Crans and Montana are two separate villages that have grown beyond their borders to become one whilst retaining their distinct characters. Crans Montana sits 1,500 metres above the Rhône 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 selection of visitors.
To get to Crans Montana it's a long climb from the valley in Sierre that meanders through the vineyards of Valais before ascending through small hamlets that blend into each other in an endless procession. The vineyards give way to pastures before entering the coniferous surroundings at the base of Crans. Climbing higher still through Crans to Montana, ski lifts are all that's left to take you from village to the Plaine Morte Glacier.
The two villages have a different vibe - Crans is dominated by golf courses and luxury boutiques with Montana serving the more basic needs. Montana is the older of the two, with the first hotels built here in 1892. A handy free bus service links the villages and their satellite areas, many of which are a steep walk away from the centres.
In winter the ski slopes stretch from the Plaine Morte Glacier down through the tree-line and beyond. The pistes are broad and open, more advanced skiers will need to explore further afield to find challenging terrain. The golf courses transform into cross-country ski trails.
In summer Crans Montana is all about golf. The 18-hole Severiano Ballesteros Golf Course sits on a 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 on the pistes are wide and better suited to vehicles. The best hikes often head away from Crans Montana, including the many bisse trails that follow these old irrigation channels.
Mountain biking used the two-stage Cry d'Er cable car. From the top, there are two downhill tracks - the red-graded Mont Lachaux is the better of the two with some very scenic sections. The black-graded track starts a ride away from the lift station, is shorter and less interesting. There is nothing really for beginners at Crans, unless you like gravel roads. If you want to enjoy some singletrack, it runs away from the resort towards.
As well as Lake Grenon in the centre, you have Lake Long in Crans with wake boarding and Lake Moubra with camping and sports activities. For the urban cultured, the Vision Arts festival runs annually with painting taking place all over the resort and into the mountains. The paintings remain around for years as most pieces are painted on the municipal buildings, ski stations and the like.
Crans Montana is different from other Swiss resorts - it could be like Gstaad or Saas Fee or St Moritz, but with events like the Visions Arts and the World Enduro mountain biking, there is a more relaxed vibe.