Where to Go When Heading Off-Piste in Crans-Montana

Footbridges form part of an extensive network of paths and hiking trails in Crans-Montana
Footbridges form part of an extensive network of paths and hiking trails in Crans-Montana | © CMTC David Carlier
Photo of Cassam Looch
Editorial Manager16 November 2021
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Two hours from Geneva, Crans-Montana has the outward appearance of a typical Swiss destination. There is plenty of Alpine luxury on the surface, but in 2017 several communities combined to create a municipality that offers an incredible travel experience for every type of visitor. Whether you’re skiing on the slopes or heading here for a party in the mountains, here’s Culture Trip’s ultimate guide to Crans-Montana.

The Haut-Plateau region of Crans-Montana is a popular spot for hot-air ballooning and paragliding | © Crans-Montana Tourism & Congress/ OLIVIER MAIRE

Why visit Crans-Montana?

What exactly can you do in a ski-resort town when there’s no snow? That’s a question you might ask if you ever head east through the mountains and valleys outside Geneva to Crans-Montana. Well-known as a great ski destination, the municipality is close to Sion and – as is typical of the region – has a dual identity, with locals speaking both French and German. You’ll also find a smattering of Italian in various places, so there’s a welcoming mix of influences everywhere you roam.

Incredible views of snow-covered mountains are enjoyed across the region | © Crans-Montana Tourism & Congress/ Jerome Glassey

A major attraction is Caprices – a festival that takes place in the mountains. The 2021 edition was moved to the end of summer, but will return to its traditional slot at the end of the ski season in April 2022. Partygoers this year had to swap their skis and jumpers for shorts and hiking boots as the summer months are unsurprisingly pleasant in an area recognised as the sunniest in Switzerland.

The Caprices music festival takes place annually from a mountain-top perch in the Swiss Alps | © CMTC / Luciano Miglionico

And if you’re looking for a destination full of great views, incredible scenery and an authentic introduction to Alpine culture, here’s more on why a trip to this part of Switzerland needs to be on your list soon.

Swimming lakes, mountain footpaths and authentic Swiss dining make Crans-Montana an ideal family holiday destination | © Crans-Montana Tourism & Congress / GENIC.CH/ OLIVIER MAIRE

Things to do in Crans-Montana

The Valais region – where you’ll find Crans-Montana – is best known for producing wine. The local varieties tend to have a fizzy aftertaste, which is actually rather pleasant on the tongue. As with any fine wine, you’ll need to find the perfect dining option to pair with your glass, and there are some great restaurants in Crans-Montana that make the most of local ingredients and authentic Swiss cuisine.

A traditional meal from the Valais region made with the best local products | © Crans-Montana Tourism & Congress/ M Christof Schuerpf

In the centre of town you’ll find any number of welcoming and affordable establishments offering satisfying fondues and fresh cuts of meat. As is the style here, you can cook everything at your table in most restaurants and then slather it in cheese for good measure. This all works well as après-ski fun too – but there’s somewhere else you should head if you want to make the most of the sunshine when the slopes are closed.

Locally produced cheese wheels are distributed around the region | © Crans-Montana Tourism & Congress/ Jerome Glassey

Up in the hills and mountains you’ll find bisses (old irrigation channels). These structures might not have the grandeur of other attractions, but they do serve a purpose even to this day. You can walk the many trails that follow the routes these small water canals take through the mountains and you’ll find yourself in the heart of the spectacular Crans-Montana wilderness, where snow-covered peaks and lush forests transport you to a different world entirely. The sheer number of giant mountains here is bewildering, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bad view for miles around. Brave hikers can even take on the sheer cliffs of Bisse du Ro, where rickety wooden bridges lead to remote vantage points.

The Bisse du Ro is a series of footbridges that follow the path of original irrigation canals | © Photosolutions

This setting is the unlikely home of one of the finest restaurants in the country. From the outside, the chalets dotted around Le Relais de Colombire look rather unassuming – stay in them if you’re willing to forgo the creature comforts of a larger hotel – but the real star here is the Colombire restaurant. Take a wheel of freshly baked raclette and devour it on the terrace in a space that comes with sun loungers – hinting at the great weather you can get here. Head down the narrow stairs – and make sure you do – to an indoor space that can fit up to 50 diners. The concrete bunker style is deliberate, and the huge window carved into the side of the structure provides a jaw-dropping vista to admire over the best local dishes around.

Visitors to the Relais de Colombire are treated to fine wines, local cuisine and unobstructed Alpine views from both the terrace and the restaurant | © Olivier Maire

A summer trip to a renowned ski resort such as Crans-Montana might not automatically spring to mind, but whatever time of year you visit this delightful corner of Switzerland you’ll be surprised by how welcoming it is.

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