AROSA, SWITZERLAND: Ask any veteran travel writer and they will tell you that getting to a destination during the Golden Age of travel was as much a part of the adventure as the destination itself. That adage is still true as one of the best things about a visit to Arosa, Switzerland is getting there.
Situated at the bottom of a wide valley and accessible by car or branch line train from Chur, the snake-like route takes an hour of traveling across 365 serpentine twists while passing through several tunnels before arriving.
Rhaetian Railways trains operate hourly between Chur/Arosa, through panoramic scenery where pictures fail to fully capture the spellbinding magic of the journey. As the old adage goes “seeing is believing,” and nothing can top the “marshmallow world” ride.
By the time visitors arrive in Arosa, they are already in a festive holiday mood, which further enhances the ambiance of the storybook village.
A family-friendly health resort
Since 1877, Arosa has been a well-known sunny Alpine family-friendly health resort. Thanks to its geography, it is largely sheltered from strong winds which adds to its appeal.
A year-round resort, this is a destination equally enjoyable in summer and winter. With more than 4,000 guest beds ranging in every price range plus a year-round population of slightly over 3,000, the village is geared for tourism with nearly a one-to-one ratio of visitors to locals.
The Arosa Bear Sanctuary
Among the favorite things for families with children is the newly opened Arosa Bear Sanctuary. Working in partnership with the Arosa Bear Foundation, VIER PFOTEN, the animal welfare organization, are providing a safe habitat for five bears that were freed from poor captive conditions in 2018.
Eventually, the bears will return to their natural environments, but the on-going program allows families to view the animals “up-close-and-personal” during the rehabilitation process.
Complete with a restaurant, visitor’s platform, and children’s playground, the sanctuary also organizes tours through the reserve.
Arosa: The Monaco of the Mountains
Also popular with families is the Squirrel Trail, a nearby path beginning in front of the Romantik Hotel BelArosa that allows guests the opportunity to feed squirrels and birds right out of the palms of their hands. The picture book trail is well worth a stroll even if visitors choose not to feed the creatures along the way.
Another favorite in August and September is the International Hill Climb Arosa Classic Car which takes place between Langweis and Arosa. Sometimes called the “Monaco of the Mountains” attractions include both on and off-track events.
With two lakes in the center of Arosa, the Untersee (Lower Lake) is ideal for summertime activities with a sandy shore, solar-heated paddling pool, a 165-foot slide, diving boards and a garden restaurant.
Snow Sports in Arosa
The Obersee or Upper Lake, is more popular in winter with ice skating and, better yet, the stunning but unusual sport of snow horse-racing.
Skiing is, of course, a staple of Arosa’s winter appeal, however, the Weisshorn Cable car takes both summer and winter guests to a new panoramic restaurant some 8,700 feet above sea level. With views of more than 400 mountain peaks, including the city of Chur, the 360-degree panorama is especially alluring.
Arosa, Switzerland History
The first known settlements in Arosa date as far back as the 13th century, but it would not become a popular winter resort until it began to gradually evolve in 1900. The first ski lifts were built in 1938, but it wasn’t until 1956 that the Weisshorn Cable Car was opened.
Arosa was part of the municipality of Davos until 1851. Not until then did the town begin to develop its own identity.
Historically, the region and skiing received much recognition from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle was an avid sportsman who was wintering in Davos when he ordered some “skiing boards” from Norway and hiked up the mountain with two guides.
The trio skied into Arosa before stopping for lunch at the Seehof, the first hotel in the city. Doyle later wrote of his adventure in The Strand in 1894, and soon after, British skiers were making a beeline to Arosa.
Snow fun found
Skiers, snowboarders, and sledders can choose from 140 miles of slopes with guaranteed snow in winter in the region of Arosa Lenzerheide, making it the largest interconnected skiing region of Graubünden.
The modern Urden cable car can now also be used by pedestrians who can enjoy 87 miles of well-maintained hiking and walking trails.
The snow sport region of Arosa Lenzerheide awaits with numerous family-friendly blue slopes. On these specially marked slopes, racing is out and leisurely curving in.
Skiing is sweet fun for children
At the children’s facilities in Arosa Lenzerheide get their first experience on skis. Keeping it fun characters highlight the young skier approprite first turns. The Honeyland Prätschli, the Kinderlands Auarara, Fastatsch, and Heimberg are easy to reach and the terrain is only slightly descending.
The Prätschli production “Honigland” (Honeyland) is a public, free beginner/children’s area where the ski lift features various staging elements that create a new world of experience. The topic of “honey” is based on the bear sanctuary adventure.
Those who enjoy snowshoe hiking, night skiing, sledding, cross-country skiing, and even curling will also find the winter sport their hearts desire.
There are even horse-drawn sleighs where you can snuggle under warm blankets for a delightful hour-long ride into Alpine vistas.
After a long day on the slopes, head indoors in December where big-name comedians show up for the Arosa Humor Festival during the winter pre-season.
Each January, the unofficial Ice Snow Football world championship, brings former national players from all over the world to battle for the much-coveted title right in the heart of the snowy mountain peaks.
Notable Arosa Events
Arosa has had some other important events as well. During Christmas in 1925, Erwin Schrödinger was vacationing there when he made his breakthrough discovery of wave mechanics.
In 1933, Thomas Mann stayed in Arosa during the first week of his Swiss exile.
And on 20 February 1940, Germany’s Ulrich von Hassall met with Britain’s J. Lonsdale Bryant in Arosa to plot the overthrow of Adolf Hitler.
Arosa is truly a family-friendly “land for all seasons”, where Sherlock Holmes would have most assuredly described the joys of the region as “Elementary, my dear Watson.”
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor is an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is the founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime
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