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Summit Delights In Not So Dowdy Davos

David Graham enjoys the bracing air and super skiing at trad Brit fave resort

Written by . Published on April 24th 2013.

Summit Delights In Not So Dowdy Davos

THE people who run the world's economies don't stint themselves when it comes to enjoying a summi

Not for them a get-together in Blackpool or Brighton – the high-rollers head for the high life in the somewhat exclusive Swiss resort of  Davos.

So even if the people with their hands in your pockets have left you with only two ha'pennies to rub together, why not do the same?

There are no end of summits in Davos, what with its luxurious hotels and conference facilities, but the sort of summits we can all enjoy are the snow-covered ones all around the bustling town, where the real delights don't cost a franc.

OK, there's the cost of getting there and paying for your keep, although it doesn't have to break the bank, but you can't put a price on amazing snow conditions, some of the cleanest, freshest air you will ever breathe, and scenery that has enchanted generations of travellers... especially the Brits.

Viewpoint . . . Looking Down The Valley Over Davos PlatzViewpoint... Looking down the valley over Davos Platz

The fresh air is the real reason for being there in the first place, for people used to head for Davos to get the 'cure' in the days when tuberculosis was a feared killer across Europe. Sanatoriums, clinics, villas and hotels spread along the valley, helped by very efficient and picturesque rail links – see connections.

The Brits, as ever, took along their sporting spirit as well as a bad cough; and helped by early luminaries like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle strapping planks to their feet, skiing took off in a big way.

It was hard work, way back then, as you had to hike up the mountains before you could slide back down them, but far-sighted Davos then weighed in with the first T-bar ski-lift on the Jacobshorn in 1934 and built several mountain railways.

Now, redundant sanatoriums make great, retro-looking luxury hideaways to join the new generation of  spa and wellness-equipped hotels, like the Sunstar Parkhotel Davos with its sauna in a log cabin you can make a dash to through the snow.

Sweet Treat . . . At The Sunstar Parkhotel DavosSweet Treat . . . At The Sunstar Parkhotel Davos

Davos itself isn't the prettiest place in the Alps by any means – especially when compared to its ultra-glitzy neighbour, Klosters – and it can struggle to look vibrant if the weather turns dull, with its workmanlike flat roofs so that snow and ice can't slide off on to litigious passers-by.

Having said that, it is a busy, industrious place, as the highest town in Europe at 1,560 metres, and it has enough fashionable hotels, chocolate shops, cake shops, coffee shops, cafes and bars to tempt a saint. Temptation? Try the legendary Ex-Bar where you could never fall down because the trendy, happy and tightly-packed clientele hold you upright even if the aprés-juice wants you to fall over.

Shop prices can be steeper than some of the surrounding slopes, with one jewellery establishment  still giving me the same jolt as when I first saw it some years ago – the sign over the door says 'Christ' and I could never decide whether it was the owner's name or an almost sacrilegious exclamation about the prices.

On the other hand, there are 'ordinary' shops, like a Co-op and other grocers as a down-to-earth counterpoint, where you can get essentials to survive on and maybe bulk up your return luggage,  like foil-packed rösti and Raclette cheese and even many varieties of fondue, if you feel in the mood for a retro 1970s night back home.

Easygoing . . . On A Langlauf Trail By The River In DavosEasygoing . . . On A Langlauf Trail By The River In Davos

But above all, it is the skiing that matters... and oh, the skiing! Biggest slice of the action is on the Parsenn, which was really opened up with a funicular railway 80 years ago and now the world-famous ski area shared with Klosters www.davosklosters.ch/ is a benchmark classic.

A ride on the two-stage Parsennbahnen cable railway from Davos Dorf opens up a huge expanse of skiing for all ages and abilities, with restaurants and views that are worth the ride alone, like the Weissfluhjoch  at 2662 metres... which serves a main course gulaschsuppe bordering on habit-forming.

From there, you can cruise down to the Parsennhütte to maybe meet some of the Klosters crowd joining in from the Gotschnagrat side, or even take a huge scenic gondola ride to the Schifer, high above Klosters, for a coffee and a gaze round.

If you have one of those pioneer moments, you can head over to Davos Platz and then take the T-bar at the base of the Jacobshorn for old times' sake, before heading higher up for some fun recreational skiing. The kids and loonies head for the Jatz Park with jumps, rolls and rails, but then everybody joins in and heads for the sun terrace at the Jatzhütte complete with whirlpool and palm trees (honest!).

Empties . . . Nothing To Do With Me . . . SadlyEmpties... Nothing to do with me – sadly

The log cabin-style Bolgen Plaze cafe/bar back at the base is also a popular 'apres' place to hang out at any time of day, especially late afternoon, with its great view of a floodlit halfpipe and all the entertainment that guarantees, as well as being next to the lifts, nursery slopes and general meeting area and on one of the major hiking and langlauf routes next to the river.

More old school fun beckons on the other side of Davis Platz, with a funicular ride on the Schatzalpbahn to the 'magic mountain' of  Schatzalp/Strela, said to be the first 'slow and easy' ski area in Europe, where you are still handed a T-bar personally to the sound of traditional Swiss music. It's also the starting point of a classic 2.8km, floodlit toboggan run (no way, I've done it before!) made even more famous by writer Thomas Mann in his novel, The Magic Mountain.

Catch up with more history at the Wintersport Museum, which is well worth an hour and shows off some great Brit connections as well as a fascinating display of  hardware and heritage.

When it comes to enjoyment, the world's movers and shakers know the places to go – and if Davos is good enough for Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, whose family have a super-posh 20-room chalet in the place, then it should be at least worth a try for us.

Read David Graham’s review of Davos’s neighbour, Klosters.

Fact file

David Graham, on the team of SilverTravelAdvisor.com and a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers, travelled from Manchester to Zurich by Swiss International Airlines with Switzerland Tourism, whose website www.myswitzerland.com/ features everything you need to know about visiting the country, including links to destinations, accommodation and how to get there.

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