Crans and Montana are two separate villages that have grown beyond their borders to become one but have managed to retain their distinct characters. Sitting at 1500m, Crans Montana sits enviably above the Rhone valley in one of the sunniest parts of Switzerland.
A popular destination in winter, it’s less busy in summer but still attracts a varied number of visitors. In summer Crans Montana is famous for its sunny aspect and golf courses but also offers many lakes and footpaths. It’s a long climb from the valley floor that starts at Sierre and climbs through one of the many vineyards of Valais, rising through many hamlets before entering the coniferous surrounds at the base of Crans. Climbing higher through Crans to Montana, ski lifts are all that's left to take you from 1500m to the Plaine Morte Glacier at 3000m.
The two villages have a different vibe, Crans is dominated by the golf courses and luxury boutiques with Montana serving the more basic needs. A handy free bus service links both villages and their furthest parts that are often a steep walk away from the centres.
The ski slopes stretch from the Plaine Morte Glacier at 3000m down to the tree line and beyond. At the top the pistes are broad and open and more advanced skiers will need to explore further afield to find challenging terrain. The skiing is pisted and organised as you would imagine in Switzerland. In winter the golf courses transform to take on the cross-country skiers and ice skaters are also accommodated.
In summer Crans-Montana is all about golf. The 18-hole Severiano Ballesteros Golf Course sits on the high plateau and must have one of the best views of any course — international tournaments take place here every summer. Hiking is also popular but a lot of trails are wide and better suited to vehicles. The best hikes often head away from the resorts. Mountain biking is available from the Cry d’Er cable car which runs in two-stages to the top of two downhill tracks. The red marked Mont Lachaux being one of the better ones around with some very scenic sections to distract you from the trail. There is nothing really for beginners at Crans and like the hiking, the singletrack runs away from the resort.
Crans Montana has a selection of lakes including a beach club and wake-park at the Etang Long lake near the golf course. They even bring in some sand — beach life at 1455m. For the cultured, the Vision Arts festival runs annually and the art remains to view all year round thanks to it being painted on the buildings in and around the village. Some weird and wonderful architecture can also be spotted around the town, including the spectacularly out of place SuperCrans building on Route de Vermala.
Crans is an upmarket destination with a fairly relaxed feel for Switzerland. A good selection of accommodation, shops and restaurants caters for everyone and for those looking for a more relaxed Switzerland, its a good place to visit.