Surselva Ski Region of Switzerland offers skiing at Laax, plus smaller ski resorts – Brigels, Obersaxen, Savognin. Each is worthy of a fun day on the slopes. Actually Obersaxen probably deserves a few days.
Skiers tend to gravitate to the big Swiss ski resorts, Zermatt, Grindelwald, St Moritz, but in the Swiss Alps there are over 160 ski resorts. Lesser known resorts offer big mountain skiing, spectacular Alps settings, often at excellent value, less busy with lower lift ticket prices. Here are three worthy ski resorts in central Switzerland, near Oberlap Pass, between Andermatt, Laax, and Arosa Lenzerheide, in the spectacular mountainous region of Surselva – which means “above the forest.”
Brigels is the name of the small Swiss town in the Surselva region, with its ski area above. Brigels is an ideal smaller ski resort for families, with south facing sunny exposure. Brigels means literally “little town” and it is a tiny village, with a decent sized ski area accessed from the compact cluster of chalets and hotels and farms in this high alpine valley.
Skiing at Brigels offers a high plateau of wide, sun exposed (south facing) slopes, well-groomed with a mix of lifts – new modern quads to double chairs and T-Bars accessing the 50 km of slopes – all with phenomenal views of Alps in all directions. Brigels’ 11 lifts serve 28 pistes – big wide gently pitched trails with boundless free riding (off-piste) between the prepared trails. Brigels’ elevations is 1,102 – 2,418 m (7,933’) so not super high altitude, but a respectable 4,258′ vertical drop and primarily above-tree-line skiing, south facing with the slogan “where the sun likes to shine”. Note: Brigels can be sunbaked in spring. The ski resort connects the slopes on the Pez d’Artgas (2,785 m), between the villages of Brigels, Waltensburg and Andiast. Winter wandering – hiking on snow trails, and sledding are super popular here for the non-skiers that want to enjoy the alpine forest and high plateau sun and snow fun. Brigels has several on mountain chalets with grand sun decks for lunch.
Burleun Brigels was our favorite mountain chalet for their view, sun deck, efficient wait staff and delicious daily lunch menu for under $20 Swiss France with salad and a full entrée of pasta, pizza or plat du jour.
Lodging in Brigels – we stayed at the Hotel Mulin, just steps to a trail that leads to the ski lifts, just past the cows and horse stables. Hotel Mulin has had a lovely renovation, of modern alpine décor, neat guest rooms with duvets, spa showers and a big flat screen tv – mind you, the mountain view from our balcony was more entertaining. Breakfast included is a delightful spread of yogurt, grains, fresh breads and croissant, local meats and cheese plus farm fresh eggs cooked to order. Après ski in the Pipa Lounge and around the bar is convivial, with proprietors Samantha and Marc.
Evenings it’s a short stroll through Brigels’ small village to several restaurants, Alpina Hotel and Vincenz. Note: Brigels is very family-oriented, so perfect for kids with great terrain, ski schools, and all the lodging dining is kid-friendly, so you may not find adults-only dining.
Powder seekers: Do not rule Brigels out on a powder day. There is nothing super steep here but the vast terrain offers hundreds of acres of easy to ski off-piste terrain between ski trails without the hourds of powder hounds found at all the larger resorts!
Obersaxen is a wonderful alpine playground. With no big towns, it’s a sprawling connection of various alpine villages, 17 lifts connect big wide groomed pistes, some narrower trails and traverses, plus unlimited off-piste skiing just off the marked trails. It is said Wali is among the finest off-piste slopes in the Alps. Obersaxen feels like a locals’ mountain, with good skiers, families, and a pleasant vibe. Its scenically beautifully too as you ski the circuit around the mountains – Piz Sezner at the highest ski point, to Stein, and Mundaun, around and down to Vella, Sasolas, Valata, Untermatt, family-friendly Chummenbühl, and Meierhof where we parked for free, started and ended our ski day – closest to Brigels.
Skiing at Obersaxen is on modern quads and six-passenger chairs to old reliable T-bars. On mountain, there are about 10 chalets and lodges, a panoramic umbrella bar atop Sezner peak, and I counted two dozen churches with countless Alps as we skied each flank and aspect in a day.
Lunch at Berghaus Triel offers a modern lodge atop the Triel lift, with both café self-service food and a relaxed table service on the beautiful sun deck and lovely interior restaurant, we opted for table service as the cafeteria is about the same price – and enjoyed a wonderful lunch of schnitzel, homemade soup and the freshest salad at a mile-high.
Obersaxen Mundaun Ski Stats:
120 km, 17 lifts, 50 pistes
Elevation 2,300 m (7,545’) at Piz Sezner, 8 villages.
Savognin is another moderate size ski resort in the Surselva region of the Swiss Alps, between Lenzerheide, Davos and St Moritz. This fun mountain is definitely worth a day or two visit. Skiing Savognin Bergbahnen just above the charming village of Savognin, you have 80 kilometers of groomed pistes – much above tree line. With 25 runs there’s a variety of terrain from intermediate – red to black – more difficult. A total of 12 lifts include Savognin’s modern mid mountain gondola, reached by a lower quad, and an upper mountain 6 pack chair, plus 4 high alpine T Bars. You will find nice wide groomed slopes, the opportunity to go off piste between trails, a fun sledding run and winter wandering trails. On mountain, several chalet restaurants, Rösti, Tigignas and Jimmy Beach Bar mid way down the mountain are perfect for lunch, a snack or après ski. Jimmy Beach Bar is nice for apres ski as it is just 20 or so turns back to the base. Savognin also has a separate dedicated kids learn to ski school area at lower elevation near the base. The authentic alpine town of Savognin has the beautiful Julia River passing under ancient stone bridges, three beautiful churches, a museum and a few shops and hotels.
Savognin Ski Stats:
80 km of groomed piste, 25 runs, 12 lifts
Elevation 2,715 meters, 8910’, base is 3937’, 5,000’ vertical
Lodging at Savognin – we stayed at the cozy Hotel Romana, a chalet style lodge with balconies overlooking the tiny village, the church steeples and the surrounding mountains. Romana is just a short stroll to the lifts, and the store, with a cozy lounge and wood fired pizza restaurant downstairs, plus an outdoor terrace for aprés ski drinks. For guests of the handful of rooms, a wonderful breakfast spread is served in the elegant upstairs dining room, and you are a few steps to the lift ticket window, lower mountain lift and kids learning center in the opposite direction.