A short train ride away from Zurich airport puts you slap in the middle of Switzerland’s biggest Canton, Graubunden. So far this season the region has been getting some of the best snow in the Alps, and certainly the best snowfalls the area has seen in a long time. Home to resorts such as Klosters, St.Moritz, and Davos, Graubunden is often overlooked by freeskiers , as it has gained a reputation as the hang out of the rich and famous, rather than that of the big mountain rider or freestyle skier (with the exception of Laax of course which has possibly some of the best snow park facilities in Europe). Looking at the amount of snow the Canton had been getting, and after a brief visit last year, we decided it was worth risking a trip to some of the less covered resorts to see what the skiing was really like. What we found was, put simply, a goldmine!
We’ve been hanging out there for a while now, and riding with some of Europe’s best, top Swiss rider Andre Ambheul, Brit rider Paddy Graham, French master PG Conrady, and the crazy big mountain riders and Scottish brothers, Gavin and Jamie Mackay to name a few.
let’s start with the familiar, Laax/Flims.
As most of you are probably aware this is the setting for the European Freeski Open (coming up on the 17-21 March), and with a competition standard slopestyle course and half pipe, as well as a rail park and training park for beginners, freestylers are more than catered for here. The trees here have some pretty good lines to be had as well, and there are plenty of spots for building backcountry kickers.
A 40 minute drive across the valley is the lesser known resort of Lenzerheide. With good snowfall this has some amazing freeride terrain at the top of the Rothorn, and it is hard to look anywhere without spotting a line or drop. You could spend a week here and still discover new terrain, and as it happens, that’s exactly what we did.
Another 45 minutes up the valley and you hit Davos/Klosters. This place has possibly the best tree skiing we’ve ever found in Europe (in fact some of the keener, and probably older of you may remember that epic tree section from TGR’s, Mind the Addiction that won the best Powder section at the Powder awards that year). The Jakobshorn and Rhinerhorn at Davos both have stupidly steep runs in the trees, and pillow lines galore.
The runs off the top of the Gotschna back towards Klosters are so ridiculously long, even the Mackay brothers and their quads of steel had to stop for breathers. Backcountry freestylers will also find plenty of sick spots for building features in the back bowls of the Rhinerhorn.
With all these spots no more than an hour or so away from each other, this place is a freeskiers dream. You don’t even have to plan more than a day in advance, with the TOPCARD you are covered for all of the resorts mentioned so far, meaning you can get up in the morning and, depending on the conditions or just how you are feeling, choose the type of riding you want to do that day and head to the appropriate spot. For anyone contemplating a season there is also a pass available for the entire Graubunden region. Unfortunately we haven’t had a chance to visit all of the resorts available, but we did manage to make it over to St.Moritz (about an hour and a half from Davos).
This is another sick freeski area, and we spent a couple of days destroying the Corvatsch mountain, one of the best Big Mountain spots in Europe, and home to the famous Engadin Snow competition. If you like hucking big cliffs, you can’t go wrong here, although the avalanche risk was a bit high for the bigger mountain stuff, so we ended up riding the mini-golf lines, and natural hits on the lower faces instead.
OK, so this is starting to sound like a press release from the Graubunden tourist board, so I’ll just shut up now and let you go and check it out yourself.
European Freeski Open
Main Airport – Zurich
Words: Jamie Cameron, Photos: Pally Learmond