CycloWorld spent a few days in the Swiss town of Crans-Montana at the invitation of the tourism office. It was a more than pleasant introduction to a somewhat unfamiliar cycling region. But as the saying goes: unknown makes unloved. That proved to be the case once again.
Photo: Col du Crans-Montana with several 4000m peaks in the background. © CMTC-PatrickGüller.
We don't have to beat about the bush: Crans-Montana is certainly not the first destination cyclists think of for a multi-day trip. But after a few days exploring the area, we can only draw one conclusion: that's completely unjustified.
The name is a contraction of 2 villages located next to each other: Crans and Montana. In Crans you will find the more expensive 4 and 5 * accommodations, while in Montana you will find more affordable options. As a base it does not matter where you stay. Crans-Montana is best known as a winter sports area. But also in the summer it's a perfect place to stay. Not only with the road bike, also for the MTB and even with the gravel bike there are plenty of options.
If you look at the road map, one thing immediately stands out. On both sides of the Rhone valley there are an incredible number of roads. This is partly caused by the presence of the endless vineyards. Indeed, the canton of Valais (of which Crans Montana is a part) produces about 35% of Swiss wine.
Making loops is no problem here. Crans-Montana is located on the north flank of the valley. Directly from the village there are a number of interesting climbs up for grabs, such as the Col du Crans Montana and Lac de Tseuzier. The climb to the village itself from Sierre (in the valley) has a large number of variants, so you never have to ride the same way up twice. And if you do not feel like it after a long ride, you can always funitel (train) up. The funitel is currently under maintenance, but next summer open again. Until then you can also take the bus up with your bike, if you want.
Picture: Col du Crans-Montana.
Also on the other side of the Rhone valley you will find particularly interesting options. One of the most beautiful is undoubtedly Lac de Moiry, which we climbed on our third day. A stunning but brutal climb to a reservoir with three approach routes. Depending on the route, you'll be 29-32 km on the way and conquer 1800 - 2050m+.
Photo: One of the many options for cycling back to Crans-Montana from the valley. © CMTC-PatrickGüller.
The most famous col in the region, however, is the Col du Sanetsch. A dead end, but beautiful! Like Lac de Moiry, there are several approach routes here, with the climb from Chandolin usually chosen as the ascent. You'll need to allow some time for it, as the climb is about 25 km with about 1800m+. Once over the top, by the way, you can descend another 5 kilometers / 240m+ before the road ends. Definitely recommended because then you can admire the beautiful lake.
Picture: Col du Sanetsch
The Moosalp is a beautiful, quiet col that can be done from 2 sides. A round trip from Crans-Montana is 130 kilometers. From Sierre in the valley it's 92 kilometers.
If you come for the really big names, you'd spend an hour in the car to tick off, say, the Furka or the Nufenenpass. But why would you? The local climbs are just as beautiful, and much quieter. Whatever you do, we're in Switzerland so the road surface is perfect.
Crans-Montana is located in Valais. This is the culinary region of Switzerland. Besides famous Swiss dishes like cheese fondue and rösti you'll find restaurants with dishes from around the world. And, of course, Swiss wine. The local Fendant (a white wine) is highly recommended.
Photo: You're riding right through the vineyards, where you will also find many gravel roads. © CMTC-PatrickGüller.
In Valais you will find the highest peaks of the Alps such as Monte Rosa (4643m), Matterhorn (4478m) and the Dom (4545m). From nearby Zermatt or Saas-Fee, these Alpine giants are easily accessible via cable car or the Gornergrat Bahn. Hiking, summer skiing, enjoying the view, this spectacle is a must see.
The Aletsch Glacier is the largest glacier in the Alps. From Betten you can take the cable car up to see this natural beauty.
A variety of events are held in this region. The Tour des Stations has become one of Switzerland's he most important gran fondos. But also a relatively new event like Nova Eroica Switzerland (a gravel semi-gran fondo) is a must.
We were surprised about the short driving time. From Utrecht you drive in 8 hours via the relatively quiet A5 over Kalsruhe to Sion. From there it's another 20 minutes or so to the village. Speaking of Sion, this medieval town is definitely worth a visit. You'll find nice terraces, stores and good restaurants.
Check out our region page for many more tips. One thing is for sure: this region has stolen our hearts! Crans-Montana? Absolutely!