Klosters is a place with a regal reputation – and it doesn’t take long to find out why.
The Swiss resort has long been a favourite with successive young, and some now not-so-young, royals, along with film star legends, the great and good from across Europe, and the very, very rich.
Part of the attraction of Hollywood on the Rocks is the chalet-based nature of the traditional village, with no rash of mass-market hotels and no rush to develop the place out of all proportion.
And another is the discretion of locals and the many ex-pats who live there or just go there for the winter, for although there’s always a Hooray Henry and Henrietta (or several) never far away, the ‘hoorays’ are muted when they need to be.
We took the gondola to the suntrap Madrisa ski area above Klosters to meet up with the brave chaps from the Skiing with Heroes charity to be told that ‘PoW’ had dropped in to see the lads and organisers 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 of the place without any song and dance and without being hassled by the paparazzi.
We might have missed Charles, but we didn’t miss a beaming Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, looking trim in tight, black ski gear and black fur hat, who turned up to lend her support and join the group of disabled ex-servicemen on the last, celebratory day of what had been an amazing week.
It was a proud and humbling experience to join and cheer on the lads as they took part in a slalom, with many still facing months and sometimes years of rehab due to horrific wounds. To put it in context, one of the young veterans was blind, another had undergone surgery more than 50 times, and most had at least 20 operations already behind them – and still they raced!
Madrisa was great for them and it was great for me, too, with stunning views and easy access to wide open slopes with some none-too-testing reds and a lovely long, looping blue among the 58kms of pistes, along with a Madrisa Land play complex for youngsters (great for grandchildren!) and a fun park for boarders and other loonies.
There is skiing aplenty on the other side of the valley via the Gotschnagrat, linking up to Davos and the tremendous variety of the Parsenn area, but the beauty of Madrisa for me is that almost all the runs are out in the open above the tree line and, if you’re lucky, drenched in sunshine – plus they all lead back to the Bergrestaurant Saaseralp, with its sundeck, great views and not-too-costly menu.
Another big plus is that the top station for the gondola back to Klosters is just a short walk away, with lots of help at hand if you’re not so good on your pins or feel you need some assistance. The lift attendants are used to people who aren’t quite as young or as nimble as they used to be and showed just how professional they could be with the Heroes, some of whom had no use in their legs, others with only one arm or leg or limited movement.
Now if those determined lads could manage it, I was sure I could with my aching knees, and I’m sure most 50+ visitors who don’t want to ski or hike, but just want to be in the mountains, could also cope very nicely, thank you.
If you do want a bit of a hike, then don warm clothes and sturdy shoes (sound advice from our well-informed guide, Aurelia, from www.davosklosters.ch) for a trek to the Alpenrösli restaurant, high above the village along an Alpine lane with a deceptive gradient.
With Klosters at 1,000-plus metres to start with, the climb soon had me gasping – and I gasped again to find the place heaving, mainly with locals, although we found out later that the ‘traffic-free’ road did allow specially-booked taxis. Having said that, the experience was well worth the walk, with what must be the best cheese fondue I have tasted, made with Vacherin Gruyère and served with a delightful local wine. One local-ish twist was to have a glass of kirsch handy – not to knock back, but to dip your cube of day-old bread in before dunking in the cheese. No plausible reason for doing this was offered, but it was delicious, so who needs one?
The inner warmth was much appreciated for the trip back down, because the only face-saving way to reach the village was by schlittelbahn, the toboggan run. The Alpenrösli has its own toboggans parked outside, so you just grab one and then blast down the moonlit run, which is a mercifully wide, not very steep, multi-purpose route bordered by soft snow, rather than the sort of fearsome, icy, specialist racetrack I’ve experienced before, which could quickly make my dinner reappear. Leave the sledge at the appointed dropping-off point at the edge of the village, then a short walk to the Pardenn Hotel Piz Buin and its welcoming manager Jens Grossman for a nightcap before bed, with a mental note that its Bärs bar and restaurant was one of the aprés ski spots to aim for the day after.
We had travelled to Klosters by train from Zurich Airport, a typically-efficient and enjoyable trip with two seamless changes en route – thanks to www.myswitzerland.com where you can also find links to all things Swiss that you could ever need. Regular, and I must say excellent, flights to Zurich by Swiss International Airlines operate from Manchester (thanks!) as well as London Heathrow, London City, Birmingham and Dublin. Lots of other Swiss flight options, too.