Skiing in Crans-Montana
Crans-Montana skiing is rightly regarded as some of the best in Switzerland. Unsurprisingly for those already familiar with the nation’s enviable assortment of Alpine slopes, this also means the area is regularly nominated alongside some of the finest skiing resorts anywhere on the planet.
The breathtaking mountain scenery of the wider Valais canton is one of the key reasons for its enduring visitor appeal, with Crans-Montana’s historic twin resort towns perched on a series of sunny plateaus high above the verdant wine-making lowlands of the Upper Rhone Valley. During the snowy winter months, exploring the lower reaches of these soaring peaks via the Crans-Montana ski circuit is hugely rewarding for skiers of all abilities.
With a varied mix of terrains, difficulties and piste styles on offer, the area around Crans-Montana is especially notable for its rich assortment of blue and red ‘intermediate’ slopes - in fact, these account for more than 80% of all local runs.
Beginners and younger family groups are also well catered for, with a selection of green slopes and nursery parks available. Experts may find the relatively small number of black runs somewhat limiting over a longer stay, although there’s plenty of opportunity to explore some challenging terrain off-piste.
The best runs in Crans-Montana
The area immediately surrounding the municipality can broadly be carved into four major skiing zones, each demarcated by its own distinct collection of lifts and gondolas.
Crans and Montana are of course the most immediately accessible sectors of the map, nestled in the south-west corner around the main twin hubs of the resort. Those willing to venture slightly further afield will quickly find themselves exploring the Barzettes-Violette and Aminona slopes, just a mile or two to the north-east.
With such a diversity of ski experiences on offer - everything from smooth, open traverses to twisting, tree-lined downhill runs - it’s difficult to pick out any one slope as a ‘must-ski’. However, below we’ve highlighted three routes in particular which each have their own unique and lasting appeal.
Beginners: Cry d’Er and Les Violettes
If you’re visiting with cautious newcomers or younger skiers, the nursery slopes around the bases of Cry d’Er and Les Violettes make for some really excellent training grounds.
Like almost all of the skiing in Crans-Montana, they both require taking a gondola some 500m further up the mountains from the base resorts themselves. In an area renowned for long sunny days even in the depths of winter, these short climbs up to piste level help to mitigate any afternoon snow softening that often occurs in and around the main chalet districts.
Lifts up to the Merbé/Cry d’Er beginner areas are located in Crans itself, while direct access to Les Violettes is from the Barzettes area at the centre of the local ski region. For those that prefer to get their adrenaline by proxy, Cry d’Er is also notable for its popular terrain park - this freestyle-focused winter playground offers a range of ski and snowboarding challenges including quarter pipes, rails and boxes, and several big-air jumps with landing bags.
Intermediate: Aminona and Barzettes
Although still very popular, the handful of gently winding downhills to be found on the (north-eastern) Aminona side of the resort tend to be significantly quieter than more centrally located runs. If you’re an intermediate skier looking to explore a less densely populated piste at your own pace, this makes the free shuttle bus ride over to Barzettes and back well worth your time.
The highest slopes in the region are to be found at Plaine Morte - and, while most aren’t overly difficult, the wider and more open runs can quickly start to feel rather exposed if the weather takes a turn. For the most part, intermediate skiers will generally be more content exploring the tree-lined areas slightly lower down the mountain, especially the testing blue and red routes between Petit Mont Bonvin and Barzettes.
Advanced: Plaine Morte black run
Although Crans-Montana skiing isn’t especially pitched at expert downhillers, one of the more notable black runs in the area tackles the steep section directly below Plaine Morte, the resort’s highest accessible peak at just under 3,000m.
The lengthy Kandahar run heads east, traversing some particularly wide and open sections of the mountainside. While not highly intimidating from a terrain perspective, this will demand a bit of a knack for route-finding - especially when unsettled weather threatens to hamper visibility. It’s reached via the Toula chairlift or by riding the Funitel to Plaine Morte.
As previously noted, there’s also a lot of scope around Crans-Montana for off-piste skiing and snowcross. Much of this is centred around the Plaine Morte Glacier, from where you can follow any number of converging routes and itineraries - one popular route takes you over to the nearby Anzere resort, via a skiable roadway and numerous tunnel sections.
Want to learn more about chalets, golf, nightlife and skiing in Crans-Montana, Zermatt and Verbier? Read our other blog posts to discover what else is on offer year-round across the beautiful Valais canton.