Fitting in Alison García Hall | Posted: 05 August 2015
The Goms Valley, perfect for winter walking and snowshoeing
Alison on her way into the mountains
Explore the many winter walking trails

I once had a disastrous brush with downhill skiing at a dry ski slope and realised that hurling yourself down a mountain balancing precariously on two long, thin pieces of wood was not really my bag. By extension, a holiday in the snow seemed forever ruled out.

Certainly the door was well and truly closed in my head. I had unquestioningly convinced myself that snow holidays are only for adrenaline junkies and beautiful people in designer gear who speak the language of the slopes and know that a drag lift does not involve men wearing lipstick, that a loipe is not a carefree gait, and that a gondola can be found in the air as well as on water.

I was not part of that select club. For me, black and blue runs referred to the colour of your bruises after attempting them. I became almost immune to the impossibly pretty images of snow-covered villages. You’d never fit in, I told myself. Imagine all the faux pas you’d commit before even donning a pair of skis.

Perhaps if I had gone to Verbiers, glitzy St Moritz or the like then I would have returned home feeling exactly the same. Fortunately, however, when I was finally persuaded to try a winter holiday, it was to Guarda in eastern Switzerland. Here, the secrets of the slopes Рand the flat bits, which do exist Рwere unlocked and a door was opened (cliché alert) to a whole new, serene, snowy world, where people like me could actually participate rather than simply spectate Рwithout sticking out like a sore thumb.

Related Holidays

Hotel Meisser, Guarda

Steeped in history, Guarda is one of those special places that you will never want to leave. The charming Hotel Meisser is very much in harmony with its setting, and makes a great base for winter walking and snowshoeing.

More about our snow holiday
in eastern Switzerland >

Hotel Castle, Blitzingen

Blitzingen is also centuries old, but very different to Guarda – here the houses are made of wood. After enjoyable days of winter walking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, tobogganing or dog-sledding, return to the 4-star Hotel Castle for a dinner of outstanding cuisine.

More about our snow holiday
in Switzerland’s Goms Valley >

On our first day we had a short hop on a train to reach the cable car then – whoosh! – up to a world I had never before ventured into. This was winter walking country and it was a revelation. The trails were marked and the surface, while well compacted, was not at all slippery. Kitted out in my trusty walking boots, T-shirt, favourite fleece, walking trousers and walking poles (the only new investments were a pair of sunglasses and thermal socks), I set off. Surprisingly, I remained upright for the whole day. Make that the whole week, in fact. I strolled through snowy mountains with incredible vistas of even higher mountains. I nodded, greeted and smiled at all the other walkers (clad in similar garb) who had obviously been brave enough to explore this winter wonderland sooner than me. I had lunch in mountain huts, soaking up the indescribable atmosphere and brushing shoulders with skiers and snowboarders. I felt part of the big ‘snow family’ from which I had previously excluded myself.

Having missed out on so much over the years, I was keen to make up for lost time. I wanted more!

My second experience of a winter holiday was in Blitzingen, one of a string of traditional villages in Switzerland’s picturesque Goms Valley. Here I discovered that the valley floor can be just as exhilarating as the high mountains, and I did not need to take a single cable car, gondola or chair lift (I now know there is a difference!). I could just set off from the door.

As I explored, I came across another breed of winter enthusiast that frequents the mountains (and valleys): the cross-country skier, whose trails sometimes ran parallel to the walking paths. In ones and twos they swished silently through the snow in ready-made grooves, soaking up the beauty of their surroundings as they went. It looked so very civilised, and a wonderful way to explore further afield. I could imagine trying it out for myself – and fitting right in. Definitely next time…

Thanks Rachel! It really was as beautiful and charming as you always said it was. And imagine me on a winter holiday with no palm trees!!!!
03/11/2015 14:28:20

Rachel How
Love the article, Alison. So pleased to hear that Guarda charmed you, too!
03/11/2015 12:42:05

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