How To Master The Art Of The Long Ski Weekend
Illustration by Mr Timba Smits
There are some things that look good only in films and on TV: picnics, driving convertible cars and the hairstyles of the 1980s. You would be forgiven for assuming a long weekend is another. Especially if you are thinking of going abroad and especially if you are going skiing. Who wants to take on that much organisation, diary planning and expense for what will amount to a few measly hours on the slopes?
However, it can be done, and done well. Your approach should be to look for maximum relaxation with minimal time spent travelling, booking or thinking. Here’s our guide to how to get it right.
Where to go
If you have only two or three days off work, it makes sense to avoid too much bustle. You will lose half your time waiting in queues to do anything.
Far better to take a quieter approach. Look for smaller, sleepier destinations that don’t require too much exertion (and that won’t bring on a burst of Fomo for the spots you didn’t get to see). Nestled in the Swiss Alps, the town of Crans-Montana is one such option that could not be farther from the braying din of the larger ski resorts. It is remarkably tranquil. Mornings are punctuated only by the ringing of local church bells and families going ice-skating in the town square. The square itself offers a livelier and more relaxed atmosphere than the boutique-lined streets nearby. Friendly local bars offer draft beers, pastries and raclette.
Stay at the Faern Crans-Montana Valaisia, an elegantly restrained option with locally resonant decorative touches (guests are greeted on arrival with drinks made from Alpine herbs). The hotel has a pleasantly low-fuss feel. A canteen-style restaurant offers well-executed meals accompanied by regional wines, while the chatty bar staff rustle up playful twists on classic cocktails while singing along to the radio.
It is within yards of the lifts to the ski slopes at Arnouva, which boasts more than 60 runs that wind farther and farther up the mountains. The restaurants on the slopes leave something to be desired (they offer little more than chips and pizzas at eye-watering prices), but its proximity to the Faern means it is easy enough to head back into town for a quick lunch before returning to the resort.
In the evenings, local restaurants offer accessible if broadly similar menus and basement bars play Europop until the early hours.
How to get there
The aviation company Aero, which offers shared-charter services to a selection of destinations across Europe and some parts of the US, is one option. In short, it means sharing a private jet with a handful of other travellers (typically 10 at most, though most services will have fewer) for a fraction of the price of flying fully private. If that sounds luxurious, it is. You will be escorted seamlessly through the airport with no queues, no delays and no removing your shoes in front of crowds of strangers. Carbon emissions are offset by the company to minimise its environmental impact.
It makes the prospect of a long weekend abroad significantly more appealing. You can feasibly get from your home to your hotel in only a few hours. It also means gaining access to smaller airports than the larger commercial hubs. Sion, for example, sits deep within a sun-drenched valley and is a short car ride from the nearby mountain resorts.
This year, when ski season winds up, Aero is set to launch its summer programme, which includes routes to Ibiza, Malaga and Nice.
What to pack
Go with the low-maintenance atmosphere and don’t bring too much. The well-maintained town has less slush piled up than some larger resorts, but there is little point in wearing anything precious.
A pair of sturdy boots is a must. Look to brands such as Diemme and ROA, whose water-resistant hiking styles lean closely enough to the gorp aesthetic to make them suitable for après-ski drinks. Salomon sneakers are also a wise choice. They are designed for all manner of outdoor activities, but are colourful and distinctive enough to liven up your weekendwear.
At this late stage in the ski season, it is likely that you will veer from dazzling sunshine by day to sub-zero temperatures come nightfall. Think adaptable. Look to outerwear from Black Crows, Bogner or Moncler, which will work on and off the slopes, and removable layers from Aspesi, SAIF UD DEEN and Brunello Cucinelli to make it look more or less dressy.