Arolla is a small ski area on a big mountain in Espace Dent Blanche ski region in the Val d’Hérens region of Switzerland above the Rhone River valley. Hotel du Pigne is a cozy place to stay while skiing this small ski area in the Evolene ski region, and exploring this spectacular valley of 5 glaciers, and majestic alps.
Its a crazy scenic ride up into Val d’Hérens up the mountain from the Rhone valley floor to Arolla. You know you’ve arrived in the right place when the sunny hotel Terrace is full of happy skiers enjoying après ski drinks and snacks from Hotel du Pigne’s bar and restaurant.
We were greeted warmly and escorted to our room on the second floor, which had a magnificent balcony, looking at Mont Collon glacier and the dramatic valley slopes so close to us. Our clean neat suite offered a nice big bed with a fluffy Swiss down duvet, lots of closet space, a private bath with a big tub, and a separate sitting room with TV, couch and lounge area. Fortunately, our bedroom and the balcony had the view, while the back living area did not.
Our immense balcony at du Pigne was by far our favorite place to relax after skiing, overlooking the cute little village, where there’s a full-service ski shop (with rentals, ski apparel, gear and recommendations for guide services). Across the street and plaza is also a small gift shop, selling local Swiss items as well as snacks and wine. It’s a walk or a short drive down to the Arolla skiing parking area.
After your day skiing Arolla’s slopes, Hotel du Pigne’s charming proprietor, Severine, can provide you massage services, reflexology, and more. She and her husband – the Chef – have operated the hotel for 30 years. They’re proud and ever-present without being intrusive.
Après ski, Du Pigne’s Bar downstairs is lively in the afternoons with locals enjoying a drink at the chalet restaurant wooden tables, or out on the sunny balcony. Du Pigne’s bar seems to be the social center of this small mountain town, in a happy humble way.
Dinner is served each night in the Hotel restaurant for guests and locals, with raclette and Swiss fondue as offerings, plus a full menu, including pastas and other local specialty! We enjoyed melting our own raclette cheese, onto delicious potatoes, bread, and cured meats. Dessert, which I rarely indulge in, was an amazing apricot sorbet absolutely drowned in apricot liquor… a deliciously dangerous combination! Next evening, a flavorful minestrone soup was followed by beef steaks drenched in herb butter and sauteed vegetables, capped with a wonderful apple torte with fresh cream for dessert. Our dreams were sweet our first night in our quiet room, very comfortable.
Mornings at Hotel du Pigne, after an in-room coffee, we went downstairs in slippers for a complete self-serve breakfast buffet with the few other hotel guests. Yogurts, fruits, jams, cheese, breads and croissant, plus boiled eggs, provide the perfect start to a skier’s day. Arolla is popular with both resort skiers and Randonnée – mountaineering skiers love to skin up the trails to reach vast terrain for an off-piste adventure – typically with a guide.
Excitingly, our second morning was the Patrouille des Aiguilles Rouges that we watched from our hotel window as 400 skiers started a ski mountaineering race at 5:30am. The famous mountain marathon departs from the village plaza, this epic annual race in Evolène draws the most fit and ambitious alpinists hiking and skiing 2533-meters in elevation, over 30 kilometers up glaciers and challenging mountains, looping back to Arolla in just 5 hours. An example of how much the Swiss love their mountains, snow, adventuring and competing to be the strongest in their region.
We enjoyed the best of both worlds at our leisure (without any race), riding Arolla’s old but reliable consecutive pomas up the mountain, and exploring the easy to reach snow fields within the boundaries of the ski area, with extraordinary views of the close, dramatic Evolène canyon. We hired a guide on day – Swiss Powder Guides, to explore more of the terrain safely with Gilles’ knowledge and professional experience. He is a wonderful companion, and phenomenal guide with vast awareness of the terrain from here to Zermatt (along the haute route).
Arolla is a special ski place, not overly commercial or contrived. It’s just authentic high elevation (2000 – 3000M) Swiss alps skiing in a magical valley. Staying at a Hotel du Pigne, with free parking, and it’s right next to the bus stop, it’s a very relaxing ski holiday. You are a walk or a short drive down to the first of three pomas you’ll ride to the ski terrain.
Arolla is part of a Magic Pass ski safari in Switzerland, the Evolène region to include Arolla, Evolène, Les Forclaz plus neighboring Anzère, Grimentz Zinal, St-Luc/Chandolin, Crans Montana, Leukerbad, Nax Mont Noble, and other smaller ski areas in the Rhone valley.