Ski break happened in late February, and we were determined to find snow and SKI! Belgium didn’t have much of a winter and we barely had a chance to use our snow gear – and we knew this was our last chance to use it for this season before they grew out of it! The kids hadn’t hit the slopes since early 2020 and were very eager to get a feel for skiing again with their much bigger bodies. This year daddy didn’t have the time off, so we decided to take our friends up on their offer to visit their beautiful home in Switzerland and stay for free, skiing at their local slopes in Grächen.
Our friends purchased this home as their retirement property, but currently live in Germany for their final Air Force assignment. We had heard a lot about this chalet and couldn’t wait to visit! Situated on the side of a mountain, this beautiful chalet is surrounded by gorgeous peaks and has a gondola ski lift just a 3/4 mile walk from their front door. Granted that walk is quite hilly, but it is also gorgeous!
As you can see from these photos, the home has incredible views and from the right angle you can even see the tip of the Matterhorn in Zermatt! (More on that later.) The property has been fixed up and they plan to rent it out starting this spring as an Air BnB. It would certainly be a lovely experience for people looking to have a mile high stay in the mountains in a Swiss chalet! Of course it’s awesome for the proximity to the ski slopes, but in the summer the hiking is outstanding, too.
Not far from their chalet is the oldest chalet in the town that dates back to the early 1400’s. It is still standing strong and is much older than colonial America! Amazing.
We skied for 3 days straight and were so happy with our ski rental packages for the girls, while big brother’s feet have grown big enough to wear daddy’s ski equipment! For 3 days of skiing for the four of us it cost $470 for lift tickets and $140 for the girls to rent their gear. Compared to neighboring Zermatt/Matterhorn that is about half price! We were very happy with that, especially as our lodging was free.
The kids started slow on the bunny slopes and magic carpet lifts as they got their bearings. The girls quickly wanted to move onto the “more fun” slopes and kid-friendly runs but big bro was taking it easy and stayed near the T-bar for the first two days. On the second day I went up the chair lifts with the girls as they were doing great with slightly more challenging slopes. Lunch at this beautiful Bergrestaurant Hannighüsli had alpine views in all directions. We enjoyed the traditional rosti potatoes (like home fries) and other yummy mountain meals. That was the most expensive part of skiing at around $100 for the four of us! The rest of the time we brought snacks with us to save money and we always had lots of water on the mountain. That altitude can get to you without proper hydration! We also found ourselves getting very dry in the crisp mountain air; it was beautiful weather for skiing but we did have allergies and chapped lips to manage. Typical!
By the end of the second day, big bro was gaining confidence and decided to brave the “gondola trail” that ran all the way down the length of the gondola to the foot of the mountain. We had time to practice some of his techniques – things that felt very different in his now much bigger and heavier body with daddy’s ski gear – and he just went down at his own pace. Afterwards he was very proud and said, “I think that gave me a lot of confidence!” We skied the first two days with our friends, and then they needed to head back to Germany so we had two days on our own in Grächen.
The third day of skiing was magnificent! I decided to explore with Didi on the higher slopes that took a bit longer to reach thanks to one of the longest chair lifts (Stafel-Seetalhorn) I have ever been on. It felt like it was as long as the big gondola (Hannigalp) that we took up the mountain! What beautiful ski runs (see above). After making it down we talked everyone into trying some of the easier trails and it was so much fun. The T-bar (Furggen II) that led up to the higher runs was super steep and kind of awkward but everyone did great and didn’t fall once! It was all worth it for these beautiful views.
After three full days of skiing we were pretty wiped out. Little W didn’t want to leave the mountain and cried as we were taking off our gear for the last time, knowing we wouldn’t be back again to ski anywhere until next year. I’m glad it was such a great experience, and sad daddy had to miss it!
SKIING IN GRÄCHEN I would recommend skiing in Grächen for families or for more advanced adrenaline junkies. It’s not a huge resort, but that makes it more affordable. It has wonderful views and the village is really lovely, with plenty of eateries and après ski energy. I recommend finding a place to stay right in town so you can walk to the lift each morning and store your gear nearby, too. Grächen is nice because you can get there via car or train/bus, and it is only a short train ride to nearby Zermatt if you want to visit the Matterhorn, which is iconic as well. Plenty of people ski at both places, and after having seen Zermatt, I would definitely recommend skiing there as well. You can’t drive to Zermatt, but it makes a great day trip from Grächen, and that’s what we decided to do! Skiing there is definitely more of a splurge, though. Just something to keep in mind. For more info on Grächen skiing, click here.
The next day we were determined to make it to the infamous Matterhorn, so we bought bus tickets to the train in St. Nicholas, then train tickets to Zermatt. Zermatt is known as the “sunniest place in Switzerland” with over 225 days of sun. Perfect for skiing – just remember your sun screen! The weather was amazing – cool air but warm sun that made it perfect for hiking around and exploring.
In Zermatt we purchased Gornergrat tickets for $192 (it would have been about $100 more for lift tickets for the four of us if we wanted to ski – so a pretty good deal!) and I think the lady gave us a family discount because I was expecting it to be much more expensive! Typical prices are $95/adult and $47/child just for the train, but to ski it is $95/adult and $73/child so almost worth just going to ski instead! We fell in love so definitely would want to return to ski next time. It was the number one ski resort in the alps in 2020, and we can totally see why!
The entire ride up the mountain took around 20 minutes, as they made a couple of stops for skiiers and hikers to get off. If the kids weren’t so tired from their 3 days of skiing, we would have disembarked at the second to last stop and hiked to the Riffelsee. It probably would be more beautiful in the summer at that spot though. The top of the cog train stops at Gornergrat, where there is a restaurant, shops, and even a place to stay! This would also be the ultimate place to ski back down the amazing bowls with views of the Matterhorn the entire way. You can see the ski runs in the photos below! Most impressive for us (besides the inspiration for the Toblerone) were the glaciers all around us. We had never seen that many glaciers before!
We heard a man playing a trumpet (a horn to the Matterhorn) from the very top platform. It has a 360º view of the Swiss Alps and is just breathtaking! I recommend checking out the shops and even hanging out in the outside patio Panorama Self for lunch or a drink. Those views just don’t get old. I also recommend wearing snow gear because there is tons of snow for the kids to play in, even if they don’t ski!
Obligatory selfie spots were in several locations. I really can’t get enough of this amazing peak!
SKIING IN ZERMATT What we learned is that Zermatt is a lux place to stay but a truly ideal place to ski. Unless we were splitting lodging (like with other couples or a family), I might opt to stay in a village nearby like Täsch, because you can drive to that point and just take the train in from there. The town is charming and chic – but to us it’s all about the skiing! Giant bowls and endless long, family friendly runs. There are over 360 km of ski “pistes” or runs. Unreal! There are 54 lifts and 148 slopes across the Zermatt-Matterhorn and Breuil-Cervinia ski area. It would take a lot longer than one day to cover that kind of ground! Of course you can visit Zermatt in the off season and go hiking just for the beautiful alpine views. Any time you go, the great Matterhorn is an impressive sight! For more information on Zermatt and skiing, click here.