CRANS MONTANA, SWITZERLAND — I step outside the train station at Sierre/Siders and ask a local man if he can guide me to the Chetzeron Hotel in neighbouring Crans Montana. “Bien sûr (of course),” says the man, a resident of this lovely French-speaking area of Switzerland.
I follow his precise instructions and after two long cable-car rides and a kidney-rattling Jeep journey through an Alpine cow pasture, I arrive at the entrance of the Chetzeron, one of the most unique hotels in the world.
The site of the Chetzeron leaves me breathless. And it’s not because the hotel sits perched 2,112m above the fertile Rhône Valley, or that it’s surrounded by majestic Alpine peaks. I’m actually awe-struck by the fact that this one-of-a-kind hotel started out life as a cable-car station.
“Welcome,” shouts Sami Lamaa, one of the owners who helped transform the abandoned station into Switzerland’s most spectacular “ski in, ski out” resort.
I follow the charming Lebanese-Swiss owner into the cozy main lobby and step back in amazement — a massive picture window dominates the room and frames famous Alpine peaks like the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc.
“The window used to be the entrance to the cable car station,” says Sami, whose family is well known in Switzerland’s hospitality industry.
“Here, where we are standing (the reception desk), is where the cable cars would turn around.”
Above: Some of the best alpine ski runs in all of Europe are literally outside the entrance of the Chetzeron hotel.
Sami invites me onto the hotel’s sun-drenched terrace where lunch is being served. The smell of local favourites — rösti potatoes and sausages — being cooked on an open fire fills the air but diners seem more content to feast on the eye candy surrounding them.
The Chetzeron features just 16 rooms, but in the winter months they are the most sought-after rooms in all of Europe.
“Our guests can access the best slopes in Crans Montana right from our entrance,” says Sami, who adds that most winter guests stay an average of five days.
The design of the hotel pays homage to its pristine environment — the exterior is wrapped in stone cut from local mountains and warm blond oak fills the rooms and public areas.
While there are three categories of rooms — three junior suites, four deluxe corner rooms and nine valley superior rooms — all offer the same stunning Alpine views.
There are two restaurants and several lounges scattered about the property and the glass floor in the library allows guests to look into the hotel’s well-stocked wine cellar.
A wellness area, complete with sauna, small spa and a terrace swimming pool, welcome guests back after a day of hiking (in spring and summer) and skiing in winter.
Left: The old cable car entrance. Centre: Rooms are modern and chic. Right: Regional favourites top the hotel's menu.
The hotel’s remote location is also attracting a new breed of traveller, according to Sami.
“We have people coming here to data detox,” smiles the owner, who adds: “Two young men arrived the other day, surrendered their smartphones and computers, and ordered us not to return them until they were ready to leave.”
The Chetzeron Hotel is surrounded by some of the best hiking trails in Switzerland and mountain bike daredevils test their metal in the summer months on harrowing runs that snake down into the valley.
Thanks to advanced energy management technologies employed at the hotel, “we are self-sustaining,” says Sami.
Solar panels heat the hotel’s water and photovoltaic panels produce the electricity needed to run the property.
At night, a star-filled sky hangs over the Chetzeron while the twinkling lights of Crans Montana spread out far below. It’s an amazing sight that can only be enjoyed at Europe’s most talked-about hotel.
JUST THE FACTS
• Room rates at the Chetzeron start around $300 a night but winter rates are much higher and minimum stays are usually required. For more information, go to
• Air Canada offers direct flights to Zurich from Toronto and Swiss International Air Lines runs daily service to Zurich from Montreal:
http://www.swiss.com Crans Montana is a two hour train ride from Zurich.
• For information on Switzerland and its many wonders, go to http://www.MySwitzerland.com
• To order travel brochures on Switzerland, go to firstname.lastname@example.org