A town with royal heritage – Prince (now King) Charles has been skiing here for going on 50 years, loving the informality and the very English atmosphere. The fact that the 60-mile Parsenn area linking with Davos offers great skiing and that there’s another 125 miles is a bonus.
The Gotschnagrat cable car in the heart of Klosters, right by the railway station, opens up the Parsenn which runs all the way to Davos, where the Parsenn funicular, which opened 90 years ago, runs from the town centre. All very civilised and the towns are connected by train if you don’t fancy skiing all the way there and back.
The other side of Klosters is Madrisa, a family area. Jakobshorn is Davos’s big, stand-alone ski area, where skiing’s first lift, a T-bar, was opened in 1934, and where apres-ski is as important to some as the runs. Above Davos is Schatzalp, skiing with an old-time feel – no man-made snow and aimed at relaxed skiers. Just out of town is Pischa, unpisted – and unlifted, except for a cable car to the top. Rinerhorn is a small, quiet area visited mostly by locals.
The Parsenn area is one of those great ski areas where you feel like you’re really going somewhere – lunching in a different resort after a great morning’s skiing. Long, wide pistes swoop down as they have for so many years. This area is seen as the birthplace of Swiss skiing – in 1895 four English tourists got lost on the Weissfluhjoch and ended up in Küblis, on the far side of Klosters. The eight-mile run, one of Europe’s longest, still hosts the Parsenn Derby, the amateur ski race first held in 1924.
The Jakobshorn has a new run this season, a tree-lined black, heading down the valley, well over half a mile long, carved out of a narrow, bump-filled off-piste, rushes straight to the centre of Davos. From the mountain there are 360-degree panoramas of some of Switzerland’s mightiest peaks.
Madrisa is a world of magic carpet lifts, slow, safe chairlifts, a five-mile toboggan runs and two snow parks, Madrisa Land and Madrisa Park Klosters, accessible to those with disabilities. But it’s also popular with ski tourers and free riders – it’s possible to ski to Austria and back.
Pischa might be unpisted but there are marked routes, which are closed when conditions are poor, along with vast area of open, unpatrolled mountainside. This is also a place for ski touring with two taster courses held by mountain guides each week. Schatzalp is the very opposite, easy-going runs for those who simply want to potter and see the scenery – a landscape that inspired writer Thomas Mann’s to create his masterpiece The Magic Mountain, a mountainous novel set around a sanatorium. The book celebrated its centenary in 2024 – and the grandiose art nouveau sanatorium that featured in the book is now grandiose Berghotel Schatzalp sunning itself at 6,100ft.
The royal seal
King Charles is known for his love of soaring down the slopes but this season he’ll be soaring up them. Or, at least, the cable car named in his honour by Klosters, resort will.
The main Gotschnagrat lift from the centre of town was named the Prince of Wales cable car in 2015 to celebrate 40 years since he first skied there and in March 2023 the name was changed to King Charles – but a cable fault meant it didn’t celebrate last season, but now it’s all up and running. The lettering on the grandly red cabin reads: ‘King Charles III A treasured guest of Klosters since 1998.
This was where he prepared to propose to Diana, narrowly escaped a fatal avalanche, introduced William and Harry to skiing, and learned that his grandmother had died.
Charles has also enjoyed the solitude of the off-piste areas, as well as the black piste leading down to Wolfgang, half way between the two towns, where Kessler’s Kulm restaurant and hotel has been a favourite haunt.
The cosy, traditional Hotel Alpina, run for 30 years by the same couple who retired at the end of last season, has over the summer been transformed into Seven Alpina, a boutique delight. Not only is the Alpina in the centre of Klosters, it’s across the road from both the railway station and the Gotschnagrat lift. The chalet-style hotel, actually three small connected buildings, including an overhauled spa with a swimming pool, now combines an ageless air with contemporary colour and design. There’s the new WunderBar for apres-ski with both live music and DJs and the Peak restaurant combining mountain dishes and Mediterranean Italian flavours. Seven.ch
Hotel Sport is great for families, with a big indoor pool, children’s pool, sports hall with bowling alley, table tennis and billiards. There are both modern and traditional rooms and the free ski bus, which stops outside, takes minutes to either the Gotschnagrat or the Madrisa area.
Eating and drinking
The Chesa Grischuna is a masterpiece of craftsmanship, looking medieval yet from the 1930s. In the 40s and 50s Hollywood stars including Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn and Bing Crosby stayed at the hotel and the dark, wonderful interior is a place to enjoy oneself. The subterranean Chesa Bar, with original paintings and a very grand piano, lets you leave the world behind – Gene Kelly once tap-danced on the bar. The restaurant, swimming in Gault Millau points, is rich in local river fish, venison and vegetables.
The Wynegg is another classic hotel, albeit somewhat understated. It’s another place where Charles has supped and when I visited in March the simple bar was alive to the sound of cultured English voices of a certain generation, including that of the father of a former girlfriend of Prince Harry. Late socialite Tara Palmer-Tomkinson was a regular. The restaurant is traditional with a modern edge, the work of chef Andri Fasser, one of the partners who now run the place. wynegg.ch
How to do it
PT Ski (ptski.com), run by Tara Palmer-Tomkinson’s brother James, offers seven nights at the Seven Alpina from £2,635pp, BB, including Zurich airport transfers and piste hosting but not flights.
Inghams (inghams.co.uk) has seven nights at the Hotel Sport from £1,139 HB, including flights and transfers. A third person on a single bed pays the same price.
Swiss flies from Heathrow to Zurich and trains run to Klosters. For details myswitzerland.com/klosters.ch/davos.ch