Peak summer in Switzerland

Head to the Swiss Alps to discover why Crans-Montana makes a great escape in warmer months


Many people don’t consider resorts in the Alps outside of winter, not really thinking of them as a summer destination. But between hiking, biking, luxurious accommodation, restaurants and spas, golf, wakeboarding, concerts and even a beach club, there is always plenty going on at Swiss resort Crans-Montana.

A thriving summer destination even before it built its first ski lifts, Crans-Montana is a year-round “real” village with a population of around 10,000, which has become such a popular holiday destination for the Jewish community that now there’s even a synagogue in the town.

Set in the heart of the French-speaking area of the Valais, you can drive from the airport but I’d recommend taking the train. The journey from Geneva takes less than three hours, and lets you soak up gorgeous views of the lake, followed by a short funicular ride up through the vineyards.

Once you arrive, there are free buses to help you get around. But to get your bearings, you can’t beat a guided e-bike ride. The beauty of e-biking is that you can go up easily as well as down, and as long as you are able to ride a bike, it’s suitable for all levels.

There’s a large and varied cycle park for downhill adrenaline junkies, but our plan was to take it reasonably easy.

Following a quick circuit of the town, led by expert mountain biker Julien Paganelli, we explored the mountain via a series of gravel paths, quiet roads and forest paths, before a traditional Swiss lunch of rösti — fried grated potato topped with cheese and a fried egg — on the side of the mountain at restaurant Cabane de la Tieche.

Riding an e-bike isn’t effort-free — you do still need to pedal, although you can choose more or less resistance according to the slope and how easy you’d like to make it — and my legs could certainly feel the 30 kilometres we’d covered by the end of the day, including almost 1,000 metres of elevation.

There are also plenty of gentler activities on offer in the region though, including four golf courses and nine lakes. Some you can swim in, while others have paddleboarding, pedalos and an inflatable water assault course on offer, along with one lake you can wakeboard on.

The lake’s cool beach club with a bar and loungers tempted me more, wakeboarding is definitely harder than it looks.

However, our next day was about hiking. There are 320km of marked summer hiking trails in Crans-Montana, ranging from easy strolls suitable for families with small children and pushchairs, right up to demanding climbs — and plenty in between.

We opted for the allegedly moderate Bisse du Ro hike, which follows the trail of one of the resort’s eight bisses, irrigation streams that date back to the 14th century.

The walk info warns that this approximately seven-mile hike isn’t suitable for people who are scared of heights, and indeed, the first section took us along a series of wooden walkways cut in the cliff, at some points ducking our heads to avoid the overhanging rocks.

Those were followed by narrow paths with jaw-dropping near-vertical slopes on one side and then across a vertigo-inducing footbridge, rewarded with views of several waterfalls, legions of wildflowers, and some glorious mountain scenery.

So far, so easy — as long as you do have a head for heights. But this is very much a walk of two halves. The final sections involve a couple of steel ladders cut into a large rock, followed by a climb so steep that at some points there are steel ropes to help you pull yourself up the narrow gullies. No special equipment or technique is needed, but it was quite a challenge.

The view at the top made the (not inconsiderable) effort all worth it though, especially combined with a fabulous lunch with an equally impressive view at Chetzeron, a hotel/restaurant converted from what was once the landing station for the ski gondola, 2,112 metres up.

The hotel itself has a lounge/breakfast room with an enormous window in the space where the gondolas used to arrive, along with panoramic views of the mountains and village below from the terrace.

With just 16 modern rooms, all with more wonderful views from their own huge windows, you can stay here summer or winter, being first on the slopes as you ski down to the gondola mid-station in the morning.

My own base was the new Six Senses hotel, itself in an excellent location right by the main gondola. The first Six Senses in Switzerland, it’s the sixth five-star hotel in Crans-Montana with another luxury property — Hyatt Unbound — under construction.

Along with the hotel’s 45 rooms, more are planned, plus there are apartments decorated in warm wood and stone with a cloud-like bed, large living area and generous furnished terrace.

Its two restaurants include The Wild Cabin, featuring a traditional (ish) Swiss menu, with 75 per cent of the ingredients coming from within 50km. Kosher meat can be arranged with advance notice, and it also includes several excellent vegetarian and fish options — unusually for a mountain resort, you’ll find local fish on almost every restaurant menu, thanks to the nearby lakes.

The weekly all-day barbecue has plenty of fish and vegetarian options too, plus Byakko serves food inspired by the Japanese Alps and has a Swiss/Japanese chef.

Six Senses hotels are known for their spectacular spas and this one certainly didn’t disappoint.

The calming 2,000 metre space is spread over two floors, including a vast indoor/outdoor pool, whose eye-catching ceiling is made up of countless stalactite-like wooden poles, plus terrace loungers outside or semi-circular cabanas and giant cushions for relaxing on inside. There’s a second enormous heated pool on the rooftop too.

Or choose between several saunas with a cold plunge pool, ice fountain and steam room, as well as plenty of high-tech beauty machines and ten treatment rooms. The extensive treatment menu features options for children and teens, even facials and massages for dogs, as well as personalised programmes to help you sleep, detox and more.

If you’re tempted by a relaxing break in the mountains rather than getting active outdoors, there are also historic villages to visit nearby, more than 90 restaurants (some with Michelin stars) and impressive shopping opportunities; everything from artisanal cheese and chocolates to high-end brands such as Louis Vuitton and Prada on the Rue de Prado.

Head to Le Tir Bouchon to try local wines by the glass (or even half glass if you’d like to try quite a few) — so local, in fact, that you pass some of the supplying vineyards on the way up from the valley floor.

Crans-Montana prides itself on being family-friendly too, with children’s versions of almost all the activities available (such as a small “starter” bike park and child-friendly walks), as well as childcare facilities, children’s clubs and “Les Jardins de Bibi” with a playground, child-sized electric cars, table tennis and mini-golf.

Whether you are looking for an active break with adrenaline-fuelled activities or simply somewhere to relax with friends or family among beautiful scenery, this is one mountain spot that’s just as good without the snow.

Getting There

Flights with Swiss from Heathrow and London City Airport to Geneva cost from around £102 return. Flights also available from other London airports and Manchester with easyJet and British Airways.

A return train journey from Geneva to Montana Gare costs around £120.

Doubles at Six Senses Crans-Montana cost from around £770 per night B&B.

For more information, visit

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive