Day trip to Crans Montana

Beautiful mountains... surrounded by beautiful mountains

La Tzoumaz is a great base for day trips.  We took a day trip to Crans Montana with friends in the summer to check it out.  Hiking, biking and browsing the mountain shops are on the menu, accompanied by a panoramic picnic and some marmotte spotting.

It is only a short hour in the car from La Tzoumaz to Crans Montana, so we packed our hiking boots after a leisurely breakfast and set off down the mountain towards the autoroute.  James, our guide for the day, had already selected our start point, so we did not have to choose whether to visit the accessible station of Montana or the chic village of Crans.

Cheese selection on sale in Crans Montana

Cheese selection on sale in Crans Montana

Within an hour we found ourselves planning our picnic in Montana’s magnificent cheese shop (www.laiterieaupetitchalet.ch), ooooing and aaaahing over the different varieties of local tomme and the big vat of fresh honey that you can buy by the scoop.  As I stuffed my purchase into a rucksack, James didn’t hesitate to remind me smugly that “tomme” isn’t considered to be anything fancy by the locals as the word just means “cheese”.

Scanning the Crans Montana hillside for marmottes

Scanning the Crans Montana hillside for marmottes

There was plenty of parking at the Violettes Express telecabin station and we climbed into the modern cabins to be whisked away up to 2250m, clutching our 15CHF one-way tickets.  The mist was swirling atmospherically around us as we arrived at the top station, level with the clouds and we headed off behind the cabin onto a narrow footpath.  In one section the path rose so steeply that someone had thoughtfully installed some ladders, bolted into the rock and with strong rope for handrails.

We were chattering excitedly and swapping stories up and down the line when we got calls of “Shhhushhhh!!  Shhhhushhhh!” from our guide.  There, in front of us, posing like a fine, furry fellow, was a cute little marmotte, on the edge of a precipice with a stunning panorama as a backdrop.  It was a picture postcard moment, and I reflected on my own private suspicion that marmottes are part of a mountain conspiratory, and their role is to lie in wait for tourists, whistling loudly until we spot them, then looking as cute as possible until we finally admit that they really are too small to photograph without buying a new zoom lens.

There is a marmotte in this picture, honestly!

There is a marmotte in this picture, honestly!

We were more focussed on having a pleasant, social stroll than a hard work-out, so James soon brought us to a superbly-located restaurant, the Cry d’Er, perched on the edge of the steep mountainside and overlooking the Rhone Valley.  As seems fitting in Switzerland, we opted for triple chocolate – a steaming mug of hot chocolate served with individual squares of chocolate and then supplemented by our own hiking supplies of foil-wrapped Cailler.

The Peak Finder App that broke my heart

The Peak Finder App that broke my heart

“Is that the Matterhorn?”  we asked, surveying the snowcapped peaks around us.  “Ummmmm… let me just check…” replied James as he reached for his smartphone.  This was the moment that all of my romantic notions of guides and their mythical mountain knowledge came crashing to an abrupt end.  For years I had been in awe of anyone in the Alps who could answer a question such as “What’s that peak over there?” with a knowing gaze and an informative answer.  Three minutes and four euros later, I too had downloaded the PeakFinder app (www.peakfinder.org/mobile) and was happily scanning the panorama for my favourite mountains names.

We were out of the clouds now, so when we set off again we had a clear view of the lac de Tseuzier and the impressive dam that holds it back.  We also had a better view of the lunatics heading down the mountain-bike trails, clad in full-face helmets, shinpads and forearm guards.  I have to admit that it was a shame we had not come to ride the trails here, as it did look like fun.

CransDam

Lunch was a sun-drenched picnic overlooking the Rhone valley from the terrace of a small restaurant that was closed until the ski season.  For the first time we managed to strip off down to t-shirts, although it was nowhere near hot enough to have melted my tomme.

A picnic lunch on the mountainside

A picnic lunch on the mountainside

On the way back down, we stopped from time to time to admire the different alpine flowers and mushrooms that we spotted, testing each other’s knowledge with interest, and concluding that most of us could barely tell a tasty chanterelle from a poisonous toadstool.  The last few hundred metres was a pleasant ramble along a forest trail and James led us dutifully into the animal-skin covered seats on the terrasse at Bar7 for an apres-hike beer to a chorus of “thank-yous” and a cheer for the guide.

On our way home, we took some time out to walk through the village of Montana and browse some of the shops.  There are enough to wander around for an hour or so, and we enjoyed looking through the ski stores for off-season discounts, and checking out the latest marmotte trinkets in the mountain deco shops.

Crans Montana Day Trip

Crans Montana is approximately 60 minutes drive from La Tzoumaz.  Plan to spend at least 4 hours there before sunset.

Be prepared

Take a day-pack with extra layers of clothing, sunglasses and high-factor SPF suncream.  Walking boots (or strong trainers), water and a picnic are advisable.  A zoom lens could be useful to thwart the marmottes.

Recommended for

Hikers, bikers, afternoon strollers and anyone who wants to see the Rhone Valley from the other side

Not recommended for

Anyone who doesn’t like mountains

 

 

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