CAN it be too hot on holiday? There were some rumblings on the first day when the sun rose and the temperature duly followed – and soared to 1º C.
It just kept on climbing, too, hitting a heady 12ºC as the morning blossomed along with a beautiful spring day in the picture-postcard village of Klosters in Switzerland.
The good news is that just a short gondola ride away, the snow was well over 100cm deep (more than three feet, in old money) and the sun sparkled off it as if a dainty deity hand had sprinkled it with diamonds.
Plenty of snow, plenty of sun in a cloudless, intense blue sky … making it impossible not to have a smile on your tan-tingling face.
Klosters, playground of all sorts of other sparkling glitterati, along with royals, not-so-royals and Hollywood stars, is a great base for some fabulous skiing and boarding for people of all ages and abilities in no less than six areas it shares with nearby Davos, but its own ‘home’ mountain of Madrisa is a personal favourite.
It’s also a favourite with locals and families, with great facilities for learning, playing, gentle skiing and just chilling out on the south-facing slopes as the March sun blazes down.
It was also the meeting point for this year’s 19-strong group of Skiing With Heroes injured veterans – and a great honour for me to meet up with them. I met a similar group last year on their last day in Klosters and the progress they had made on so many levels was amazing … and it was good to hear from charity founder Gilly Norton that six of them have been helped into full-time jobs.
This year, two of last year’s vets were back again, this time helping the newbies, who included two women, along with the charity’s ski buddies, who act as guides and mentors as they tackle the snow on a board, two skis, one ski and sit-skis. It’s humbling, and in turn uplifting, to ski and have a drink (or three) with the guys who have suffered so much in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan – one lad, for example, was blind, others had multiple limbs missing, another had already undergone 54 operations … and then there’s the ever-present post-traumatic stress.
Far from being just a retreat for the super-privileged, Klosters shows it has heart and is home ground to a great charity – whose expertise and special, adaptive ski hardware is now available to a much wider range of people who in their wildest dreams might never have taken to the slopes.
Once on high at Madrisa, there are only T-bars and button lifts serving the wide expanse of skiing – which the girls and guys soon tackled – and so old-school is the order of the day. There are plans to maybe have a chairlift to help people to reach the impressive new Madrisahof restaurant and its tempting outdoor bar above the gondola station, but it is worth the trek or easy ski across to reach it.
What could be nicer on a glorious Ambre Solaire day, with the afternoon snow getting a bit claggy, than a beer to settle the dust, half a spring chicken off the BBQ, and a glass of fizz as you settle in a deck chair to soak up the rays and do a bit of melting yourself.
That’s the beauty of spring skiing – when the going gets heavy, so might your feet and your eyelids, so just go with the flow.
Back then to base, shared with the Heroes, at the classy and comfortable, family-owned Silvretta Parkhotel silvretta.ch in the heart of the village, and decision time about whether to go in the pool, the whirlpool, or the sauna … or hang it all, do the lot!
Lingering over getting changed before dinner was the order of the day, because of a great view along the valley to the Silvretta glacier from my balcony as the sun retreated, then it was time to meet the Heroes in the piano bar (next to the bowling alley!) before heading for dinner in the cosy Stübli restaurant, one of four to choose from. Hotel Direktor Christian Erpenbeck treated us to a run-down of some local specialities, including barley soup, air-dried beef ravioli, a truly gorgeous steak with rösti and veg, and a airy, delightful chestnut mousse for dessert. Helped by a splendid local wine from Graubunden – Trais Cotschens Grendelmerer Bannwart 2011 – it was a meal I’ll remember for a long time.
What was once a peaceful, scattered and isolated mountain farming village has evolved into a world-famous resort, more popular even in summer than winter, but it’s still friendly and informal and, thanks to far-sighted planning regs, it’s never outgrown its charm.
And whatever the weather and time of year, it’s still one of the coolest places in the Alps.
To get there, I flew with SWISS who offer up to 19 daily flights between the UK and Zurich from Heathrow, London City, Birmingham and Manchester (from£125 return); and up to an impressive 31 daily flights if you include Geneva and Basel. From Zurich, we travelled by super-efficient train via Landquart thanks to the Swiss Travel System with a Swiss Transfer Ticket covering a round trip from £96 second class, £153 first.
For more information on Switzerland, visit MySwitzerland.com or call Switzerland Travel Centre on 020 7420 4934 or email firstname.lastname@example.org; or for packages, trains and air tickets, email email@example.com