BASKING in the sun and enjoying some of the best snow for years just has to be the royal icing on the cake when it comes to visiting the stylish Swiss resort of Klosters.
It's been a long-time favourite with the crowned and uncrowned heads of Europe, along with the nobility of this world, film star legends and the very, very rich. And it's easy to understand why the chocolate-box, 'Hollywood on the Rocks' resort has such a regal reputation.
It's round the corner from 'townie' Davos and although they share the biggest slice of skiing terrain on the Parsenn, there is no rash of mass market hotels to mar the chalet-based nature of the picturesque village of Klosters... and it's also very discreet when the paparazzi-dodgers turn up.
We took the gondola to Klosters' own Madrisa ski area to meet up with a bunch of brave chaps from the Skiing with Heroes charity (www.skiingwithheroes.com) and were told by local organisers that 'PoW' had called in the day before. Not a Prisoner of War in sight, though, for they were talking about the Prince of Wales, who had been able to pop in and out without any song and dance.
We might have missed Charles, but we did meet up with a beaming Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, who was lending her support to the disabled ex-Servicemen on their therapeutic ski week, with many still facing months and sometimes years of treatment due to horrific wounds
Madrisa was perfect for the guys, with easy access to almost 60km of wide, sweeping runs, almost all above the tree line on open, often sun-trap slopes, and it's great fun for all ages, with even a Madrisa Land play complex for youngsters next to the handy Bergrestaurant Saaseralp, which boasts a sundeck, great views and very reasonable menu.
There's also a race piste and a marked, but ungroomed, stretch from the top of the Ratschenjoch to have a go at if you feel up to it, along with two notable blacks, one of them a miles-long former red that heads all the way back to Klosters.
Then once you've finished heading downwards for the day, you can head back upwards in a more sedate fashion for a spot of dinner.
We donned warm clothes and sturdy shoes on the advice of our guide Aurelia from www.davosklosters.ch and joined her on a hike to the Alpenrösli restaurant, high above the village on a winding country lane. It's seemingly friendly gradient was countered by the altitude, with Klosters at 1,000-plus metres to begin with, and the trek had us gasping – but then we gasped again to find the place packed, mainly with locals.
We found out in the fullness of time that the 'traffic-free' lane did, in fact, allow access by specially-booked local taxi, but the trek was well worth the effort, to be greeted with beaming smiles and what must be the best cheese fondue I have ever tasted, made with Vacherin and Gruyère and washed down with a moreish local wine.
One new twist to me was to have a glass of kirsch as well – not to drink, but to dip your chunks of bread in before dunking in the hot fondue. None of the locals could provide a rational reason for doing this, but it tasted delicious, so who needs one?
End of the leisurely, relaxed meal and time to head back, with two options – a long walk in the sub-zero night, or a quicker return via the Schittelbahn... the toboggan run. The restaurant has its own classic toboggans parked by the door, so you just help yourself and then zoom off down the moonlit run, mercifully wide and bordered by soft snow, rather than a seemingly-suicidal ice-covered race track you sometimes find yourself on.
It's all very civilised, for you then leave your sled at a special dropping-off point near the village before taking the short walk back to the Pardenn Hotel Piz Buin for a nightcap in its Bärs bar and restaurant, itself one of the popular aprés ski spots to put in your diary.
The day after, it was time to head over to the other side of the village and head up via the Gotschnagrat to link up with the legendary Parsenn ski area that the village shares with Davos. The Parsenn is where big-time skiing really began and is the home of the Parsenn Derby, Switzerland's oldest downhill ski race, which is open to all-comers who want to hurl themselves down the 4 km course. No I didn't. This season's race was called off as the weather closed in! Phew!
There is a fuller account of the delightful Parsenn area in the feature Summit Delights In Not-so-dowdy Davos.
David Graham, on the team of SilverTravelAdvisor.com and a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers, travelled to Klosters by rail from Zurich Airport after an excellent Swiss International Airlines flight from Manchester; with two seamless train transfers en-route, thanks to www.myswitzerland.com where there is a complete run-down on anything and everything to do with Switzerland, including destinations, accommodation and how to get there. See also www.swiss.com for flights from other UK airports and Dublin.
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