.

Happy place

Switzerland has the eighth-lowest rate of depression in the world, which may have a sizeable impact on the workforce and economy. Depression is ranked as the leading cause of disability worldwide, and according to World Health Organization estimates, mental health illnesses costs developed countries 3-4 percent of annual GNP. There is one area, however, where significant improvement is needed: Switzerland came in 64th out of 122 countries in terms of stress levels.


Switzerland Activities

Switzerland has organised the most ambitious network of totally integrated, non-motor transport routes in the world.

The network covers around 20,000 kms (12,500 miles) of superb trails for walkers, cyclists, inline skaters, mountain bikers and canoeists over 169 routes.

Furthermore, Switzerland Mobility – as the umbrella organisation is known – also runs a fleet of vehicles that conveniently transport baggage to the next destination for anyone who prefers to travel light (and has a very fat wallet, we abandoned Swiss biking plans recently due to costs), while bicycles can be rented at one station and dropped off at another, or carried on trains and some buses that are equipped with bike racks. Some bikes even have a battery-powered assist feature if a cyclist needs help up hills.

Hiking: With magnificent views of mountains, flower-carpeted meadows and alpine valleys, waterfalls and superbly organised and supported trails, this is a must-trek destination. Possibilities are too many to list with 6,300 kms (4,000 miles) of hiker-dedicated footpaths out there!

Cycling or Mountain Biking: There are over 150 well designed mountain bike routes in Switzerland, ranging from the easy to the insane, all with breathtaking views and totalling 3,300 kms (2,000 miles) . For regular cycles there are over 8,500 kms (5,300 miles) of mostly asphalted trails.

Swiss activities

Inline Skating: Around 1,000 kms (625 miles) of specially asphalted, reasonably flat, scenic routes, such as the Rhine, Lake Constance and around Mittelland lakes, make this possibly the world’s best wheel-based skating destination.

Canoeing: SwitzerlandMobility has set up 410 kms (256 miles) of waterways for kayaks and canoes. The Muota River (Schwyz) and the Doubs (Jura) are most wanted.

Windsurfing: Wind can be erratic due to altitude or rock interference, but some popular spots are these lakes: Estavayer-le-Lac, Leman, Bieler, Urner, Alpenmacher, Maggiore (north), Lugano.

White-water rafting: The Rhine and Saane rivers are well known but the Alps provides many more possibilities.

Climbing: Zermatt, Pontresina and Meiringen are areas favoured by serious climbers.

Para/Hangliding: yet another use for those huge hunks of rock…hang/paragliding are well provided for in most larger resorts, including first-time tandem flights where no experience is necessary; particularly popular at Interlaken and Engelberg.

Swiss activities

Winter sports: Vast quantities of the white stuff are just about everywhere of course, but what makes this country a bit special is firstly, doing the white thing in the shadow of a truly awesome mountain, such as Zermatt near the base of the Matterhorn, adds infinitely to the experience, and secondly that in some places the snow is available nearly all year. Zermatt and Verbier St-Bernard are the best targets for skiing and nightlife. Apart from skiing, dog sleds and horse-drawn sleigh rides are popular with tourists.

Wellness: With pure alpine air and a teutonic attitude to health, Switzerland offers a mass of spas, saunas and therapy centres in stunning locations.

Unusual activities: Switzerland goes in for some off-the-wall sports too, such as canyoning, zorbing (rolling down a mountainside in huge transparent ball) or house running (abseiling down tall buildings at high speed). Interlaken and Lucerne are centres for these mad moments.

Swiss activities

Some ‘Secret’ Swiss ski resorts

St Luc

This charming and tranquil village is in the Valais region of south Switzerland. It’s hidden away at 1,650m and accessible via twisting roads with views of the Matterhorn. St Luc has 75km of slopes and a funicular that takes you to pistes that are best for intermediates and beginners.

 

Surlej

Just three miles from St Moritz in the Engadin Valley but in a world of its own next to the gorgeous Lake Silvaplana, Surlej has a couple of small restaurants, an old boulangerie, and a small cluster of chalets and hotels. It is just a short trip via shuttle buses to the cable car that takes you to the mass of St Moritz ski slopes.

 

Veysonnaz

This village is part of the Four Valleys ski region that is dominated by Verbier. It is the most attractive of Verbier suburbs, and offers a great selection of bars, cafés and restaurants. Veysonnaz is close to more than 400m of ski runs.

 

Riederalp

Lurking on the mountainside in the Upper Valais close to the stunning Big Aletsch glacier, Riederalpis a tiny, car-free village. It’s adjacent to a number of calm, family ski slopes that connect to Bettmeralp and Fiesch-Eggishorn. The area sports 104km of runs including roomed slopes that are suited to beginners and intermediates.

Swiss activities


Survival of small ski resorts.

One large ski area is easier to market than two small ones. Grimentz and Zinal, in canton Valais, two resorts on a human scale, are now linked by cable car. But guaranteed snow and natural beauty may not be enough to ensure their future. They are located in what geographers call a “hanging valley”. The road leading up to the Val d’Anniviers has first to negotiate an almost sheer rock face, twisting backwards and forwards round some 15 hairpin bends.

survival of small ski resorts

There is a clear view over to the northern side of the Rhone valley. The mountains over there are less stark. The terraced vineyards stretch right up to the plateau where Crans-Montana is located, a veritable town in the mountains. It’s quite different on the Anniviers side. Here nature is untamed, with steep slopes, deep gorges, rushing streams and unspoiled villages.

Fifteen kilometres, 25 hairpin bends and eight minutes in a cable car later, you have climbed 2000 metres and find yourself at the foot of the Corne de Sorebois, one of the highest points of the Grimentz-Zinal ski area. There is an amazing view of the “imperial crown” as the circle of mountains is known: 30 peaks of more than 4,000 metres, including the famous Matterhorn.

survival of small ski resorts

Snow conditions are ideal, even in this mild winter. That’s the benefit of a high altitude. In the Val d’Anniviers skiing starts above 2,500 metres and the top of the pistes lies almost at 3000. The ski areas start where those in some other resorts end – and some pretty famous ones too.

And to give nature a helping hand, there are snow cannons. “People have become very fussy,” explained Pascal Bourquin, head of the ski lifts. “They want faultless pistes, with not even the tiniest stone sticking out. We start making snow in the middle of November in order to have a good base layer that will last until Easter.” And there’s no problem about getting water for it: it comes straight from the huge Moiry reservoir.

survival of small ski resorts

From cows to sport enthusiasts

It’s coming to the end of the day at the foot of the pistes on the Zinal side. In its only shopping street the little resort has two trendy bars and a pub, on whose terrace a group of British tourists loudly discuss what they’ve done that day. What do they like about the place? “The snow, the scenery, the peace and quiet and the more or less guaranteed sunshine.”

Further on, a crowd of Belgians are enjoying a stroll round the village. They are staying at the Intersoc holiday club, which with 550 beds is the biggest hotel establishment in the valley. It took over the premises that used to belong to the Club Méditerranée.

Info from: Marc-André Miserez in Grimentz-Zinal, swissinfo.ch