Switzerland’s Crans Montana - Creature Comforts & Rugged Beauty

Switzerland’s Crans Montana - Creature Comforts & Rugged Beauty

In the dark we bounced across deep ruts. The light from the Land Rover’s headlights traced the outlines of the switch-back road. We rounded a bend close to a cliff’s edge. The chassis rattled as it took the turn, gravel skittered away from the tires and disappeared into the void. We sensed other mountains looming in the darkness even if we couldn’t see them. The Land Rover took another turn. Framed in darkness, a square stone building waited for us, its windows blazing with light. We pulled to a stop and hopped out. A massive wooden door swung open. A voice called out, “Welcome.” We had arrived at Hotel Chetzeron, 7,000 feet above the Rhône River, 2,000 feet above the Alpine villages of Crans Montana.

What and Where

Located in the French speaking part of Switzerland, south-east from Lake Geneva in the Valais canton, Crans Montana is many things to many people.

For action adventurers, there is cross-country and downhill skiing in the winter and mountain bicycling, hiking and mountain climbing in warm weather. World-class athletes compete for honors in golf, equestrian show-jumping and Alpine skiing.

For more relaxed pleasures there are 5-star hotels, Michelin rated restaurants, golf courses, music venues, locally produced cheeses, charcuterie, chocolates and wines. Wellness travelers appreciate the clean Swiss air, beautiful scenery and quality spas that provide a healthy respite from urban life’s pressures. Family friendly, the area has summer parks, playgrounds in green spaces, lakes and adventure parks.

Chetzeron ski mountain Photo: Martin Gardelliano

Ski in, Ski Out at Hotel Chetzeron

Located on the crest of a peak, Hotel Chetzeron offers a unique experience with views of the Rhône Valley below and the southern mountains of the Valais Alps that stretch from the Matterhorn to Mount Blanc.

To reach the hotel, we first waited in the Crans-Cry d’Er gondola parking lot. The sun was low in the sky and there was a chill in the air. We were picked up by Marianna in a four-wheel drive Land Rover. As she loaded our suitcases, she asked if we had packed any breakables, her way of warning us that the road was bumpy. I took out my camera and held it on my lap.  She swung the Land Rover out of the paved parking lot and turned up the deeply rutted dirt road. The sun was setting. We settled into our seats as the forest closed in around us. Then Marianna got a phone call.

We had to go back. Two more guests needed a ride and this was the last shuttle for the evening. So down the hill we went. I held onto my camera a little tighter. At the parking lot, two men clambered into the Land Rover and off we went again.

In the thirty-minute drive, we had time to introduce ourselves. Julian lived in Medellin, Columbia and Rahue lived in Dubai. Technology colleagues who met at a coding conference, their daily routines required hours in front of computers, tethered to digital devices.

Why had they come to Chetzeron?

They were doing a ten-day digital detox. When they checked in the day before, they handed over their smart phones and laptops. Their objective was to unplug, engage, relax, have meals, read books, take hikes and explore Crans Montana. They had found this out-of-the-way destination by doing an internet search. First by typing in “digital detox hotels” then “Switzerland” and, in time, they found Hotel Chetzeron, just the right destination, isolated, beautiful and quiet.

Hotel Chetzeron room with a view

A Room with a View

After we arrived and said goodbye to Julian and Rahue, we had dinner in a dining room with a high ceiling. I ordered carpaccio with a salad and a pork chop that arrived sizzling on a piece of hot slate. Everything was delicious. The perfect meal after a long day of travel.

Although Chetzeron is a mountain hotel, the interior design is urban, hip and minimalist with an emphasis on natural materials, wood, stone and glass. My comfortable room had a picture window across one entire wall. But with nothing to see outside in the darkness, I went to bed, happily enjoying the firm mattress and crisp sheets.

In the morning, one look out the window and, as Dorothy says in The Wizard of Oz, I knew we weren’t in Kansas. Rugged rock outcroppings and wild flower meadows fell off steeply into deep crevasses. The hotel was embraced by clouds and low-lying fog. Enjoying the view would have to happen later in the day. But we weren’t going to wait around. We were invited on an early morning field trip.

cows in Switzerland

Fighting Cows and Cheese Making

The concierge at the Chetzeron can arrange a great number of Alpine experiences. Besides relaxing in the hotel and enjoying the view, as a ski-in-ski-out hotel, in the winter that means activities ranging from skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, sledding and trekking across the Plaine Morte Glacier. In spring and summer, the offerings take advantage of warm weather and clear skies with cooking classes, hiking with a local guide or a picnic anywhere on the mountain.

For our early morning experience, we headed down the mountain to Alpage de Corbyre in search of fighting cows and cheese.

We heard the clanking of heavy bells before we saw them. The cows are coming, we whispered. First one, then two, then a great many black cows strolled out of the barn. Called race d’Herens, the breed is muscular but not tall. Even though these female Herens looked friendly, they have a fighting spirit. Taping into that temperament has become one of the region’s most popular sporting events.

In the spring, tournaments are held up and down the Valais. Farmers pit their cows against one another. No animals are injured in the combat. This is not Spanish-style bull-fighting. The Herens face off against one another in one-to-one combat and butt horns until one cow stops fighting and walks away.

In the local elimination contests, one cow is crowed the “queen” of that tournament. Extremely popular as a spectator sport, the winning cows earn their owners bragging rights and lucrative breeding fees. The offspring of a winner is worth a queen’s ransom, so to speak.

In April, the local winners come together in a battle royale called the Finale Nationale de la Race d’Hérens in Aproz. The competition continues for two days until there is one “queen of the queens.”

But we were not at the farm to watch Herens fight. We were here to see their milk turned into cheese. Cheesemaker Stephane Robyr led us into a spotlessly clean room. Like many people in the Valais, Robyr has more than one job. He is a cheese maker, a farmer and, in the winter when there is no milk, a ski instructor.

Over the next hour, he showed us how he transforms the Herens’ fresh milk into two kinds of cheese. Serac, a soft, crumbly cheese, and raclette, a semi-hard cheese that is melted in front of a wood fire or under a broiler. The melted part of the cheese is scraped onto a plate, served hot and enjoyed with charcuterie, pickles, boiled potatoes and white wine.

Swiss desserts

Serac must be eaten fresh. Raclette is formed into wheels and cured for at least three months. As Robyr worked, stirring milk in a mammoth heated copper kettle, we learned about farming in this corner of the Valais.

Pierre-Henri Mainetti, our guide from the Crans Montana tourism office, explained that the economics of farming are complicated. Robyr and his crew of two take care of one hundred and fifteen cows. Of those, Robyr owns fifteen. As in many rural Swiss communities, pastures are owned by a consortium. Robyr is a member and he pays rent to graze the cows. He is paid by the owners of the cows to care for the cows during the summer. He sells the cheese he makes from the cows’ milk. Each farmer shares in the proceeds. Because he keeps track of how much each cow produces, each farmer is paid a proportional amount. Their payment is not in cash but in wheels of raclette.

Robyr’s equipment is state-of-the-art and hi-tech, but the tradition of producing milk and making cheese in the Valais is centuries old. For as long as anyone can remember, farmers grazed their cows on fresh grass in the communal pastures. As the weather changed, the cows were moved up and down the mountain. Traditionally farmers had places to live at the bottom of the valley close to the Rhône River, a house in the village half way up and huts in the upper meadows.

Robyr’s cheese is called fromage d’alpage or pasture cheese which comes from one producer to differentiate his cheese from farms that use milk made from different sources.  He will only make cheese for the one hundred days when the mountain is covered with fresh grass. At the end of summer when the quality of the grass declines, Robyr calls the farmers to pick up their Herens.

After adding enzyme culture to coagulate the heated milk, he led us to where the raclette wheels are cured. Outside a mini-sized Swiss chalet built into the mountain, he motioned to a small door that the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland would have had trouble squeezing through. Inside, the room was rightly called a cave with its damp stone walls cooled by the earth.

Robyr gestured proudly at the floor-to-ceiling racks of raclette wheels. Given the short summer season, working seven days a week, he produces almost six hundred, five kilo (eleven pound) wheels. The Alpage de Corbyre brand is so well-known, his cheeses sell out quickly. But no one involved, not the farmers who own the fighting cows nor Robyr who cares for them and turns their milk into cheese, expects to get rich. The creation of prized cheeses is a labor of love, a way of life, a link to generations of tradition.

Traveling in the Valais, we heard that again and again. Modern improvements are welcomed, but traditional culture forms the heart of life here.

Back at Hotel Chetzeron, we settled down at a long wooden table with a view of the valley. The sun had burned off the fog. Winds had driven away the clouds. Now we could see the magnificence of the Rhône Valley and the Valais Alps. Our early morning outing made us hungry. It was time for a Swiss breakfast. Happily, there were samples of Serac and Raclette, which we enjoyed along with fresh charcuterie, made-to-order eggs, hot-from-the-oven muffins, fresh coffees and teas, toast, homemade yogurt, granola and fresh fruit.

After our meal and a walk around the property, we left the hotel, but not by four-wheel drive Land Rover. We quickly learned that one of the best ways to enjoy the mountain was to rely on the city gondolas that carry passengers between Crans Montana and various points on the mountain. A five-minute walk from Hotel Chetzeron, we boarded the Cry d’Er Gondola. The view of the valley was breathtaking. As we descended, bare peaks gave way to forests, then to meadows dotted with grazing Herens and vineyards stretching across rolling hills.

wine cheers

Famous for Wine

The Romans loved the Valais. They prized the climate and the way the Alps protected the valley. Ever since, the Valais has been prized for its climate of sunny days and mild temperatures. The farms and orchards of the Valais produce an abundance of fresh vegetables, fruits and grapes. Well-known for spirits (eau de vie) made from the distillation of cherries, plums, grapes, apples, quince, apricots and pears, the Valais and the neighboring cantons of Vaud and Geneva are also famous for their vineyards and wineries.

Any visit to Crans Montana should include a trip down the mountain to explore the villages and wineries that stretch to the banks of the Rhône River. Catherine Antille gave us a tour of villages that we had heard about during Robyr’s cheese making lesson. In Lens we explored tidy houses built in the middle of the 17th century where a family’s home had many uses. A storeroom in the cellar was for cheeses and root vegetables, an above-ground room was reserved for flour to make bread, another under the roof to cure meat and a middle floor with a fireplace was for the family.

We visited a museum dedicated to Cornalin, a grape indigenous to the region. In Flanthey, the Château de Vaas, La Maison des Cornalins is tucked away on a narrow street. The restored building gave us a look back in time. Narrow twisting staircases led to rooms with thick walls, low ceilings and small windows, the better to keep in the warmth in winter.  A tasting room in the basement had a comprehensive collection of Cornalin wines. Difficult to find outside of the Valais, the tasting room of the museum was a good place to sample the different ways local wineries use Cornalin.

We stopped at Cave La Romaine where we met winemaker Joël Briguet. While many wineries in the French speaking part of Switzerland focus on white wines, especially Chasselas, which is known in the region as Fendant, Briguet makes a variety of red and white wines. One of the delights of visiting a winery is going “back of the house.” Angélique Délèze gave us a tour of the building (the “cave”) where the wine was stored in French oak barrels. The heavily wine-scented air made us a little light-headed.

In the second floor tasting room, with a view of the vineyards outside that stretched to the mountains in the distance, Angélique poured a selection of 2017 wines made with grapes that are typical of the Valais. Pinot Noir, Heida, Humagne, Chasselas, Gamay, Johannisberg, Syrah and Petite Arvine. Each grape had a story. Which were native to the Valais? Which were introduced at some point in history? Each wine was different. Some were crisp with good body like the La Romaine Fendant. Others like the Petite Arvine were dry and light, ideal to serve as an aperitif. The Gamay was light and fruity, good with a dinner of raclette, charcuterie, hot boiled potatoes and pickles.

Lake Moubra

A Tale of Two Villages - Crans and Montana

The area known as Crans Montana was actually created from a number of villages. Each maintained its historical, cultural identity but combined to share resources. The towns of Crans and Montana sit side by side. The best way to explore them was on foot.

After we had checked in to Helvetia Intergolf Hotel Apparthotel, a charming Swiss chalet-style hotel, Pierre led us on a walking tour. We walked through the center of Montana and looked in stores selling local cheese, charcuterie, chocolates and handicrafts. We walked past the casino (yes, there are casinos in Switzerland, nineteen, in fact), an indoor skating rink, a new plaza which in winter would become an outdoor skating rink and a small park with a lake. Walking on the Centenary Path, we stopped to admire the eight-foot tall CRANS MONTANA letters installed next to Lake Grenon.

The letters mark the border between Montana and Crans and celebrate the opening of the first hotel in Montana in 1893, one hundred and twenty years ago. That hotel, the Hotel du Parc, was opened by Louis Antille (1858-1928), our guide Catherine Antille’s grandfather.  Also part of the celebration and to promote the signature features of the area, giant individual letters have been placed at scenic look outs. One way to explore the area is to hike from one letter to the other. During our stay, we discovered one letter on a mountain top and another at a world-famous golf course.

After enjoying lunch on the outdoor deck at the charming La Plage restaurant facing Lake Moubra, we walked along the lake, through a park and down narrow streets until we reached the village of Crans. Very different from Montana, Crans is an upscale, Alpine village.

Small shops lined the streets. The cheese shop Le Terroir sold local and French cheeses as well as cute porcelain figurines of Herens wearing golfing outfits, carrying putters in their mouths. Down the block was the elegant Caviar House & Prunier serving caviar, smoked salmon and oysters, among many other luxurious taste treats.  A dessert lover’s paradise, Délicatesse was across the street. A long refrigerated counter dominated one side of the classic French boulangerie and patisserie. Filled with exquisitely constructed pastries, breads and baked goods, if we hadn’t been on a walking tour, I would have happily ordered a pear tart and an espresso and relaxed in the cozy tea room in the back.

Nearby on Rue du Prado, the world’s finest brands put on a great show. Their glass fronted shops were filled with the best-of-the-best in clothing, jewelry, accessories, luggage, pens and watches from Prada, Moncler, Boggi Milano, Louis Vuitton and Montblanc among many others.

Crans Montana glacier

The Plaine Morte Glacier

From the elegant indulgence of Crans, we struck out for a different kind of adventure. Crans Montana sits on a plateau around 5,000 feet. Hotel Chetzeron is at 7,000 feet. At Barzettes-Violettes we boarded the Violettes gondola that would take us to the top of the mountain at 9,000 feet where we would walk to the Plaine Morte Glacier.

On the gondola, we stood close to the windows to have a good view of the mountain. Dangling from the wire cables high above the ground, we saw the meadows sloping down to the Rhône River and the towering peaks of the Alps in the distance. We could see Monte Blanc, the Matterhorn and a dozen other peaks. As we rode higher, the meadows below us gave way to thickly forested hillsides. Half-way up the mountain, we stopped at the Violettes station, with a wide deck and a café with hot beverages and snacks.

To reach the peak, we switched to a second gondola. The higher we traveled up the mountain, the fewer the trees until, finally, there were only rocks, gravel and sand. No top soil, no trees here, everything had been scraped clean. On these cold and windy slopes, like a barber giving a rocky face the best shave ever, an ancient glacier had left nothing on these outcroppings.

Just before the very top, we took one last look at the moonscape below. Pierre gestured to the right. That, he said, is the ski run he and his family take when the snow is packed high and the winds have died down. The longest ski run in the Valais, over seven and a half miles, the slope rushes down the mountain, shedding 4,500 feet from the peak to the Barzettes-Violettes gondola station. Pierre said he could do the run in ten to twenty minutes, depending on the snow pack and weather.

Crans Montana gondolas

From the final gondola station, we had a ten-minute walk to the peak. With the winds picking up, we were glad we had worn our jackets. At 9,000 feet the steep incline was tough going. We took our time and when we reached the top, we had an amazing view of the mountains in all directions.

On the trail Pierre happened to meet a friend, Pierre-Olivier Bagnoud, a guide who knows the mountain well. He takes groups and individuals on rock climbing, skiing and hiking adventures. We walked to the edge to get a better look of the Plaine Morte Glacier. There, he pointed to a ridge just below where we were standing, that is where the glacier used to end. Even though every winter up to ten feet of fresh snow accumulates on the glacier, in twelve years he has seen the glacier recede one hundred feet.

During the winter with fresh snowfall, cross-country skiers trek across the glacier. In the summer when there are areas weakened by melting snow, Bagnoud advised having a guide to point out the dangerous areas.

One of the large celebratory Crans Montana letters was positioned at the highest point above the glacier. An Instagram perfect backdrop, people took their turns posing next to the letter “O” with the Alps as a background.

Runs from the top of the mountain aren’t just for skiers. On a crest of the hill below the peak, we met David Rollier, Simon Maksay and Vassili Cruchet ready to begin a run on their hi-tech mountain bikes. With good humor they posed for a photograph and talked about having come up from the Lake Geneva area to ride on the mountain. They estimated it would take them five to six hours with stops to rest and eat to reach the bottom. The path would lead them from the moonscape where we stood, across rocky plateaus, through a natural tunnel in the rock so narrow they would have to remove their front wheels, into a forest and across meadows. The trail would end in a vineyard in Sion. With a smile and a wave, they pushed off and raced down the mountain.

Crans Montana golf

A Golf Course with a View

The Omega European Masters Golf Tournament was a world away from the glacier. And yet, they were both parts of the Crans Montana experience.

Every year the tournament is held in early September at the world-class Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club. As the players and spectators walked the course focused on the competition, everyone appreciated the clean Swiss air, the perfect weather of a late summer day and the snowcapped, majestic mountains in the distance.

By the fourth day, all the golfers had played fifty-four holes. To be in the running meant that a player was good and consistent. Which, of course, is what is required of professional athletes. Be great. Be great all the time.

During the final four holes on the last day, only two strokes separated the top four players. Lucas Bjerregaard (27, Denmark), Matthew Fitzpatrick (24, English), Mike Lorenzo-Vera (French, 31) and Daniel Brooks (English, 31). John Daly, the only American golfer of note in the tournament, had failed to make the cut after two days of play. Other PGA greats who might have competed were not available this year because of a conflicting tournament in the U.S.

So the final run for the Omega European Masters was being played out by Europeans.

Matthew Fitzpatrick had won the tournament the year before when he was 23. Remarkably, in 2015 when he was 21, he had lost to Danny Willet by a single stroke. Now, at 24, he was the favorite, even though winning back-to-back tournaments had not been done in almost forty years.

Coming into the 18th hole, Fitzpatrick and Lorenzo-Vera were tied. The leader, Bjerregaard had already finished with 17 under par. While he waited for the outcome, he practiced putting on the green.

Fitzpatrick and Lorenzo-Vera walked to the final hole as the crowd swelled along the sidelines. If they were going to catch up with Bjerregaard, they had to play exceptionally well. To watch the action, I walked quickly alongside the line of trees that framed the fairway. A crowd had filled the grandstand at the end of the 18th hole.

Lorenzo-Vera was prepared to make his move. Even though he had lost two strokes on the 14th hole, he had saved a stroke on the 16th.  To beat Fitzpatrick and catch up with Bjerregaard was possible to do. But this time, his luck and skill failed him. His drive landed in a sand trap. His next shot landed in water. He was finished.

Fitzpatrick played better and when he sank a long putt, the crowd cheered. Bjerregaard looked up. He knew the tournament wasn’t over. Fitzpatrick had tied his 17 under par.

Amazingly, in the previous five years, four tournaments were decided in playoffs. That says the leaders in the Omega European Masters are well-matched. Good for the excitement of the crowd, challenging for the players.

Playing the 18th hole a second time, Fitzpatrick and Bjerregaard both had problems. Both put their balls into the rough. Getting to the fairway cost each a shot. Their second shots were better and placed them on the green. Now, to win the game, both had to make long putts. Bjerregaard went first. The crowd watched his every move. He took his time. He connected with the ball. The crowd gasped. His putt went wide. Bjerregaard shook his head.

Now it was Fitzpatrick’s game to lose.

Whether it was to heighten the drama or this is just the way he does it, Fitzpatrick lay down. As straight and flat as his putting iron, his eyes just above the grass, he studied the path from his ball to the hole. Then he stood up, tightened the grip on his club and took his shot. As the ball dropped solidly into the cup, the audience cheered.

Matthew Fitzpatrick had won a second Omega European Masters, a back-to-back win.

After all our experiences in Crans Montana, from fine dining meals, hiking along the the peak of a mountain, seeing an ancient glacier, enjoying the comforts of quality accommodations and learning how to make cheese, watching Fitzpatrick and Bjerregaard match their skills in the 18th hole playoff was a fitting conclusion to an excellent visit.

Lake Moubra

When you go

Crans Montana is an all-season destination, easily reached by train from Geneva, Zurich or Milan. Trains arrive in Sierre. Transfer to the funicular for a ten-minute train ride to Crans Montana. The official Crans Montana website has information about accommodations, activities and attractions. A calendar lists events planned throughout the year.

For a fun, self-guided tour of the area, go to the website with details about the commemorative 125 Years Project for the location of  the twelve scenic sites where the giant letters have been placed.

Besides the 125 Years Project, Crans Montana has another unique public art project. Begun by Gregory Pages, the Vision Art Festival employs an international collective of graffiti artists and muralists to create tableaux on otherwise blank walls. The colorful paintings can be seen high in the mountains on abandoned concrete walls, at gondola stations and on busy city streets on the walls of otherwise undistinguished buildings. Consult the website for profiles of the artists and photographs of their art. Write down the addresses of the work you like and create your own public art tour of Crans Montana.

Alpage de Corbyre Cheese Making, Corbyre Meadow, 3963 Crans-Montana, +41 79 347 03 06, alpage.corbyre@gmail.com. Website in Google-translation English. Demonstrations are available with cheesemaker Stephane Robyr. Attendance can be arranged directly or when staying at Hotel Chetzeron. Robyr and two Romanian helpers tend to the cows for the summer months, June-September. In the fall a festival celebrates the end of summer and the return of the Herens to their owners.

Buffet de la Gare, Place de la Gare 3, 3960 Sierre, +41 27 455 10 57. Across the street from the Sierre train station, a charming café serves light meals, beverages, beer, wine and cocktails. Facebook website in French only. A five-minute walk to the Sierre-Crans Montana Funicular.

Cave La Romaine, Route de Granges 124, 3978 Flanthey, +41 79 214 08 77. Website in French only.

Caviar House & Prunier, Rue Centrale 46, 3963 Crans-Montana, +41 27 480 48 00. Caviar is in the name, but that is only one of the luxury products on the menu. Raw oysters, smoked salmon, premium cuts of salmon, anchovies, sardines, shrimp and whelks are served in an elegant setting.

Château de Vaas, la Maison des Cornalins, Chemin du Tsaretton 46, 3978 Flanthey, +41 27 458 11 74, info@chateaudevaas.ch. Website in French only. A museum dedicated to the Cornalin grape, indigenous to the Valais and long forgotten but now reintroduced into the viticulture of the region.

Crans-sur-Sierre Golf-Club, Rue du Prado 20, 3963 Crans-Montana, info@golfcrans.ch, +41 (0)27 485 97 97. A compact, 18-hole championship golf course designed by legendary golfer Severiano Ballesteros. At almost 5,000 feet, players enjoy clean mountain air and a good view of the Alps, including the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc.

David, L’Instant Chocolat, Avenue de la Gare 6, Crans Montana 3963, +41 27 481 45 12.

With stores in Crans Montana, Sion and Vevey, award-winning chef David Pasquiet sells exquisitely constructed dark and milk chocolates with a variety of flavors. Some familiar combinations like his chocolate covered almonds and ganaches flavored variously with vanilla, citrus, caramel and mint and others, not as familiar, like his chocolates flavored with Japanese yuzu and matcha.

Délicatesse, Rue Centrale 21, 3963 Crans Montana, +41 27 481 23 20. A delightful tea room serving light meals, well-made pastries and hearty breads.

Funicular. Sierre-Crans Montana Funicular, Avenue de la Gare 28, 3963 Crans-Montana and Rue de Pradec 2, 3960 Sierre.  One of the delights of travel in Switzerland is riding on a funicular, used to traverse steep hills and mountains.  The funicular takes 10-15 minutes to travel between Sierre and Crans Montana.

Guides. For a list of guides, consult the ESS Crans Montana Guide Office website. Catherine Antille and Valais Wine Tours offer tours of the villages and wineries in the Valais. Pierre-Olivier Bagnoud has decades of experience leading guided tours of the mountains above Crans Montana.

Helvetia Intergolf Hotel and Apparthotel, Route de la Moubra 8,  CH-3963 Crans-Montana,  +41 (0)27 485 88 88, info@helvetia-intergolf.ch. Website in English, French, German and Italian. Family-friendly, the apartments have balconies, full kitchens, living rooms and some units have two bathrooms. Consult the website for packages.

Hotel Chetzeron, Chetzeron 2112 SA, 3963 Crans-Montana, +41274850800, hotel@chetzeron.ch. Located on the crest of a hill at 2112 meters (almost 7,000 feet) above sea level and often shrouded in clouds, the views are awesome. Access is by four-wheel drive shuttle in warm weather, the Cry d’Er gondola, on foot or, in winter, on skis and snowshoes or by snowmobile. A redesign transformed what had been a utilitarian gondola station into an elegant, stylish luxury boutique hotel with sixteen guest rooms and expansive public areas.

Herens. For schedules and details about the cow fighting tournaments in the Valais, consult the French-only website. Herens originated in Val d’Hérens, in the Valais above Sion, even though today they are also raised in France and Italy. On May 4-5, 2019, the Finale Nationale de la Race d’Hérens, will take place in Aproz.

Le Terroir, Rue Centrale 46, 3963 Crans-Montana, +41 27 480 22 33. Website in French, German and Italian only. The store sells a great variety of cheeses, many of them locally produced, as well as take-away packages of grated cheeses to make fondue at home.

Omega European Masters Golf Tournament, Crans-sur-Sierre Golf-Club, Rue du Prado 20, 3963 Crans-Montana, +41 27 485 97 97. Formerly called the SWISS Open, in 1983 the competition was renamed the European Masters. In 2019, the tournament will be played from August 29 to September 1. That schedule change will allow prominent PGA players to participate.

Plaine Morte Glacier. Some estimates say the glacier will be gone in forty years creating difficulties for the communities on both sides of the mountain. Because the ice melts unevenly, water flowing north towards Bern has created flooding. To the south, in Crans Montana, the water flow has decreased, creating water shortages.

Restaurant de La Plage, Impasse de la Plage, 3963 Crans-Montana, +41 27 481 27 87, info@restaurantlaplage.ch. Website in French. A lovely casual restaurant on Lake Moubra.

Restaurant Le Bistrot des Ours, Hostellerie du Pas de l’Ours, member of Relais & Chateaux, Rue du pas de l’Ours 41, 3963 Crans Montana, +41 (0)27 486 93 93, contact@pasadelours.ch. Award winning chef Franck Reynaud serves Swiss-French classics in a mountain chalet atmosphere. Perfectly paired with the upscale boutique lodge, his Restaurant Gastronomic l’Ours and the casual Le Bistrot specialize in local, seasonal ingredients prepared in an elegant, French style.

Restaurant Mayen de la Cure (aka Café de la Cure), Route des Mayens 1, 3963 Crans Montana, +011 41 27 481 04 98. Website in French only. Run by Filippo and Tania Osterino, husband-chef and wife-server, the dining room and large terrace facing the road have the feeling of a family home. The atmosphere is friendly, the dining room cozy, the terrace has a view of the valley and mountains and, best of all, the food and wine are delicious. With a French-Italian-Swiss menu and serving locally produced charcuterie, cheeses and wines, the café is a delightful way to enjoy the pleasures of the Valais.

SWISS Golf Memberships. SWISS airlines offers a golf membership program with many perks, including no-charge for checking a golf bag on SWISS flights, arranged golf trips, discounts and many more benefits. Consult the website for details.