A new airline specifically for skiers will begin flying to Sion in Switzerland from UK regional airports, starting in December, writes Abigail Butcher
The aptly-named PowdAir will fly to the capital of the Valais Canton five days a week, from Thursday to Monday, from Southend, Southampton, Bournemouth, Bristol, Manchester and Edinburgh. It will also fly to Rotterdam and Brussels. Tickets start at £99 and will cost no more than £150 one way, including ski carriage – significantly reducing both cost and time of transfers to resorts in the Valais, including Fall-Line favourite the Val d’Anniviers, plus Zermatt, Verbier, Nendaz and Crans-Montana.
Zermatt is 3hr 45min by train from Geneva airport, or 2hr 45min by car, and 3hr 35min from Zurich (4hr 15min by car). From Sion it is 1hr 40min. Meanwhile, Sion to Verbier is a mere 45-minute drive as opposed to two hours from Geneva. Veysonnaz and Anzère are the closest resorts, just a few miles from Sion.
From plane to piste in less than an hour… we like the sound of that! |Joel Bessard
As Fall-Line went to press, PowdAir spokesman Rob Stewart said the airline had received “unanimous support” from ski resorts in Valais at a meeting in Sion. He said PowdAir is working with tourist chiefs to ensure skiers who fly to Sion have a cost-effective method of onward travel. “It will defeat the object if they have to get a taxi,” added Rob.
For the first winter, the airline will operate in partnership with an existing European airline (Trade Air), which is fully licensed and will staff the aircraft. All being well, PowdAir will pursue its own AOC (Air Operators Certificate) for the following season.
Swiss International Airlines operated three flights from Heathrow to Sion during February half-term, and although it has mooted flying the route regularly next winter, it has not yet confirmed plans. Sion airport is the only airport in Switzerland that operates as a military and civilian air base, but reported cuts to the Swiss Air Force could see the four fighter jets based there moved elsewhere. Pilots flying into Sion must have Category C training – similar to those who fly to Innsbruck.
Three more little-known airports with easy access to the mountains
1. Ljubljana for Krvavec, Slovenia
This might be the shortest airport transfer time in the world. Ljubljana airport is just an 11-minute taxi ride from Krvavec, a 30km ski resort with tree-lined blues, exposed peaks and dirt-cheap beers. Easyjet flies from Stansted for just £27.49 each way.
2. Bern for Adelboden, Switzerland
All hail Skyworks, whose daily flights from London City to Bern have made the Bernese Oberland a realistic dream for weekend skiers. Adelboden is the closest substantial resort, less than an hour from the airport. That, and its combination of charming village, untracked bowls and 210km of piste, make it a winner.
3. Granada for Sierra Nevada, Spain
Granada is better known as a gateway to the Costa del Sol than for skiing, which means winter flights with BA (from London City) and Easyjet (London Gatwick) can be wallet-pleasingly cheap. From there it’s just an hour’s drive to Sierra Nevada, Europe’s southernmost ski resort and home to 105km of sunny pistes.