Given the huge quantity of great ski towns in Switzerland, the competition for winter sport dollars (or francs) is fierce. And with the great natural scenery of the Alps and the great mountain hiking there, the summer finds Swiss tourism equally competitive. The eastern Swiss town of Arosa is an example of such a year-round resort town. Its ideal location in a high glacial valley, being a short drive or train ride from the GraubŁnden capital of Chur, made it easy to get to. Arosa was easily one of the most naturally beautiful places I've ever visited.
I must start with the train ride. Lasting for about fifty minutes, the train ascended a good 1200m, generally following the Plessur River valley from the Chur train station to the ski lifts in eastern Arosa. This valley was very steep, and the train rode high on the cliff side, giving some spectacular views of the valley below and of the mountain peaks, like in the first photo. There were about five or six tiny villages perched atop the mountains. Many consisted of only a few houses and/or pensions. Each village had a stop, with a gorgeous little chalet serving as the train station.
Once I arrived in Arosa, however, it was all business. Ski and snowboard business, that is. The train station ended at the outer side of Arosa, an area dominated by resort facilities -- dozens of hotels and pensions ranging from two to four stars, a large number of pubs and restaurants, and numerous sports shops selling ski and snowboarding equipment. The train station sat at the foot of an ultramodern building hosting two skilifts, one to the nearby ski run of Tschuggen, and one going all the way to the top of the 2900-meter Weisshorn, the tallest peak tin the region.
The second photo shows a portion of Poststrasse, Arosa's main road. The road was paralleled by several small roads zigzagging their way up the moutainside, like the one shown. There were numerous footpaths for pedestrians to climb directly up the verticals on both sides. Pensions and hotels like those in the photo followed Poststrasse for about a kilometer. Beyond that, the density of buildings lessened, and many of the pensions there were simply rooms offered in someone's house. These were large houses, however, probably 8-12 rooms with half available for hire.
There were many great views of the surrounding peaks, with the best including the highly-perched Evangelical Kirche, shown in the third photograph. I took that shot along the Sonnenbergstrasse, a very steep and windy secondary road well above Poststrasse.
Poststrasse connected the main town with several of its satellite villages further into the mountains -- a region called Innerarosa. Sparsely populated and with fewer amenities, this area was quieter by comparison. I guessed that Innerarosa seemed to be more of the local's district. It was certainly more picturesque, as the fourth photo suggests. The ridgeline wrapped around the Innerarosa like a ring, with ski slopes in all directions. The roofs were all covered with a thick blanket of snow.
Innerarosa had a very large school and complex for beginning skiiers and snowboarders, with a series of gentle slopes about five hundred yards long running up to the Bergkirche. The pensions were concentrated around the bottom, as were a series of tents set up selling coffee and drinks. Narrow, icy footpaths followed up the hills, allowing one to get fantastic views of the surrounding area. The Bergkirche, a simple concrete chapel perched alone in the middle of the mountain, was both a beautiful sight and a great observation deck. I took the fourth photo from just outside of it.
I made my way back to the main town via the Poststrasse, passing by more beautiful pensions and a couple mountain streams just beginning to shed their icy covering. I also noted the Untersee, a large pond just below the town that in the summer serves as a swimming hole. I ventured further east of town and came upon a winter sports complex that included an ice hockey rink and an outdoor curling rink, shown in the fifth photo.
The ice hockey rink held my attention for a while, as it was hosting a youth hockey tournament. The flier indicated that teams from across Switzerland and Germany had bussed down to Arosa to play. I watched the kids play for a little while until it was time to catch the train back down the mountain. During that ride, I glimpsed a herd of deer grazing near the track. As the train approached, they made a bolt down the mountain -- probably a fifteen-degree grade! It amazed me how they could gallop down such a steep incline!
Though it was March, Arosa was still plenty wintery and it seemed like they had yet another good month of ski season left. The tourist map indicated at least one golf course available during the summer, and vast numbers of hiking trails were marked. I figured that the other villages along the train route would seem to be great places to get off and capture great shots of the Plessur River valley -- perhaps next time I go to the GraubŁnden region of Switzerland, I will do that.
Trip Taken 8 March 2003 -- Last Updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2003 Tom Galvin