Sunrise skiing has a lovely ring to it, conjuring images of bright shafts of yellow light breaking over wide tracts of unsullied snow.
Having a corner of the Swiss Alps all to yourself as the day breaks is a wondrous, truly awe-inspiring thing.
But as I step out of the gondola at 7.30am at the summit of Arosa Weisshorn, my senses are overwhelmed by a different sensation. I want to swear, loudly. Yes, it’s rather chilly, to put it mildly.
Obviously, you wouldn’t tell from my “hey, look how amazing this is!” expression as I pose for the obligatory selfies on the very top of this 2,653-metre mountain. The brightest stars are still visible above a stunning panorama of jagged Alpine peaks as the sun begins to make its presence felt in the freezing gloom.
Our hosts at the five-star Tschuggen Grand Hotel have brought us here to try out their new winter sports attraction. The sky turns glorious shades of pink and turquoise as we retreat into the Gipfelrestaurant for a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs and sausages on rye bread — fuelling up for several hours to be spent on the slopes of Arosa and neighbouring Lenzerheide.
Designed by Swiss architects Tilla Theus, the restaurant promises “360 degrees of pure bliss”. It’s a promise well kept. Wall to wall windows ensure the interior of this aluminum-clad structure is flooded with light… the perfect place from which to view the mountains in all their glory.
But tempting as it is to stretch out our time in this warm, ultra-modern enclave, we’re here to ski. At sunrise. So after knocking back my third coffee, I head gingerly outside, carefully negotiating the harshly exposed sheets of ice, and strap on my skis.
Disclaimer time. This was only my second time skiing. I fear I may have talked a slightly better game from the Tschuggen’s opulent bar the previous night as our guide commands us to follow her down our first long blue run.
I try to recall my only instructor’s words as I stare down the initial steep twisty section. “Weight forward, knees bent.” Or was it “weight forward, legs straight?” My instinct has made up its mind: “brace position, hope for the best”.
Within about two seconds I’m a tangle of limbs and sticks, clinging on to the apex of the slope and trying to avoid an ignominious and unstoppable slide to the bottom.
Like a mountain goat, my guide skips over to help me up to my feet. I dust myself down and off we head again, gaining confidence as the icy steep bit gives way to wide, open rolling stretches of untainted snow. And still there’s hardly anyone else here. It is a wonderful experience.
Setting off so early means we have a good five of hours of skiing before lunch, giving us plenty of time to explore the resort. Arosa has been linked to the neighbouring Lenzerheide since the Urdenbahn cable car opened in 2013, opening up 225km of pistes, the largest contiguous ski area in the canton of Graubünden.
We head over to tackle our toughest run, a long red that has featured in World Cup downhill races. Thankfully, you don’t have to take it at 50mph, and it proves to be the most satisfying, enjoyable stretch of a long day’s skiing.
We take a late lunch on the mountainside and before long head back to the magnificent Tschuggen, spending the rest of the afternoon luxuriating in their Olympic award-winning spa. This remote village is a perfect getaway for families of different abilities who prefer to steer clear of the mega-resorts. Sadly my stay is brief.
The following morning I take the train back down the valley and on to Zurich, two hours away.
Source : LES