HAVING hurled myself off cliffs, smashed my nose to smithereens and generally had an all round interesting/enjoyable time skiing for 20 years I figured my passion for the piste knew no bounds and I was going to try my legs at snowboarding.
I won’t lie, it is brutal to learn. Good God is it. ‘Catching an edge’ is common for learners and means unless you have the instant balance, co-ordination and dexterity of a blindfolded tightrope walker you’re going to slam face or backside first. Brain rattlingly so. Repeatedly.
After a first day of slicing my eye socket and banging my head so hard (with a helmet on) that I had to walk back down the mountain in a fog of concussion with bemused friend, Crossen, carrying my kit, I decided to ski the rest of that holiday out and learn the basics at the Chill Factore. Self taught is not the way to go.
Fast-forward to 2012 and one season under my belt. I’ve learnt not all resorts are great for boarders. In my humble opinion there should be a new way of coding pistes. The current colour system of green/blue/red/black with a sliding scale of easy to difficult doesn’t mean much to board folk.
There’s nothing to say whether long stretches of flat terrain feature – not great on a board having to unbuckle and walk it. Nor does it indicate whether what should be an easy blue has narrow stretches, meaning you need to be a master of turning so tightly or face charging on at breakneck speed. Throw into the mix button and T bar lifts, which are made with skiers in mind, and you could easily find fun turning into frustration if you pick the wrong destination.
Riders can relax at Laax. (I’m sure this is the first time that joke’s ever been used. In fact was this place so-named so people could make that joke.)
Together with neighbouring Flims they form an area that is considered one of the most snowboard friendly places in Switzerland. It’s also home to the BRITS snowboard, free-ski championships and music festival and the Burton European Open snowboarding championship.
Added to that is 220km of piste, Europe’s largest half pipe and the highest chance of snow in Europe. Bliss. There aren’t any green runs either, so you’re sharing space with a general good standard of ability.
Rider’s Palace was to be our home for ten days. One of their 360 rooms for two set us back around £850 each, including lift passes. A very good deal comparative to other resorts.
The hotel resides right at the base station with rapid access to the lifts. If you’re after a sumptuous retreat then Rider’s Palace won’t be for you. This place is designer furniture and flat screens rather than cosy fires and chintz. Lots of exposed concrete with a neon bar centrepiece in the lobby. It would be great for the hard of hearing as in the basement there’s a not-so insignificant club and on the nights when it’s on, the beat can be felt reverberating right through the building. You can grab a croissant for breakfast and take off but aside from that there isn’t any provision for food. Which means eating out every meal and eating into any savings made with the lift pass bundle.
Out and about you’ll be struck how Laax isn’t your traditional looking resort. The modern theme runs throughout with slate clad buildings more the norm making the typical chalet the odd one out. It’s an alternative, fresh feel – you could say that.
Rocks Resort up the road is probably where I’d stay next time. With a full hydro spa we headed there for a much needed loll mid-hol. It was plush and more suited to our age bracket.
There’s plenty on offer on the food front. The best meal of the holiday was at La Vacca. A swish Swiss tepee mid-mountain, serving only steak and red wine.
Huddled round a roaring fire in the middle you’re encouraged to get cosier with your personal blanket. We didn’t want to leave. It was our New Year’s Eve late lunch and we definitely left it too late on a stomach full of fine food and wine to board back down. Very hairy as the daylight is dimming and you find yourself accidentally off-piste. Don’t get pissed on the piste it really doesn’t do.
Every budget is catered to.
Burger, the clue is in the name, a top takeaway place also serves Currywurst, a sliced sausage and curry concoction I can fully recommend. Nooba a trendy noodle place is worth a visit as is the obligatory local Pizzeria. Flitting over to Flims, we loved the Arena bar. Pulling up a stool at the bar we grazed through platters of meat and cheese and oodles more red wine. Making sure we got the free bus home. Also in Flims was a quality Mexican and the Iglu bar is great for some après drinks.
It’s a family friendly resort as well and a definite bonus on this front was the Freestyle Academy next to Rider’s Palace. Skate ramps, climbing walls, ski jumps, trampolines, all sorts.
Without doubt the best bit of the holiday was on the snow. It dumped bucket loads while we were there. I’ve never had better conditions. There was a healthy dose of yellow runs too – markered routes giving you that off piste thrill without the risk and a few snow parks if tricks tickle your fancy.
I’d definitely return to Laax.
easyJet flies to Zurich from Manchester Airport from £20.99 (one-way, including taxes). For further information or to book visit www.easyJet.com
You can follow Helen Ramsbottom on Twitter here @HelenRambo
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