NOTES: Southeast of Zurich and west of Chur, the Laax ski resort interconnects the towns of Laax, Flims and Falera. The resort has 25 lifts serving 220km of pistes with a maximum descent of 1,900m. Many of the top freestylers consider Laax to have the best terrain parks in Europe. Both Flims and Laax are very popular with the freestyle crowd. For freestyle action, you'll want to seek out the four terrain parks at the mid-mountain Crag Sogn Gion station. Matter of fact, the Laax terrain parks are home to the annual Burton European Open snowboarding freestyle competition.
There is huge vertical here, but it's not known to be particularly steep nor have cliffs or couloirs unless you go well off-piste. Luckily, there is still plenty of off-piste freeriding to be had. While some of the best routes require a guide to find them, the ski area map does show about 40km of unprepared, marked pistes that are avalanche controlled for freeriders. The marked freeride routes are checked first thing in the morning and freshly signed by the patrollers. Their entrance is usually marked by a yellow gate which will indicate if it is open. These ski routes start from each of the three main peaks: Vorab Pign (2,897m), La Siala (2,810m) and Cassons (2,675m). The La Siala freeride route, and several other lines down, are a lot of fun. While the La Siala lift is a little slow, there are plans to upgrade the lift for the 2014/2015 season.
Off Cassons, there is hikeable unmarked freeriding terrain in Cassons bowl which holds untracked powder for days after a storm. There is a natural gully in the middle of the bowl. A guide is highly recommended and the old Cassons lift may operate irregularly. Luckily, the entire eastern lift experience from Flims up to Cassons is scheduled for replacement with a 10-seater lift from Flims to Punt Desch and a new cableway from Punt Desch up to Crap La Tgina (700m west of current Cassons top station).
Another freeride option starts from the Crap Masegn with a traverse to the right. Near the Crest da Tiarpa piste, hike over the ridge following signs for route #84 (don't end up on #90 to Ruschein!) and then drop down into the wide bowl while watching out for small cliffs. This route leads back to the Falera lift after descending over 1,200m.
A little more accessible, there is off-piste powder to be found under the Curnus highspeed quad lift and also near the Alp Ruschein double chair lift.
By the way, it doesn't take much snow or wind to delay opening of lifts and freeride route. If they don't open by 10am, they may not open at all that day.
If you are sticking to the groomers, keep in mind that most of the blue pistes are pretty shallow and you'll most likely end up hiking. Also, when approaching the Flims base, follow signage closely to make sure you don't end up on piste #5 toward Fidaz.
For some of the best on-mountain lunches, try Tegia Larnags hut reataurant, the Runcahohe on the route from Startgels to Flims, or the Alp Nagens Stalla located half way the Nagens lift
For apres ski approaching the Laax Murschetg base, look for the Tegia Larnags ski bar. In the Flims base, try the Legna Bar or the Iglubar. For nightlife, head over to the Lobby Bar at the Riders Palace (if there is a show), check out Indy Bar And Club, or the Casa Veglia in Laax. For both aprÃ¨s and nightlife, don't expect during much mid-week.
While the main ski area base is in the town of Laax, the town of Flims is larger so it may be more desirable as a base especially for longer stays. If you plan to stay in Laax due to its proximity to the better pistes, try checking out Laax Murschetg. A majority of the pistes are under the Crap Sogngion Peak above Laax.
To reach the snowboarding at the Laax ski area from Zurich by car, head southeast on Route A3 and then south on Route A13 to Bonaduz. Turn west on Route 19 to Flims. There is a very convenient free ski bus linking Flims to Laax to Falera.
Tip - You can order ski passes online ahead of time for a big discount. If you plan to ride on a crowded weekend, consider the Blueline pass which allows you to skip the lift queues. If you are staying at the Laax Murshteg base area, your hotel may give you a complementary wifi password which seems to work at all the huts up on the mountain.
Note: If you plan to head to Laax-Flims for snowboarding by train, here are two great options offered by the Swiss train system SBB. First, there is the discounted Swiss Transfer Ticket which provides a round-trip train ticket from an airport directly to the town near the ski area, plus 50% off any additional train or bus tickets. Second, there is the Snow-N-Rail ticket which provides a round-trip ticket from anywhere in Switzerland combines with a ski lift pass for as long as you need at a total 20% discount (see: http://www.sbb.ch/snownrail ).
Additional printed reading material on Laax-Flims snowboarding can be found in Skiing Europe by from Matt Barr.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Laax Pisteurs (0041) 081-927-7001; Laax Tourism (0041) 081-920-8181; Chopp Snowbard Shop, Flims; BoarderWorld; Snowboard Garage, Laax.
SEASON: Jan. - Mar.
BREAKFAST JOINT: Unknown
BASE CAMP: Riders Palace (011) 41-81-927-9700; Crap Sogn Gion Mountain Hostel
LUXURY LODGE: Grand Park Hotel Waldhaus, Flims (0041) 081-928-4848; Hotel Schweizerhor; Laaxerhof