In the spirit of preparing for winter, here's an article that got published earlier this year in our local newspaper The York Press. It's all about an amazing ski trip we took to Switzerland's stunning St Luc. If you love to ski are you planning a trip to the slopes?
Mary Sweeting takes a hike to discover the real Swiss mountains in the stunning Val d’Anniviers
As we gaze, entranced at the snow-capped Alpine peaks before us, we could almost forget the pain that led us here.
You might think that being a travel writer is one long easy ride; freebie forays filled with fabulous food, wine and grand hotels.
All of the above is true, however this time we are made to work for our keep.
My husband and I are enjoying the view from the Hotel Weisshorn, a 2337metre high hostel that we’ve hiked to on snow shoes from the village below. To confess, I only make it just over half way, where a lovely Swiss man called Pierre greets our group with an obligatory cheese fondue on the mountain. With sun shining, snow glistening and legs burning, a few of us decide to opt out of the final ascent and instead get a lift in a snow mobile to the top.
In my defence, this is all after an intense first day of skiing with local Martin Hannart who has no concept of the word slow.
So on our first evening in the resort I already have legs like lead weights and thighs (do they call them glutes?) which felt like feeble foundations. This is helped immensely though by a relaxing massage in the spa at the Bella Tola Hotel in Saint-Luc, a beautiful place run by stylish couple Anne-Francoise and Claude Buchs. The hotel has oodles of character, with a painted ceiling by hotelier Monsieur Ritz’ s brother, a flurry of feathered lampshades, excellent food and original furniture pieces from the 1800s.
Before I set off on the trip, I did a straw poll of friends and family, asking them what comes to mind when they think of Switzerland?’ Results are varied, with chocolate, closely followed by cheese and cows coming in the top three. Roger Federer is ever popular of course. Next up, mountains, skiing, tax efficient banking. Oh and trains that run on time.
No one mentions wine though.
The Valais region we’re staying in is filled with vineyards and the wines are excellent here. The only snag is that the locals like it so much they don’t export, so it’s difficult to taste unless you visit.
Both the train and Swiss Air are true to form, with on time services, free chocolate (another tick) and polite, multilingual staff. The train pass (known as the Swiss Travel System) lets us travel by train, bus or boat across the length and breadth of the country. This time we only use it to travel from Zurich airport to la Sierre and back from there to Geneva. If you get the urge though, it allows you to visit more than 75 towns and cities, as well as gaining free entry at over 470 museums.
Switzerland has different cantons, or regions, each with their own distinct culture, languages, traditions, foods and wines.
There are four official languages in Switzerland, French, German, Italian and Romansh, which is spoken only in a few valleys. Val d'Anniviers is part of Le Valais region and is French speaking, which I relish as a chance to practice.
Skiing in Saint-Luc is a joy and we’re blessed with great weather and excellent snow, which they were missing at the start of the season.
If you’re looking for somewhere romantic and away from the half term ski crowds, this resort could be for you. Just don’t forget the fitness training before you go.
Travel to Zurich with Swiss Air from Manchester from £71 per person (one-way) www.swissair.com
Or from Leeds Bradford to Geneva return with easyjet from £170 per person in winter season www.easyjet.com
Where to stay: For tradition and romance with spa: The 4* Hotel Bella Tola from £76 per night www.bellatola.ch
For panoramic views of the mountains: Hotel Weisshorn, St Luc from £196 per night. www.weisshorn.ch
The Swiss Transfer Ticket covers a round-trip between the airport/Swiss border and your destination. Prices are £94 in 2nd class and £151 in 1st class. www.swisstravelsystem.co.uk
7 day ski pass £195 per adult www.rma.ch/tourism/st-luc-chandolin-passes-174