Debonaire While shooting For Your Eyes Only, Sir Roger fell in love with the upscale resort, and more than 40 years later, dozens of British families continue to come here because of its subtle glitz.
The south-facing resort, which enjoys one of the sunniest climates in the Alps and offers breathtaking views of the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc, is located on a plateau in the canton of Valais.
The two-center town of Crans-Montana, with Crans being the upscale portion with jewelry stores and concept stores and Montana being more low-key and athletic, may not have nearly the same glittery cachet as neighbouring Verbier, but it is growing its own following.
Crans-Montana, which began as a golfing and health resort in the early 1900s, subsequently allowed skiers and finally mountain bikers access to the slopes in the early 2000s. There is more to this town than expensive stores and Michelin-starred restaurants, as shown by the former England rugby player James Haskell's frequent appearances spinning the turntables to a table-dancing crowd in February at the buzzing après-ski at the Zerodix bar at the base of the cable car.
The upscale resort has one of the top Alpine snowparks, which draws a younger demographic, especially North Americans and Britons, to the region. These include Alaa Chalet, a sports complex featuring a skatepark and a trampoline park in the adjacent city of Lens, and Alaa Bay, which has a cutting-edge wave pool for surfers. "This is my home town and I always thought that Crans-Montana had no one true selling point, so I wanted to make it into an adventure-sports center that would attract a larger population," says Adam Bonvin, one of the co-founders of Alaa. No other resort in Switzerland offers ski, surf, and skateboarding all in the same day.
Lake Etang-Long wakeboardingTo that goal, I travel to the Etang-Long lake to attempt wakeboarding, which involves being dragged over the water by an overhead cable while shouting with glee. In theory, that is, as I struggle to get up straight and quickly find myself being forcefully pulled around the lake on my belly as a scared rainbow trout lunges in front of me. I'm urged to try again by our teacher, who advises me to use a new board. I suddenly find myself standing up and moving across the lake. To the delight of onlookers, I even pull off a spin around the buoy for a home run.
La Marmotte Brewing CompanyI visit the La Marmotte microbrewery on the banks of Lake Grenon for a beer tasting since all this adrenaline activity is making me thirsty. The proprietor of the nearby Hotel du Lac, Yves Klingler, made the decision to diversify his company into coffee and beer brewing. He now creates his own mouthwatering craft beer, including one called Antigel (antifreeze) gin, cider, and even single malt whiskey.
The Swiss businessman shifted to making alcohol hand lotion during the epidemic, keeping his workforce employed.
Valençon VillageI next go to the Valençon hamlet in Crans-Montana to taste some of Cave Nicolas Bagnoud's wines.
The winery is well known for its premium whites and reds made from grapes like Cornalin, a notable red varietal grown often in the area.
One of Valais' jewels, this red is produced superbly by Bagnoud. Production of it began at least in the early fourteenth century.
The lightly sparkling white Fendant was one of my favorites throughout the tastings, which are strongly recommended.
The raclette dinner, which consists of grilling and slicing rounds of semi-hard cow's milk cheese cooked to the ideal eating temperature before serving with sides of potatoes and pickles, went nicely with the wines as well.
E-BikingThe next day, we join tour leader Julien Cavé for a day of mountain e-biking as we need to burn some carbs: Mountain and bike enthusiast Julien, who is also a ski and snowboard teacher, offers his best advice and methods to help you perform better and gain more self-assurance.
Julien remarks on the narrow tracks winding down grassy slopes above sheer cliffs of grey gneiss (coarse-grained, granite-like rock), "E-biking is a fantastic and entertaining way to view the Alps in the summer."
Even if e-bikes are mocked by purists, it is simple to see why demand for these vehicles is growing. They are perfect for inexperienced riders who need help on the steep ascents but still want to feel like they are riding a "normal bike" on the descent.
Following a quick tutorial in front of the rental store, we're soon tearing up the mountain, passing through woods, lakes, waterfalls, meadows, and even a glacier, which offers mountain bikers the ideal playground.
Alpage du SexOn the Bisse de Tsittoret trek to the Tieche waterfalls, we have lunch at the modest, characteristically Swiss mountain café and cheese farm with the endearingly called Alpage du Sex.
Bikers and hikers alike are seated outside at the café. The rosti is the greatest I've ever eaten in the area, and outdoors, sausages and steaks are cooked, filling the air with mouthwatering barbecue odors.
Ecomuseum of ColombireThe next day offers a change of pace with a trip to an eco-museum in Colombire, a village of historic mayen—traditional wooden Alpine homes holding families, their cattle, and food storage. Colombire, which is now a rural museum, serves as a vivid reminder of how difficult life was for herders who lived on the meadows.
Mountain guide Etienne Jaccottet teaches us about wolf-spotting and the contemporary custom of cow fighting after performing a traditional cheese-making demonstration.
The combats de reines, a battle of the cows competition held annually in Valais since the 1920s, may attract up to 50,000 people. The victor of these battles is referred to as La Reine des Reines ("the queen of queens"), and her worth rises sharply as she becomes the boss of the herd.
The cows in front of us, however, are not fighting; instead, they are idly chewing their cud to produce more raclette cheese for my subsequent visit.