“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”
To claim that I love to travel is a bit of an understatement. I am a bonafide wanderlust; craving the new experiences, cultures and moments that travel can bring. However, this doesn’t mean I need to go to the most glamorous and expensive places in the world to experience that feeling of escapism that travel can bring. Sometimes all I need is to head an hour down the road and see what life is like had I ended up somewhere close to home but far enough away to be different. This is why I love the idea of Weekend Getaways. These mini-breaks can provide a wealth of memories and help you return to the weekly grind without wreaking too much havoc on the budget or requiring taking time off from work or school. We are very very very (we know!) fortunate to live somewhere where the weekends can be spent exploring some of the best skiing and hiking in the world. We are lucky enough to be able to do this frequently. Recognising that, I’ve decided to write about our favourite weekend places and hopefully help anyone hoping to plan a weekend (or longer) trip to Switzerland. I will approach each weekend with families in mind but can assure you that singletons and couples will find a LOT to do outside of family activities at most of these places. As this affects many people I care about, I will do my best to report back on vegetarian-friendly locations that I notice, keeping in mind that Switzerland is not the best location in the world for this (unless you are OK compensating your protein intake with simply cheese, cheese and more cheese).
Leysin: Oxygene des Alpes
I will admit, I did NOT know what to expect when I first booked our weekend trip to Leysin. It was one of the ski resorts listed as included on our Swiss annual ski SuperPass and since were decided to spend the first year trying as many places as we could, it made the cut. I hadn’t heard of it before, I didn’t know anyone that had been there but it was an hour from home and in the Swiss Alps and we determined that that must make it OK at a bare minimum.
What a silly idea to have!
Leysin, it turns out, was an amazing weekend experience and we can’t wait to repeat it as soon as possible. Mr H and I had a moment where we looked at each other and said, ‘Why haven’t we been here before?’ We happily stayed at the Hôtel Central-Résidence and I will be blogging about that experience later in the week. For now, let’s talk Leysin.
Points Forts/The Good Stuff:
Leysin, one of the amazing locations of the famous Swiss Hospitality Management Schools, is a beautiful town not to far from Aigle. Located in the french-speaking canton of Vaud, Leysin is easily accessible by motorway, running about 90 minutes from the Geneva airport. If you are without a vehicle, there is a direct Aigle-Leysin train that runs hourly to get you to the slopes in the most efficient manner possible. As Leysin is a proper all-season town with schools, a town hall, university, the world-famous American boarding school and more, the services available are quite impressive. There were several grocery stores, clothing shops, banks, etc. If you need something in Leysin, you will find it here.
What to do? Well, it might be a shorter list if you asked me what you CAN’T do in Leysin!
- skiing/snowboarding (children under 9 are free)
- ski school (we overheard English, French, German, Italian and Spanish instructors)
- snowshoeing (free of charge)
- cross-country skiing (free of charge)
- Avalanche training centre
- rock climbing
- VTT/Mountain biking
- night skiing
Points to consider:
Leysin is built INTO a mountain. It is a town that has developed and grown over time and without much flat land to grow on, the town has spread up and down the side of a mountain. This makes the skiing superb and snow amazing but it also makes the getting around town part a bit challenging. There is a superb navette/bus service that is free and you will use it if you head into central Leysin for shopping or a restaurant. Our hotel was located up near the télécabine/gondola which was extremely convenient for skiing but made our trek into town to shop a bit of a journey. We walked down but absolutely took the navette back home afterwards. Can I blame having a 5 and 8 year old? 😉
Leysin is a huge ski domain yet due to the nature of the mountain, there are very few green pistes. If you are a first-timer, I would suggest learning to ski at a smaller station then progressing to Leysin. There were many blue and red pistes, as well a some black pistes that were very well-deserving of their grading. We were there on an exceptionally busy weekend and on-piste traffic didn’t bother us. The longest we ever waited in a queue for a chairlift was 10 minutes. Pas mal!
Parking. Leysin was not originally designed to be the huge mountain adventure place that it is now. Parking can be an issue so if you are a day-tripper, GET THERE EARLY! If you are staying in a hotel locally, take advantage of the free navette/bus service. They run efficiently and quickly move people up the mountain to the departure point. It seemed overwhelming to us at first and we almost cringed at how many people were waiting for the same bus to arrive but it didn’t seem to be a problem. 10 minutes later, there wasn’t anyone left waiting and tumbleweed could have passed us by. Pretty swift service if you ask me.
Lift passes. Due to Leysin’s popularity, it does attract a lot of day-trippers from France and Switzerland so the queue for daily lift passes could get quite long. The Swiss handle this efficiently (surprise, surprise) but you will still have to wait if you didn’t book your lift passes in advance. Consider this pre-planning step and you will save yourself a lot of time.
Restaurants. With the hospitality school and reputation for great skiing, Leysin tends sees a very international audience and you can really tell that it caters to this mindset. A traditional mountain fare tavern sits next to a Pekin fine dining restaurant. Tastes are varied and as someone that gets tired of cheese after a day or two, I very much appreciated this fact. We obviously didn’t have time in one weekend to try them all but if you don’t mind, I’d like to go back, try some places and get back to you on which were my favourites. All in the name of research, I tell you!
As you can see, other than some parking and steep walking issues, there was not much to complain about in Leysin. We’ll be back sooner rather than later, I hope!
Photo credits: Jennifer Hart, Leysin Tourist Information