Walking in a Winter Wonderland, Laax
Walking for Non-Skiers
Laax is a beautiful resort in the Graubunden area of the Swiss Alps and, whilst a popular destination for skiers, snowboarders and enthusiasts of other winter sports, it also has over 40 kilometres of hiking trails.
I went with my husband in February. We stayed at the Signina Hotel in Laax, which is conveniently located next to the lift station. Our intention was to explore the breathtaking scenery on foot, punctuated, quite naturally, by regular stops at mountain restaurants for coffee and delicious cake.
We do not have any skills in Winter sports and had not been organised enough to have any lessons before we went, so we simply packed up our walking gear and took that with us.
The Hiking trails are all well signposted. The paths have been prepared, so they are firm underfoot, which makes good walking conditions. Stick to the defined, well-trodden trails or you can easily find yourself up to your waist in soft, powdery snow and unable to move forwards or backwards.
There were a couple of instances where we were tempted to follow in the single footsteps in the snow, however when we stepped into them, we realised that the person who had made them probably weighed a lot less than we did and were certainly more sure-footed, as we sank, where clearly they had not!
The staff in the hotel know these mountains like the back of their hand and had been able to give us great advice on the best places to walk, given our levels of fitness.
Chair Lifts without Skis
Most of the cable cars and gondolas are suitable for people with or without skis. There are a couple of places where you have to be quite co-ordinated to get on and off the lift, especially the chair lifts, because they are outside on the slope, rather than inside a building. The chair lift does not stop, so you have to get the safely bar up and be ready to leap off a moving chair and move yourself quickly out the way, so you don’t get hit by the people on the chair behind you.
That is quite an artform, especially when the other people in the chair lift have skis on their feet, ready to slide off, and the exit is like an ice slope. Greg thought it was hysterically funny when I could not get off the chair lift and nearly went round the cable wheels to go back down the mountain. Yes, I was there in an unladylike heap at the top of the ski lift, with the operator trying to help me up! Not amused!
We were only here for 4 days, including arrival day. We had three good days of walking and it was really not enough to properly explore this area. I could have happily spent weeks here and would have been able to do a different walk, of varying length and difficulty, every day and still have not covered the whole area. Clearly I need to come back again or, better still, live here from December to March!
We were well wrapped up with winter layers, waterproofs and sturdy walking boots. We did not need snowshoes to walk these trails, although they probably would have been useful on day two!
At the end of each day, we spent a good hour basking in the warm waters of the spa, before enjoying fine cuisine in the Camino Restaurant of the Signina Hotel, in the Rocks Resort.
I suppose it is fair to say, we are people who love to walk and then to enjoy the comfort of a luxury hotel in the evening. With sub zero temperatures at night, I would not have wanted to be outside camping. I don’t think camping is allowed on the mountains at this time of year. The lifts all close at around 4.30pm and there is then a helicopter, which flies over the whole area to make sure that everyone is off the mountain and is safely at ground level.