The fact that this caught your attention tells me that you are yearning for a break. Samnaun, a destination in the east of Graubünden, could be that break.
I recently had the chance to spend a weekend in this corner of Switzerland. When my family and I arrived in Samnaun on a Friday night, we found a pretty town center dotted with neatly decorated wooden chalets. With all that fresh snow, it looked like a scene out of a fairy tale.
From a tacky festival to an abundance of ski slopes and shopping opportunities, here are my convictions why you should pick Samnaun for your next winter break.
Check yourself into Clauwau, the annual Santa World Championships!
If it was not for Clauwau, Samnaun could have been a laid back and quiet little town. But I have timed my visit just right to experience this cheerful annual gathering of Santas.
Throughout the weekend of Nov 30, 2019, more than 100 Santa Clauses showed up in this Swiss winter resort! They came from all over the world to compete in the Santa Claus World Championships.
Santa Thomas Müller has been in his role at Clauwau for many years:
While some teams and iconic characters keep coming back year after year, there are also some newcomers.
Look out for the letter "L" to find the new faces of Clauwau. It is something like a learner’s sticker similar to those on cars, which is quite funny.
Who is the quickest, the most creative, and the most humorous?
In a number of challenges, the Santas showed off their Santa skills. There were games of Santa's Picasso or Santa's Tour d’Engiadina. There was a treasure hunt, snowmobile races, gift deliveries and the signature skill: makeshift chimney climbing.
Here are some moments of cheering at the Santa World Championship 2019:
Everybody competes in a great spirit of humor. Not least because there are cash prizes for the top teams.
Just by reading the names of the awards, you can imagine the endless fun: "Best Costume", "Team of Hearts", and, of course, "World Champion".
Or come to Samnaun for the skiing...
The Santa World Championship marks the beginning of the winter season. It is the first chance to hit those pristine slopes of Samnaun with their seamlessly never-ending runs high above the treeline.
The Samnaun/Ischgl International Ski Resort lies between 1400 to 2875 m above sea level. It has about 238 km of slopes, 44 ski lifts and cable cars as well as the world's first double-decker cable car with a capacity of 180 people. Among the 338 ski resorts in Switzerland, the Ischgl/Samnaun – Silvretta Arena ranks the fourth largest.
The trick to fully enjoy this ski resort with its overwhelming choices of slopes? Hire a local guide who knows the mountains. Our guide not only showed us the best places to head to. As a certified private ski instructor, he also assisted my daughter who is still learning to ski.
People keep raving about skiing with all kinds of good reasons. But when you experience your seven-year old zipping down the slopes, screaming "Again! Again!" all the way, it all makes perfect sense. Our weekend in Samnaun was also a fantastic family bonding experience.
After all that fun, it was time to enjoy a sunny lunch at Restaurant La Marmotte! Look at those views from the deck...
... and stay for the tax-free shopping!
This trip came at a perfect time as I am always running a bit behind schedule with my Christmas shopping. Along Europe’s highest shopping mile, Samnaun offers a healthy dose of retail therapy. That's because purchases are entirely tax exempt. And given the high altitude, it is not uncommon to spot customs officers on skis...
From whisky, candles and scents to perfumes and body lotions, I found a vast selection of gifts. Christmas shopping: done.
And considering that tax-free shopping is not available everywhere, I could not leave Samnaun without getting a small Christmas gift for myself. How can I resist such good deals?
My verdict about the Samnaun ski resort
On many levels, Samnaun managed to deliver a fantastic weekend for my family. There was the variety of ski slopes, the tax-free shopping and some of the best après-ski in the Swiss Alps. And have I mentioned the fun and crazy tradition of Clauwau?