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Walking in a winter wonderland; Chloe Griffiths attempts to explore the Swiss mountains on snowshoes Ease any aches in the hotel spa.

Byline: Chloe Griffiths

JUST imagine you are walking on egg shells" our guide Freddie instructed as he veered off the well-worn trail and padded cat-like across the pristine powder snow.

But while he gently skimmed the surface of the gleaming, sugar-white mountainside, it was a different story for us novices.

Within seconds each member of our small tour group had plunged waist-deep into the virgin snow and the valley echoed with peels of laughter as we took it in turns to desperately try and crawl out of our self-made man holes.

We had set off on a snowshoe walking expedition from the picturesque Swiss resort of Arosa about an hour before in fog and falling flakes. With more than 60km of clearly-marked trails surrounding the Alpine town, it provides the perfect base to set off into the mountains.

But donning the giant, slatted, racket-like snowshoes - originally used by hunters and farmers - I have to admit they didn't feel too useful. The feeling wasn't eased as the occasional cheery hiker comfortably overtook us in their much more manageable hiking boots as we shuffled awkwardly upwards.

It was when we ventured off-trail that the benefits soon became apparent.

Following Freddie, who has spent the last 20 years exploring Arosa's mountains and carefully guided us away from drifts, we were soon in a stunning winter wonderland landscape with not a man-made sight or footstep in sight.

Despite the rest of us not quite displaying Freddie's grace it did get easier and soon our little single file party had got into our stride, leaving a solitary trail behind us. After a couple of hours of muscle-punishing walking, Freddie declared we deserved a break and thoughtfully produced a steaming flask of hot coffee and a giant Toblerone. As we took a breather - seemingly miles from anywhere - we caught our breath admiring the sparkling vista of Weisshorn mountain now gloriously crowned by clear blue skies.

It is this kind of alternative and innovative snow activity that Arosa specialises in.

While skiers and snowboarders are generously-catered for - with pistes 70kms in length and 30kms of free ride slopes - tourists bosses at the resort are keen to show that everyone can venture out into the snow-capped mountains, even those who can't ski at all. The town offers the highest golf course in Europe, a gruelling annual half marathon across the mountains, not to mention icesnow football on the frozen Obersee lake, curling and horse racing in the snow.

After recovering from our snow-walking excursion with a hearty meal at Restaurant Burestubli served by waitresses in traditional Swiss outfits we were off to try another of the activities in the afternoon.

While sledging may sound more like a pleasant pursuit of your youth, the slalom-style tracks running down the mountainside in Arosa are no child-like indulgence. One woman in our group was so startled at the break-neck speed that fearless kids were hurtling around the track she preferred to walk back down the mountain carrying her traditional wooden sledge. I set off tentatively. The advice to use our heels as breaks seemed to have little effect in slowing me down. Instead I ended up throwing myself off the sledge in a desperate attempt to prevent myself flying off the track. But after completing the 1.5km run once - admittedly with a few crashes along the way - adrenaline had overtaken fear and I was ready to go again. Fortunately, sledgers are saved the pain of trudging back up the mountain by the futuristic Tschuggen Express.

A cross between a cable car and a mini-rollercoaster, it whisks passengers up to the top of the slope in minutes. The track is even open at night so you can enjoy the twinkling lights of the resort below as you whizz down. I preferred to take advantage of the apre-ski though in our comfortable hotel, the Sporthotel Valsana. The four-star hotel, in the heart of Arosa overlooking the lake, was created by Swiss interior designer Carlo Rampazzi and my large, modern room boasted a wooden balcony with glistening mountain views. It is also well geared up for sports enthusiasts with a well-equipped hire shop, lift passes for sale, not to mention a spa offering a range of massages to help with those aching limbs. It is even possible to ski right up to the door from the lifts, just 500m away.

On top of that, the hotel offers a swimming pool, an outdoor tennis court and an indoor tennis centre complete with gym. But after working up an appetite all day, I was ready to take advantage of one of their two restaurants. The main restaurant offers a vast Swiss buffet, while in the tiny traditional Chesalina restaurant downstairs we feasted on warming fondue. Made of cheese, milk and white wine, it bubbled away as we tore up chunks of bread, before dipping them in a shot of kirsch (cherry liqueur) and lowering it in the pot. The hit of potent alcohol and hearty food provided the perfect antidote to a day of wintry exertions - fuelling us for another day enjoying Arosa's attractions. TRAVEL TIPS CHLOE stayed at the Sporthotel Valsana in Arosa. Details can be found at, by calling +41 (0)81 378 63 63 or email

The hotel offers doubles from pounds 129pp per night based on two adults sharing. For reservations call 0845 601 0956 or visit:

Swiss International Airlines operates daily flights from Manchester to Zurich. Fares start from pounds 89 return, including all airport taxes.

Chloe used the Swiss Transfer Ticket which covers a round-trip between the airport or border and your destination. Prices are pounds 79 in second class or pounds 120 in first class. For the ultimate rail specialist call Switzerland Travel Centre on 00800 100 200 30 or


SPORTY HAVEN: Sporthotel Valsana, in Arosa
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 6, 2011
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