Swiss Alps Winter Adventure March 2018 Trip Report

Our Swiss Alps winter adventure tours are located in the heart of the Alps, surrounded by dozens of the highest peaks in Europe. Based from luxury spa hotels, we travel to a new location each day to enjoy the best views, adventures and cuisine that Switzerland has to offer!

Although our itinerary is flexible depending on weather conditions, here is a taster of what to expect from our last winter tour in March 2018:

Day 1: The winter adventure begins! Arrival and rest day at the historic Hotel Bella Tolla

The historic Hotel Bella Tolla is one of our favourite hotels for summer and winter tours. Nestled in the traditional swiss village of Saint Luc in the heart of the Valais Alps, it’s a prime location to discover the best of the Swiss Alps, especially on a winter adventure. The amazing spa facilities are the perfect place to relax and unwind after a long journey. After all, even the heartiest of explorers occasionally need to take a break from their winter adventure!

Our guests for the tour were Gavin and Julia from Singapore, and Nasser from Kuwait. The weather forecast for the week showed the lowest temperatures on record for six years and we were slightly concerned about how they would cope coming from such warm climates! However, we were pleasantly surprised to see how well equipped they were and they were all looking forward to getting out on the snow. After a beautiful three course meal it was off to bed for an early night, ready for a day of adventure!

Winter adventure: luxurious spa facilities for clients

The 4 star spa facility with an indoor pool, sauna, hammam and four massage rooms
Winter adventure: lovely accommodations for our clients
Beautiful double room in the Hotel Bella Tolla

Day 2: Hike to the Hotel Weisshorn

The Hotel Weisshorn sits at an impressive 2337m (7667 feet), overlooking the village of Saint Luc. Opened in 1883 and maintaining much of its traditional décor – it’s a fascinating place to visit. Even better, the restaurant offers some of the best traditional swiss mountain food in the Valais. With everyone feeling a bit tired from their journey the day before, we cut out some of the up-hill trekking to the Hotel by taking the funicular from Saint Luc up to the ski area of Tignousa. Although the valley floor was shrouded in thick cloud, we emerged out from it half way up the funicular ride into brilliant sunshine and fantastic views of the Val D’Anniviers.

Winter adventure: views from the funicular
Views from the top of the furnicular at Tignousa

Within a few minutes of hiking, we were away from the skiers and enjoyed the snowy landscape all to ourselves, right the way up to the Hotel Weisshorn where our guests had their first taste of Swiss cuisine. It was the perfect winter adventure.

Winter adventure: snowy view from the Hotel Weisshorn
View from the Hotel Weisshorn

After a leisurely lunch we walked back down to Saint Luc along a forest track and Gavin, Julia and Nasser were treated to their first experience of snow fall.

Winter adventure: going back to the valley
Walking back down to the valley after a very cheesy lunch!
Winter adventure: snow-covered trees and bridge
Winter wonderland! Frost covered spruce trees on the forest track down to Saint Luc

Day 3: Sightseeing trip to Zermatt

Seeing the Matterhorn from Zermatt is at the top of many people’s list when they visit Switzerland, and for good reason! To ensure the best views we always keep our schedule flexible to visit Zermatt on the clearest day.

Zermatt is strictly a car free zone and to reach the town you have to take the train from Tasch, which is no hardship considering the views along the way! On reaching Zermatt we took a second train ride on the Gornergrat Bahn which is the highest open-air railway in Europe. After half an hour we arrived at 3100m (10,170 feet) at the Gornegrat which commands a panorama of 29 of the Alps highest peaks, including the iconic Matterhorn.

Winter adventure: view from the Gornergrat
View from the Gornegrat onto the observatory and the Matterhorn
Winter adventure: spotting the Matterhorn through the clouds
The iconic Matterhorn
Winter adventure: team high in the Alps
Team at Gornegrat: Left to right: Trip leader Greg, assistant leader Jen, Julia and Gavin

Julia and Gavin have a fun tradition of posing together for a photo in a suit and dress whenever they go on holiday. We advised them that today would be the best day for photos and they bravely decided to go ahead with the shoot, despite extremely cold temperatures! We had fun taking a few snaps in different locations and at the last spot Gavin handed me the camera and whispered that he was about to propose to Julia. When Gavin dropped to one knee, Julia’s face lit up with happiness and surprise and she said yes! It was a beautiful moment to share with Gavin and Julia and we all had tears in our eyes as we watched the happy couple embrace in front of the majestic Alps.

Talk about a winter adventure!

Winter adventure: a beautiful proposal for the happy couple
Capturing the moment of the proposal

Days 4 and 5: Overnight Snowshoe Trip to the Grand St Bernard Hospice

An overnight snowshoe trip to the Grand St Bernard hospice is always the highlight of our winter adventure tours. The hospice sits on a historic mountain pass at 2469m and is completely snowed in for most of the year. In winter, the only way to get to the hospice is on skis or snowshoes, making for a real adventure!

The hike is really off the beaten track and is only possible when avalanche conditions are safe. The avalanche forecast for the trip was good, although the weather looked challenging with temperatures forecast between -15 degrees and -23 degrees celcius! However, we were all well equipped with lots of layers and after a morning of learning how to use avalanche safety equipment we were good to go.

Find out more about avalanche safety when snowshoeing and what to wear for snowshoeing.

Winter adventure: our March 2018 tour!
Wrapped up warm ready to start our ascent to the hospice!

The hike starts from an old ski station near the border between Switzerland and Italy and the trail winds its way up through a snow-covered valley to the hospice. It was -15 degrees celsius when we arrived at the ski station, but luckily for us it was a nice calm day and so it felt much warmer.

Winter adventure: going up to the Grand St. Bernard Hospice
Heading up the valley to the Grand St Bernard Hospice

Despite it only being their second day on snowshoes (and second day ever in the snow for Nasser!), the team did really well on the way up and we made good time. After a few hours of steady uphill walking, the weather began to worsen, and we were all very happy to see the hospice perched on top of the final hill climb of the day.

It’s a strange sight to come across such a large, imposing building in the middle of such a desolate landscape and it’s almost impossible to imagine that a road runs past it in the summer. As soon as you step through the heavy, wooden doors into the hospice, you feel a million miles away from the snowy landscape outside. Beautifully carved stone corridors lead into warm, cosy rooms and we were incredibly impressed with how comfortable our bedroom was for the evening.

Winter adventure: the beautiful Grand St. Bernard Hospice
Beautifully adorned church inside the Hospice where you can join the resident Monks for prayers in the morning or after dinner
Winter adventure: getting some rest after a hard day's work!
It didn’t take us long to fall asleep in the lovely comfy beds

The hospice is maintained by the resident monks who live there all year round and they are incredibly friendly and welcoming. The hospice was historically built as a refuge for travellers as they made their way across the mountain pass, and it certainly feels like a safe-haven from the inhospitable conditions outside. After a fantastic three course dinner, we braved the cold to experiment with some night time photography and Gavin took a beautiful shot of the hospice.

Winter adventure: the Grand St. Bernard Hospice at night
Grand St Bernard Hospice at night, photo by Gavin Chew
Winter adventure: the Grand St. Bernard Hospice at night
Looking over to Italy from the Hospice at night, photo by Gavin Chew

An evening of card games was the perfect end to an adventurous day and we all crawled into bed feeling very tired and satisfied in a way that you can only experience after a day in the mountains.

Looking out of the window the next morning it was clear that the walk down was going to be significantly colder than the walk up. The electronic weather forecast in the refuge showed it to be a -23 degrees celcius outside with 40 kmph winds – we were going to have to move quickly to keep warm! This was certainly a far cry from what Julia, Gavin and Nasser were used to, coming from Singapore and Kuwait!

It was hard to work up the motivation to leave the sanctuary of the hospice and as soon as we stepped out of the doors, we were blasted by the wind.

Winter adventure: a windy retreat down the col
Wind blowing down the col, luckily it was at our backs!

We hurried down off the col and the wind dropped slightly but stayed with us for the walk down, luckily blowing on our backs. The cold meant that no one wanted to hang around and we made good time down to the carpark, where Greg was waiting for us in a lovely heated car. After such an adventurous couple of days, it was time for some well-deserved rest and relaxation in Champex Lac.

The afternoon was spent relaxing in the spa at our beautiful lake side hotel, and Gavin and Julia worked up the energy for some sledging!

It was the perfect end to a lovely winter adventure.

Winter adventure: sledging in Champex Lac

 

Jennifer Stretton

About Jennifer Stretton

Jen grew up about as far from the mountains and nature as you can get—in Birmingham, UK. When she first visited the Alps on a university climbing trip, she immediately fell in love with the place. After graduating with a degree in Geography, Jennifer spent the next few years travelling the world, volunteering with conservation charities and freelance marketing to fund her adventures. In 2015 she settled full time in the Chamonix Valley and began training to become an international mountain leader. An avid climber and environmentalist, Jen’s passion for the mountains and the natural world is contagious. When she’s not guiding, Jennifer spends her free time climbing, skiing, travelling and trying to keep up with her dog on trail runs. Sociable, caring and always smiling, Jen is the perfect guide to keep you laughing and motivated on your journey. She looks forward to meeting you next summer!

One Reply to “Swiss Alps Winter Adventure March 2018 Trip Report”

  1. AvatarClaire says:

    This is a fantastic guide.
    I was planning to go on a ski holiday this year with my family and wanted to give a surprise to my husband. He just love the snow adventures.
    Also, I just love the hotel & ambiance of it. This is really very helpful for me to make him happy on his bday. Thanks for sharing

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