This article first appeared in our sister title, Snow Magazine, 20 November 2023
You know the old travel cliché: if you want to know where to visit, buy a guidebook; if you want to know what’s worth visiting, ask a local. Well, we believe the same applies to skiing, only more so. Think about it: even the best-drawn piste maps struggle to show how mountains fit together, and they often miss out off-piste valleys, where the best powder is to be found, altogether.
TripAdvisor restaurant guides can’t really be trusted, and as useful as they are, Google Maps’ knife and fork symbols can’t ever capture a café’s vibe, or tell you if there’s a cool cover band playing in a particular bar, on a particular night. With that in mind, when we set about compiling a guide to the highlights of Switzerland’s Valais region, we thought we’d go straight to the source. We asked four locals, from a variety of different backgrounds, to tell us what they love most about four of the region’s most storied resorts. Here we focus on the glacier world of the Aletsch Arena…
Skiing in the Aletsch Arena
With a reputation as something of an insider’s ski area, the Aletsch Arena at the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch UNESCO World Heritage Site is a family-friendly ski area of 104km centred upon the three car-free, ski-in, ski-out holiday villages of Riederalp, Bettmeralp and Fiescheralp, set on a high plateau, with views of over 40 four-thousand-metre peaks and the largest glacier in the Alps. Thanks to the altitude between 1,845m and 2,869m, perfect winter sports conditions are guaranteed from December to April.
The ski domain has a healthy range of beginners’ slopes, four snow parks, half-pipes and floodlit night runs. And there are plenty of opportunities for ski touring, tobogganing, winter walks and snowshoeing. However, the main appeal of the Aletsch Arena is undoubtedly the ski-in, ski-out nature of its villages.