Peak Views of Skiing at St-Luc and Chandolin

St-Luc and Chandolin are the name of 2 separate villages that are about 15 minutes away by bus but they are part of one connected ski area, though only intermediate skiers would be able to cross from one area to another. St-Luc is the larger ski area and thus gets more of the coverage in the review. Both villages form part of the Val d’Anniviers ski pass that allows skiers to access other ski resorts like Vercorin, Grimentz and Zinal.

Funicular at Tignousa
Funicular at Tignousa in St-Luc

GETTING THERE

There are no train service into the Val d’Anniviers but regular Post Bus service brings skiers into the valley from Sierre. Most of the bus service head into Vissoie, where travellers then transfer to one of the buses departing into St-Luc and Chandolin or the other villages in the valley.

Bus to Chandolin
Bus to Chandolin from Sierre

This reason alone makes the valley one of the more remote ski areas in the Swiss Alps as the road into the valley itself is treacherous with some narrow passes. Drivers should also expect road closures into the valley when there are heavy snowfall.

Bus crossing the valley
Post Bus in the Val d’Anniviers

CHAIRLIFTS & GONDOLAS

From the base village in St-Luc, skiers take the Tignousa funicular to get to the ski area base. And for those starting from the Chandolin village, they have to take a shuttle bus to the chairlift base where they can either take the quad Le Tsapé to head to Chandolin or triple Le Rotsé chairlift to head to St-Luc.

Funicular St Luc
Funicular at St-Luc
On the Le Rotsé to St-Luc
On the Le Rotsé to St-Luc

The quad Le Tsapé chairlift is the only one in the Chandolin side with the Etables, Tza and Illhorn T-bar completing the rest of the infrastructure. Both the Etables and Tza T-bar are suited for beginners to stay in the area while the Illhorn T-bar is only for experts as it has a steep incline at the upper section which is only suitable for advanced skiers.

Illhorn T-bar
Illhorn T-bar

The most modern lift installation here would be the La Forêt, which is a 6-seater chairlift that brings skiers up to a slightly higher point that the Le Rotsé chairlift. A new Le Rotsé chairlift will connect to the same summit when it becomes ready next season.

Base of La Forêt
Base of La Forêt
La Forêt chairlift
La Forêt chairlift

Other than the funicular and 3 chairlift installations, all the other lifts here are comprised of T-bars. There is the Tignousa T-bar for beginners while the longer Col des Ombrintzes and Pas de Beouf T-bars would be the one of interest for progressive and intermediate skiers and boarders.

Pas de Boeuf T-bar
Pas de Boeuf T-bar

The steeper and more difficult Bella Tola T-bar brings skiers all the way up to above 3,000m where they can get the best views of the mountain peaks of the Swiss Alps.

Base of the Bella Tola T-bar
Base of the Bella Tola T-bar

COST & VALUE

A one day Val d’Anniviers ski pass that allows access to Grimentz/Zinal and Vercorin costs CHF62 (~$65), though if skiers are just going to ski in St-Luc/Chandolin, a one-day ski pass retails for CHF58, with cheaper 4 hour passes for CHF53.

Ticket counters at St-Luc
Ticket counters at St-Luc

Prices are not exactly cheap compared to some of the larger ski resorts in the Swiss Alps, so they are not the best value for skiers just skiing this resort. A better value would be getting a multi-day pass for either the Val d’Anniviers or St-Luc with Vercorin and spending a couple of days here. As I was using the Magic Pass, the novelty of skiing here more than makes up for the value as I had no more incremental costs to ski here.

BEGINNER RUNS

Over in the St-Luc side, there beginner runs are concentrated around the Tignousa station that is served by the Tignousa T-bar. Dubbed as ‘Zone Débutants’ in the ski map, this area has a magic carpet and a shorter T-bar for those new to skiing and the proximity to the Tignousa station makes it easy to return to the village.

Beginner's area at Tignousa
Beginner’s area at Tignousa

In the Chandolin side, the learning area is centred around Le Tsapé with the shorter Tza T-bar and a magic carpet. This is also convenient to get to from the Le Tsapé lodge, though beginner skiers would then need to download on the chairlift or via the walking/sledding trail.

Learning area at Chandolin
Learning area at Chandolin

St-Luc/Chandolin has several nice wide pistes that are marked blue. This means groomed runs that are mild in gradient. In Chandolin that would be the lower part of Illhorn that skiers can ski by releasing from the Illhorn T-bar in the middle. It is also easy for beginners to get to Illhorn from the chairlift at Le Tsapé as the traversing route is mild and relatively wide.

Lower Illhorn piste
Lower Illhorn piste
Traverse to Illhorn
Traverse to Illhorn

At St-Luc, there are relatively easy blue runs getting back to from the Pas de Boeuf and Col des Ombrintzes T-bar. For a medium sized ski resort, there are definitely plenty of terrain for beginner skiers and snowboarders to progress.

Wide pistes to Col des Ombrintzes
Wide pistes to Col des Ombrintzes
Observatory François-Xavier Bagnoud
Blue piste beside the Observatory François-Xavier Bagnoud

INTERMEDIATE RUNS

Red intermediate pistes makes up the other half of the runs at this ski resort. For a medium sized resort, the pistes here are actually quite long and provides a good workout. Even in Chandolin, the piste from the top of Le Tsapé back to the village is nice, however the shaded portion in the lower half can get icy on cold days.

On Le Tsapé
Piste on Le Tsapé
Red cruiser below Le Rotsé
Red cruiser below Le Rotsé

For skiers with a preference for soft cruisers, St-Luc offers a lot more opportunities. To get to St-Luc from Chandolin, there is a slightly steep red piste if skiers take the Le Rotsé chairlift. This is followed by relatively easy blue runs to Tignousa.

Steep downhill section from Le Rotsé
Steep downhill section from Le Rotsé

Once in St-Luc, both the Col des Ombrintzes and Pas de Boeuf T-bars provide some of the nicest red-marked runs in the resort. These winding trails receive sunshine on clear days and even offers some off-piste opportunities along the way.

Col des Ombrintzes
Col des Ombrintzes
Red piste at Col des Ombrintzes
Red piste at Col des Ombrintzes
Piste from Pas de Boeuf
Piste from Pas de Boeuf
Cruiser to La Forêt
Cruiser to La Forêt

The more advanced red pistes here would be accessed via the Bella Tola T-bar which is also the highest lift-accessible point in the ski resort. Take your time to admire the Alps from the viewpoint here before embarking on what is my favourite run all the way to Le Prilet. This is one of the longest ski piste in the Val d’Anniviers and a very enjoyable one as well. However there is no lifts back from Le Prilet back to the slopes so check the bus schedule from the bottom of Le Prilet which brings skiers back to the funicular station in St-Luc village.

Bella Tola piste
Bella Tola piste
Piste to Le Prilet
Piste to Le Prilet

EXPERT RUNS

There are 2 marked black runs in the resort though they do not run for the extent of the whole lift. The first one is the upper portion of Le Rotsé that leads back to Chandolin. It is more like an easy black piste since it is not that steep, just a bit narrow and winding. On sunny clear mornings, this is an easy black run.

Upper Le Rotsé
Upper Le Rotsé

Another steep section marked for experts is the piste alongside the funicular that leads back to the village. As there was no fresh snow and with lack of snow in the base, it is not a very enjoyable black piste. Most advanced skiers would probably have more fun heading back down via the Prilet piste.

Winding black piste
Winding black piste back to St-Luc
Steep black piste to the village
Steep black piste to the village

BACKCOUNTRY & TERRAIN PARK

The ski resort has a small designated ‘Fun zone’ for skiers wanting to do some jumps, but do not expect a full terrain park experience here. Instead there are more off-piste opportunities here as freeride skiing is encouraged here with ski touring routes mapped out in yellow. For some fun around the trees, the area around the La Forêt chair is very nice after a fresh snowfall.

Freeride trails at La Forêt
Freeride trails at La Forêt

One of the most prominent ski itineraries route would be around the Pas de Boeuf T-bar and when there are plenty of snow, skiers could even do this routing back to the base of La Forêt. Other freeride opportunities about from the top of Bella Tola and from the mid-point at Le Tsapé back to Chandolin base.

Freeride areas around Pas de Boeuf
Freeride areas around Pas de Boeuf
Off-piste at Bella Tola
Off-piste at Bella Tola

ON-MOUNTAIN LODGES

Considering the medium size of this ski resort, the amount of on-mountain lodges here was very nice. The lower skier count even during the weekends also meant I had no trouble getting a seat during the peak lunch hour. In Chandolin, there is the large Tsapé restaurant with an outdoor deck where most skiers would get lunch at. The cafeteria style dining here has daily specials that changes so skiers would not get bored.

Tsapé restaurant and lodge
Tsapé restaurant and lodge

A smaller mountain chalet over in the Illhorn side allows skiers to grab some Valaisian specialties. This also provides a place to rest for skiers ending their day at the Illhorn side.

Illhorn mountain lodge
Illhorn mountain lodge

In the St-Luc side there are more lodges and the largest one would be the Tignousa station beside the end terminus for the funicular. There is a sit-down restaurant here, a cafeteria section with a large outdoor terrace and a picnic table at the lower level for skiers who brought their own food. There are facilities like washrooms here as well.

Restaurant corner at Tignousa
Restaurant corner at Tignousa

St-Luc also has several other dining spots such as the Cabane Bella Tola which has traditional Swiss dishes like Röstis and Croûtes au Fromage, making this one of the more popular spots for lunch. The smaller lodge does mean it will get crowded if skiers do not come early or make reservations though if it is sunny outside, there should be some space indoors as the outdoor terrace is the prime spot here.

Cabane Bella Tola
Cabane Bella Tola

Another popular spot for lunch is Buvette Tsigère La Cohà just beside the Col des Ombrintzes T-bar. This lodge has simpler fare like soups and sandwiches, though it does serve cheap and good raclette inside. On the weekends and peak skiing weeks, there would be an outdoor counter serving hearty fare like burgers and stews.

Interior of Buvette Tsigère La Cohà
Interior of Buvette Tsigère La Cohà

Finally there is the Restaurant at Hotel Weisshorn that requires skiers to hike a little bit to the hotel or the Le Prilet restaurant at the end of the Prilet piste from Bella Tola and Pas de Boeuf. Le Prilet is usually quiet as it is caters mainly to advanced skiers and those who missed the bus which does not operate during the lunch timing.

Le Prilet Hotel and Restaurant
Le Prilet Hotel and Restaurant

FOOD & BEVERAGES

Cost of food in St-Luc and Chandolin is comparable to other Swiss ski resorts. Thus being a smaller ski resort does not mean prices are cheaper. Prices for a portion of fries or soup range around CHF7-7.50, while main courses at the cafeteria like Tignousa and Le Tsapé range between CHF17-23. Prices at the cabins with service or in the restaurant at Tignousa is slightly higher with mains costing between CHF22-29.

Estouffade de boeuf
Estouffade de boeuf at Le Tsapé
Raclette at Tsigère La Cohà
Raclette at Tsigère La Cohà

For a medium sized ski resort, the food served here has a nice variety. With the larger cafeterias serving a rotation of specials of the day, skiers coming here for the week can have a mix of hearty dishes to local Valaisian specialties. Compared to other Swiss ski resorts, I do find the dishes at the Valais ski resorts to be wonderful as raclettes and croûtes au fromage tends to do the trick for me at lunch time!

Cafeteria at Tignousa
Cafeteria at Tignousa

And like the other European ski resorts, alcoholic beverages are not in short supply. In the larger cafeterias, there are even Valais wines for sale making them great places to chill out in the afternoon as well.

Snacks and beverage counter at Tignousa
Snacks and beverage counter at Tignousa

LODGING OPTIONS

Because of the smaller scale of this resort and slightly more difficult point of access, there are less large scale hotels. With St-Luc being the larger village, most skiers would find it easier to find short-term accommodation there. Hotel Bella-Tola is one of the larger hotels that is also a landmark with a bus stop outside for easier access.

Hotel Bella-Tola
Hotel Bella-Tola

There are several other larger hotels like the Grand Hotel Le Cervin which is being refurbished during my visit, or the Grand Chalet Favre. These hotels are close to cafes, bakeries, ski rental, shops and supermarkets but they are a bit of a walk to the funicular base which is the only way up to the ski area. So that is one of the main drawbacks of staying in St-Luc.

Grand Chalet Favre
Grand Chalet Favre

Over in Chandolin, there are a couple of hotels like the Le Grand Hotel and Chandolin Boutique Hotel, but there is a lack of dining options in the evening as most skiers staying over tends to stay in the apartments and chalets and thus cater for their own meals since both villages have their own supermarkets. St-Luc being the larger village and closer to Vissoie makes it more convenient as the supermarkets are larger and there are more choices of apartments.

Chandolin village
Chandolin village

Finally for the really adventurous, there is the Hotel Weisshorn which is not accessible by car. In the winter, the only way is on snowshoe or the snowmobile where they will pick your luggage up from the Tignousa station. This is a traditional mountain chalet hotel with communal bathrooms like in university dormitories.

Hotel Weisshorn
Hotel Weisshorn

APRÈS-SKI

With smaller villages that caters to plenty of day skiers, skiers should not expect the wild vibe of Verbier or Ischgl here. At most there are some bars at the hotels located by the base and they do not even open every day since the skiing here on normal weekdays are very quiet.

Chandolin Boutique Hotel
Apres bar at Chandolin Boutique Hotel

On the slopes, the presence of outdoor patios in most of the dining venues and with alcoholic beverages aplenty, skiers can always relax on the sunny day with a drink in hand.

Buvette Tsigère La Cohà
Terrace at Buvette Tsigère La Cohà

Because it is mostly sunny in the Valais region, skiers can have a drink even at the pop-up bar along Piste Prilet before heading down to the village. Non skiers can even access this spot by walking along the Chemin des Planetes from Tigonusa.

Bar at Le Prilet
Bar at Le Prilet

As a classic alpine village, there are plenty of families visiting and thus skiers can expect more wholesome activities like sledding and visiting the observatory at St-Luc after skiing rather than full partying mode.

Sledding slopes in Chandolin
Sledding slopes in Chandolin

SUMMIT VIEWS

The main perks of skiing in St-Luc and Chandolin has got to be the views. Its unique location within the Val d’Anniviers means there are plenty of viewpoints across its lift-accessed summits. From the Col des Ombrintzes which is somewhat the centre of the 3 summits (Illhorn and Bella Tola being the other 2), skiers can get a nice view of Chandolin and Crans Montana especially during the sunset.

Sunset panorama of Chandolin
Sunset panorama of Chandolin from the summit of Col des Ombrintzes

The position also allows skiers to see as far as Ayent and the Anzère ski area from Col des Ombrintzes, while the view of the ski area at St-Luc with the Le Toûno peak is visible when in Illhorn.

Ayent and Arbaz
Ayent and Arbaz

However the best views arguably is from the viewpoint at the summit of Bella Tola. From here the ski resorts of Grimentz is visible along with the majestic Weisshorn and Dent Blanche. Getting a different perspective of the Matterhorn is sort of a bonus here.

Panorama from Bella Tola
Panorama from Bella Tola
Matterhorn and Dent Blanche
Matterhorn and Dent Blanche seen from Bella Tola

OVERALL EXPERIENCE

What left me surprised was how much I actually enjoyed my skiing at St-Luc/Chandolin despite the lack of modern gondolas and high speed chairlifts. Even the amenities in the village is more reminiscent of the days gone by. For skiers focused on large resort skiing, they might not like it here. But for those who enjoy the views and are at ease on the T-bars, there is some charm to spending a week here as it offers plenty of pistes with minimum crowds and yet still offer something more that modern ski resorts lack.

Tignousa station
Tignousa station
Bella Tola T-bar
Bella Tola T-bar

In my mind, the rustic feel of this ski resort feels like from a different era and that with the traditional wooden chalets dotting the villages makes it more real for skiers who come here to visit. And because there is thus far no other ski resort I have been to like this, it makes it unique, attractive and appealing.

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