Resort Guide: Laax, Switzerland

Anyone with any vague interest in freestyle has heard of Laax. For years the Burton European Open has been held here while the British Ski & Snowboard Champs called it home for years. It’s easy to see why they pick it. With 235km of pistes, 43km of freeride routes, four terrain parks, one mother of a superpipe and a season that starts in November up on the glacier, there is plenty to keep you coming back. Laax and Flims are the two villages which share the same incredible slopes, located a short distance from the town of Chur in Graubünden. Both are worthy places to stay but it is Laax that tends to get all the headlines over the more chilled Flims. Last season the resort was expanded with two new six-seater chairlifts.

Did you know?

Laax has been meticulously recreated in digital form for the Amped series of video games.

 

The Parks
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Without question the best destination for freestylers to head to in Switzerland, Laax has four parks and a superpipe all located around the Crap Sogn Gion which adds up to about 80 individual features.

The recently added Ils Plauns was constructed two years ago between the Crap Sogn Gion and the new six seater chairlift Alp Dado. It was here that the Burton European open slopestyle event was moved, and its more sunny, open aspect proved a massive success. With a beginner, medium and pro line, the new park offers a huge and varied playground for each level. There's a good selection of easy kickers, plenty of entry-level rails and boxes and now a permanent airbag to try your inverts on. There's also a boardercross park to satisfy you and your mates' competitive streak.

Right below the summit restaurant is the 'No Name' park, whic is dominated by the legendary Laax Superpipe - an intimidating, 140m-long beast that gives some of the pro's jitters, never mind joe public. They tend to stuff this dug-out earth shaped beauty full of the last remaining snow at the end of the season, so they can get it up and running almost as soon as the resort opens.

On one side of the pipe is the Swatch 'Shoot-my-Ride' with three kickers and a few rails, while the other side is more jib focused with 15 or so features. Continuing down from the No Name park, piste 60 (the Crap Sogn Gion-Curnius piste) is a dedicated freestyle run, with 30 or so obstacles and kickers dotted along it's 1km length. You can also cut across to meet this from the newest Ils Plauns park; either way you're looking at te closest European equivalnet to the long park runs of Claifornia, which you can lap to your heart's content.

As if all this wasn't enough, Laax also offers Europe's first indoor freestyle academy, which includes a snowflex jump into a foam pit, a skatepark, and trampolines for practising inverts. Perfect for those bad weather days or evenings although be aware that an initial introductory course is mandatory.

 

The Powder
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Nicolas Müller lives in Laax, which is a good indicator that the place offers something pretty special when it comes to freeriding! There are 43km of dedicated safe freeride routes marked in yellow on the piste map, which are always the first to go on a powder day. In-fact if its first tracks of any description you’re after then you’ll need to be up and on it. The section down from La Siala summit is a good starter and can be tackled by most intermediates. It is an established freeride route down but it’s easy to work out a good line from the chairlift as you head up. The Vorab Glacier provides access to the Sattel which has some fun lines in, but this area can slide, and there’s two large hidden cliff faces past the restaurant so go careful. The Vorab Pign has some good freeride routes and the top of the Crap Masegn has a few easy hikes that should get you a few clean lines. The Cassons area in Flims is pure off -piste but it is rare that the resort can be bothered to run the cable-car up there. However, below that the area from Naraus to Foppa is great after a good dump for beginner and intermediate freeriders.

The Pistes
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The two new chairlifts connect a new area to the resort and expand an already excellent range of pistes, from the high altitude open runs at Nagens to the twisting trails which run through the trees back to Laax and Flims. Hardpack lovers who want things steep should try the black 'Home Run' down from the Crap Sogn Gion, which is genuinely sheer in places and will certainly put a smile on your face. For some serious mileage, work your way up to the Vorab Glacier and wind all the way down into Flims - a decent of nearly two vertical Km that can take you from dry powder to full on slush. Entry-level riders should head to the new beginner area, which includes four blue pistes and a rope lift for complete newbies inbetween.

The Parties
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Laax now has a base much more befitting its reputation in the "Rocks Resort". Architecturally striking, it consists of numerous identical square buildings made from local stone. The lower floors house the various bars, restaurants and shops, and the rest taken up by lavish apartments available for rent. The Crap Bar is still the place to relax after the day and it has also been joined by Il Pup and the Indy Bar which gets going later. Casa Veglia is the nightclub to head to until the early hours. The now slightly overshadowed Riders Palace is still banging though, and has a bar that opens until 4am and a club downstairs opens for events.

Not to be outdone, Flims has the Living Room, which is behind the 'Kiosk' on the main street. It’s the bar of choice if you’re after a chilled out evening. The Iglu bar at the bottom of the Flims slopes pumps out a few euro tunes for après ski, and it’s worth checking out Europe’s highest brewery Surselva Bräu in Flims-Waldhaus. The main club is The Arena which is opposite the lifts on the main road.