Magic in Valais: A Trip Prologue

It is that time of the year again when wonderful snowflakes falls to the ground, blanketing mountain peaks and valleys in white. As landscapes gets a makeover, skiers brush off their skis. I had already purchased a Magic Pass which gives me unlimited access to numerous ski resorts around Switzerland for the season, and with that in mind, I set off looking for airfares. I had initially wanted to redeem a flight on Singapore Airlines where they fly to Zurich but a failed redemption waitlist meant I started looking for cheap airfares.

Mountain in the Saas valley
Mountain in the Saas valley

As luck would have it, there was a couple of very nice airfares on Etihad and Qatar that would bring me right to the spot I wanted to be at – Geneva. This would be my real proper long-haul journey with one of the large Middle East big 3 airlines (Emirates, Qatar and Etihad). I had flown on Emirates Business long time ago as an upgrade when they flew between Singapore and Jakarta but never through any of their hubs. Personally I have not been a huge fan since the only time I would fly through the Middle East is when flying to Europe or the East Coast of North America. Since I tend to fly to the West Coast and I prefer an ultra long haul to Europe via Singapore or Hong Kong, I have skipped over the airline offering by Emirates, Etihad or Qatar. Prior to the last few years, their planes to Jakarta where I have been based at are also sub-par. However, new fleets of 787 and A350 by Qatar and Etihad makes them a viable Business class choice, though I would still avoid Emirates Business class as they are still sub-par compared to other Asian or European airlines.

Etihad Business Studio
Etihad Business Studio

Since I have never been to the Middle East, the flight with Etihad would allow me a free stopover and Abu Dhabi looks to be a fantastic city to be my first step into the Middle East. I have set myself for a 2 full day stay in the city and would write up a short special. Flying on Etihad Business class also gave me complimentary chauffeur transfer in Abu Dhabi so it is truly a wonderful free stopover. In addition, Etihad put me up on their account at the St Regis, though it was only for one night.

Opulent lobby of the St Regis
Opulent lobby of the St Regis
Etihad chauffeur service for Business Class
Etihad chauffeur service for Business Class

With the Magic Pass, I would concentrate on skiing in Switzerland since I enjoyed my last ski trip just staying in Lucerne and venturing into some lesser known ski resorts. The Magic Pass includes access to some highly regarded resorts like Saas-Fee, Crans Montana and Val d’Anniviers, and thus I would hope to cover all these 3 areas. What is different though is that the lack of hotel chains in these ski resorts meant that I would use Airbnb for my accommodation. Searching for my lodging was quite fun actually with AirBnB as there are some authentic options for a Swiss chalet stay. This is something new since most of the hotels I have stayed during my ski trips are quite modern and lacks that chalet ambience. Another advantage of staying in AirBnB’s and apartments is the ability to whip up your own meals since sometimes I might miss some Asian food or comfort food that might not be easily available.

Winter in Saas Fee
Winter in Saas Fee
Traditional chalet architecture
Traditional Swiss chalet architecture

Finally this is one ski trip where I have no intention of staying overnight in the major cities except perhaps on the last day before my flight. Otherwise my focus would be visiting some smaller towns like Sion and Sierre in the Valais valley. This trip report would cover mainly the skiing to be had through the Magic Pass and my first time flying with Etihad. Since I am actually still on the journey, this would be one of the most concurrent trip reports published on my travel blog.

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