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Why I love Switzerland

And why we keep answering the call to visit the 4 Vallèes region time and again

Before having children, the most time I had spent in Switzerland was transferring from Geneva airport to the hire car to head off to Italy or France. The drive was pretty, but I hadn’t really thought of staying as I was always en-route somewhere else. Little did I know what I was missing.

Stretching back almost seven years now, my hubby and I headed to the 4 Vallées region of Switzerland to visit some family who have a chalet out there. It was coming up to Christmas, and I was just at the end of my first trimester with my daughter. Feeling awful in general, the winding trip up the mountain road to their home was gruelling. But, wow, was it worth it.

I discovered the most beautiful, peaceful spot that I had the pleasure of visiting in a long time. Despite the hurried noise of two small nephews getting ready for skiing lessons each morning, there was a sense of calm everywhere. I looked out over the valley and towards the Matterhorn as snow drifted slowly to the ground. I decided there and then that Switzerland was special.

Since that holiday, we have visited numerous times over summer and winter, and both our small people love it too. We ski over the Christmas and New Year period. When we visit in summer, we hike the mountain and enjoy lunches in the fresh air.

So, what makes the 4 Vallées in Switzerland so special?

Here are my top three reasons for going back to Veysonnaz time and again.

1. It’s a great holiday destination in summer and winter.

We tend to visit more often in winter than summer, but we have done both and loved them equally. As a family of skiers, it’s the first holiday we plan each year and Veysonnez has been our resort of choice for the last few years.

It’s a small(ish), local resort that lies between Zermatt and Verbier. It has a variety of terrain and more than enough to keep most families busy for a few weeks. The skiing is so good that Veysonnaz hosts numerous world-class ski races throughout the season. You may recognise Piste de l’Ours if you’ve ever sat down to watch ski racing.

You can also expand your ski day by skiing over to Verbier (with a pass extension that can be bought on the day) and stretch your ski legs some more. For even more choice, make the day trip out to Zermatt.

Ecole Suisse de Ski Veysonnaz, the Veysonnaz ski school, is fab for kids and adults.

The snow garden is a great learning area where the little ones begin their skiing journey. The instructors are patient, good at communicating (in a variety of languages I might add) and the kids warm to them quickly. I have watched my little girl go from being unsteady on skis to finding her on the main slopes (always supervised by a qualified instructor) when out and about with hubby. I beam with pride. My son is almost two years younger than her so is not as experienced and spends his mornings learning the ropes in the garden. He comes home happy and tired – a sign of a great day out.

I’m looking forward to him joining us on the main slopes this coming season too!

For adults, the ski school is just as great. We have travelled with friends and extended family who all ski at different levels. From my mother, who had never tried the sport to friends who want to perfect their technique, they have all taken lessons and come out happier for it.

I try to take a lesson or two each trip just to iron out the bad habits, and the results speak for themselves. As a convert from snowboarding to skiing, I have noticed a leap in my skiing performance.

For us, a full morning of skiing and an afternoon off works a treat. But I know families that take the first and last lifts each day.

Visit the ski school’s website for more information here: Ecole Suisse De Ski Veysonnaz

Summer is just as fun-filled. You get to explore the mountains on foot or by bike and get a whole new perspective.

There are 98km of walks that run alongside ‘bisse’ (artificial channels that take water from the rivers to water the crops and orchards in the area). You get to take in the glory of the scenery accompanied by the sound of running water. We have spent many hours stretching our legs and chatting about everything and nothing at the same time.

If yoga in nature is your thing, you can join classes throughout the summer. There are weekend and week-long yoga packages on offer too.

The kids are well catered for too with summer clubs for all ages. The Club des Oursons is aimed at children from 4 to 8 years old, while Sun&Fun offers a sports program for children from 9 years old, teenagers and adults. Activities include hiking trails, gastronomic workshops, cabin construction, kite flying, mini-golf, swimming pool, pony rides, water-walks. And if you travel to the region in both winter and summer, you may recognise some of the faces of the instructors who teach skiing in winters and host activities in summer!

And you can’t forget mountain biking. The region offers a great choice of mountain bike trails and tours to suit. New in 2020 is the rental of electric mountain bikes.

Explore all that Veysonnaz has to offer here.

2. The locals are incredibly friendly – you feel like you are welcomed into their home rather than visiting a resort.

As someone who has travelled a lot, I am always most taken by places that treat visitors like guests, rather than tourists. This is very much how I feel when I visit Veysonnaz and its surrounds.

The area isn’t a resort in the real sense. It’s very much a Swiss mountain village which just happens to be a fantastic place to holiday. The local residents are friendly and very accommodating. They are also extremely helpful. We learnt this fact when we found ourselves in a tricky spot on a very windy and steep mountain road in a less-than-ideal rental car (but that’s a different story.) When we struggled to get our car out of a slightly terrifying position, a resident quickly came to our rescue and towed us out. While he didn’t speak much English, and we spoke no French, he was none-the-less friendly and helpful, and we were eternally grateful!

When visiting the ski resort, we are greeted each year by the team that run the restaurants and ski school by name. They remember us and ask about the children. We chat about our families (we have been visiting long enough to see their families grow from two to three or four!) and how they have grown. I always feel welcomed back!

3. The food is phenomenal.

Food is another one of my favourite things in the world. While I am not a particularly accomplished cook, I do enjoy fine-food as well as a decent burger or pasta! I am always keen to know what the next meal holds in store.

In Veysonnaz, and Switzerland in general, you are never far away from great food. The mountain restaurants serve a variety of good-quality, hearty staples to more refined dishes (even out on the trails). You can never go wrong with an early morning hot chocolate to warm you up in winter or an al fresco lunch in spring or summer.

One of our favourite slope-side restaurants is Les Caboulis. It’s rustic charm and delicious food make it a winner. The raclette and fondues are particularly popular. Your little ones will enjoy venturing outside to visit the animals at the back and the chance to explore. And you can watch skiers pass by too.

Off the slopes, my hands-down favourite restaurant is La Luge in Les Collons. This Italian restaurant makes the best pizza in the region (in my humble opinion), and their pasta is excellent too. Beyond the food is the warm embrace (sometimes even literally) that you get when you arrive. Giovanni and his family own and run the restaurant and make every guest feel welcomed. Once, my hubby and I took the evening off (leaving the small people with family) and went for dinner there. The restaurant was full, but Giovanni invited us downstairs to where his own family was eating so that we too could dine. This is probably unusual, as a family we do spend a lot of time there, but it points out that they do go out of their way to welcome you.

Families are welcome at any time. Giovanni and his family encourage the younger ones to watch their pizzas being made, even inviting them to help out at times. And no matter how rowdy the table gets (we have been known to arrive with over ten children at a time), no-one bats an eyelid. And when you just don’t want to go out to eat, they do take-aways.

Not far from Veysonnaz and Les Collons, you find Zermatt. With 16 restaurants listed in the Michelin guide, if fine dining is your thing, you will not be disappointed.

Where to stay?

From the apartments at the top of Thyon 2000 to luxury chalets and some bed & breakfasts, you can find any number and style of accommodation to suit your needs.

Personally, my favourite place to stay is the Chalet des Etoile. While a little tricky to find the first time we visited, it is the perfect luxury family chalet. With space for ten people over three floors, there is more than enough space to travel with friends or make your holiday a multi-generational trip. We have done both, and they were terrific!

Other than the luxurious accommodation, there is an outdoor jacuzzi, living spaces and a fully equipped kitchen. The stay is self-catering, giving you the flexibility to eat out or whip something up at home after a long day. We hosted Christmas lunch at the chalet one year, and it was spectacular. After a morning on the slopes, we headed home for quality time together all while overlooking the snow-covered valley and mountains. There were even rustic festive decorations in the chalet to set the scene.

The chalet owners can also arrange a private chef, airport transfers and ski guide by special request.

In short, this chalet makes the ideal place to spend time together as a family and has more than enough space, so everyone gets some downtime.

Images of Chalet des Etoile – sourced from https://chaletdesetoiles.com

So, there you have it. I am a bit fan of Switzerland and the 4 Vallées in particular.

If you are looking for quality family time out and love to be outdoors, you can’t go wrong in this region. I would highly recommend at least a week, but longer is ideal. Weekends are possible too, particularly in February when there are direct flights on Swiss Air from London.

Go on; you deserve it.

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