Davos Stories and Tips

Forget the Policy Wonks, Davos Is about Skiing!

Although most people associate Davos, Switzerland, with the World Economic Forum held here annually, Davos’s first claim to fame is its role as the largest ski resort in Europe. At more than 5,000 feet in elevation, it is also the highest. That means that Davos, Switzerland, is a great location for all winter sports even during years with warmer winter seasons. True winter in Davos generally begins in December, and the winter season usually runs to April, with March being the best month for skiing.

Location and Historical Importance
The founding of Davos dates back to the Middle Ages, and the influence of the Rhaeto-Romans, whose presence in the modern day is most closely felt in the local dialect spoken and in the local dishes still served in the area. Today, Davos in part of the Graubunden Canton, in the far southeastern section of Switzerland, and Davos is located about 100 miles southeast of Zurich.

Paired with its twin city, Klosters, it’s a ski mecca for tourists around the world. In the middle of the 18th century and into the 19th, it was recognized by European doctors as an important microclimate, suitable to dealing with health issues, such as tuberculosis. Sanitariums were built, and many famous people came to Davos, including Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, and most importantly, Thomas Mann, who penned "The Magic Mountain," in which Davos, Switzerland, figures prominently.

Skiing and Other Winter Sports
In the 1970s, Davos again attracted a strong following, this time for its slopes, and it has continued to flourish as an area not only for skiing, but speed skating, hockey, and any other number of winter sports activities. Its six main ski areas include the exemplary Parsenn-Weissfluh (with its descent from more than 9,000 feet at Weissflungipfel to 2,600 feet at Kublis), a challenge for every good skier.

Not only are there challenging slopes for experienced downhill skiers, there are incredibly beautiful valley trails that make it the number two spot for cross-country skiing in Switzerland, after Engadine.

Davos also offers plenty of opportunities for snowboarders, tobogganing, and ice skating. Those looking for good half-pipes will be in their element at Jakobshorn, while families are likely to be more comfortable at Pischa, Madrisa, and Rinerhorn, with their "kid friendly" orientation. In addition to all the standard winter snow sports, there are also ski tours, mountain trips led by guides, glacier hikes, and of course, plenty of ski schools for novice skiers.

After Hours: Eating and Drinking
Like every area in Switzerland, Davos has its traditional dishes that identify its location. In the case of Davos-Klosters, the food specialties harken back to ancient times. The Rhaeto-Romanish influence can be seen on local menus in the form of "pizokels" (buckwheat gnocchi), "plain in pigna" (baked potato casserole with ham and bacon), "capons" (chard-wrapped dumplings), and "nusstortes" (walnut cake).

The most famous specialty of the region, however, is "bundnerleisch" (an air-dried beef whose taste is influenced by the pure mountain air. Travelers can see the process in action by visiting the Brugger Family business in Parpan or seeking out a tasting at Hatecke (a luxurious butcher shop) in Scuol.

Another place worth visiting in the area is BierVision Monstein in Davos, the highest-altitude brewer of beer in Europe. After touring the brewery, travelers can sample the famed Monstein beer along with some of the local specialty dishes of the region.

Other great places to eat in the area include the restaurant at the Hotel Walserhof in Klosters and Walserhuus Sertig in Davos. Both serve gourmet meals in beautiful traditional settings

While there are hundreds of lodging options in the Davos-Klosters area, two stand out for their unique historical importance and charming accommodations.

Hotel Schatzalp in Davos was named the "Historical Hotel of the Year for 2008" by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos). Built in an Art Nouveau style, it opened in 1900 as a sanitarium and is described in Thomas Mann’s book, "The Magic Mountain." While it has been remodeled extensively since then, it retains its beautiful architectural grace with stunning views of the Swiss Alps. To top all that off, it is also surrounded by the Alpinum Schatzalp, a botanic garden that contains more than 3,000 species of alpine plants.

Most insiders, however, recommend staying in Klosters, away from the buzz of Davos. For those looking for the VIP treatment, Chesa Grischuna is the perfect place to rest your head. Designed by a leading Zurich architect, Hermann Schneider, in 1938 it is a beautifully blended mix of traditional craftsmanship and contemporary art. So popular with international movie stars in years past, it gained the nickname "Hollywood on the Rocks." Yet, there’s nothing rocky about its service or accommodation.

Davos-Klosters may not impress like Gstaad or St. Moritz when skiers name drop great European locations for enjoying their winter vacations. Yet, for those looking for an endless choice of winter sports activities, great food, luxurious accommodations, and most of all stunning vistas on their way down the slopes, Davos can’t be beat!

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