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Klosters: more than a royal retreat

The outdoors attracts tourists of all backgrounds and incomes to Klosters.

Klosters may be most famous for its royal winter visitors, but as Imogen Foulkes found, the resort has much to offer ordinary people, especially families.

Outside of those few weeks a year when the British royal family and a handful of minor German aristocrats descend on Klosters, accompanied naturally by packs of tabloid journalists, Klosters is a beautiful and peaceful village which shows off the stunning scenery of canton Graubünden at its best.

Klosters is now one of 22 Swiss resorts with an official “family friendly” certificate, and a visit with my own family proved just how well deserved the classification is.

Family friendly infrastructure

Deputy director of tourism and town mayor, Rudolf Hubscher, said Klosters had worked hard to attract families.

“We were quite determined to get that family friendly certificate,” Hubscher told me, “and so we decided to incorporate family friendly policies throughout Klosters; it has to work through the whole infrastructure of the resort.”

What this means is that Klosters now has several family friendly hotels, which go out of their way to make children welcome, and to make families feel comfortable.

We stayed in the Sporthotel Kurhaus; its somewhat old fashioned yet comfortable furnishings may not be to everybody’s taste, but for families with small children it was ideal.

The ingenious family rooms were a big hit; our children had a special sleeping annex off our own bedroom. Tucked in under the eaves of the chalet style Kurhaus, it had just enough room for two beds, and ceilings so low that unwelcome grown ups had to stoop to get in.

Too much to do

As well as ensuring that families have practical and affordable accommodation, Klosters offers dozens of activities which appeal to the young.

Our first trip took us up the Madrisa cable car, where we embarked on a hike known as the Madrisa Experience.

The hike takes two to two and half hours, but is suitable for children as young as five or six. Around every corner there is something new to see, from bubbling waterfalls which have to be crossed by rickety wooden bridges, to the ruins of an ancient lime kiln.

Along the route there are also caves to explore and rocks to climb, not to mention special geological oddities known as the “the hanging gardens” and “the weeping cliffs”.

A sure sign that this route was a success was the complete absence of the usual childish hiking complaints such as “how far is it now?” or “I’m too tired you’ll have to carry me”.

And for families with babies or very small children, Klosters has also produced a map of walks which are manageable with a pushchair.

Wheels through the woods

Nevertheless when children do get tired of walking, they can always hire some wheels in Klosters.

From the main station in Klostersplatz scooters can be rented, and friendly staff will supply a map, and point out the different scooter routes available. A word of warning though, the scooters are all the same size, large, and are not really suitable for children under nine or 10.

After initial disappointment we got round this problem by standing our six year old in front of his father on one scooter. This worked well, as the scooters really are big enough for two.

The route took us 12 kilometres down the valley from Klosters, through forests and along the bank of the river. The scenery was stunning, and the path sloped gently downhill nearly all the way, so there was very little strenuous scooter pushing to be done.

Along the route there are information signs, where you can stop and read about the different flora and fauna of the region; one which proved especially popular showed the different tracks of deer, wildcat, fox and so on.

The end of the route is the charming village of Küblis, whose old wooden houses and narrow winding streets provide a reminder of what alpine life was like before mass tourism.

The scooters can be handed over at Küblis train station, and the staff there will make sure they get back to Klosters: all you have do is get on the train.

Wet weather alternatives

The following day, we had been warned, would be rainy, so we prepared ourselves to try out some wet weather alternatives.

Klosters offers a game and toy library, a couple of hotels have indoor swimming pools open to non-residents, and in high season (winter and summer) there are visits to working farms and to the “Nutli Hüschi” museum; an example of what a farm was like in the 16th century.

But, as luck would have it, the next day dawned bright and sunny, so we stuck to our original plan, and paid a visit to Jürg Marugg and his 13 horses.

Riding the trail

Marugg offers horse trekking for an hour, a day, or even a week with accommodation thrown in if you are really keen. He or his daughter will accompany you on the trail, and pack a picnic or organize a barbecue if you plan to be out all day.

“You can ride in just about any direction from Klosters,” says Marugg, “and choose as short or as long a ride as you like.”

Although Marugg says some knowledge of horse riding is preferable, he is quite happy to take beginners, and showed infinite patience with our complete lack of experience.

Four horses were found for us; Biddy, Fanny, Pepe, and Urano were as gentle and obedient as anyone could have wished.

We set off through the autumn forests, with the children’s horses roped behind Marugg’s. After a peaceful first half hour of walking, Marugg decided we were experienced enough to go faster.

With a whistle and a wave of his hand the horses broke into a brisk trot along the river bank; exciting if bone shaking for the grown ups, exciting, exhilarating, and “when can we try galloping?” for the children.

Looking to the future

Sadly, the ride with Marugg was the end of our visit to Klosters; it was time to go home. But we left with all sorts of plans for our next trip, because there are so many things for families to do in Klosters that we just didn’t have time for them all.

Our plans for a future visit show just how successful Klosters’ family friendly policy is. As Roland Hubscher points out, attracting families is a good investment.

“Children are our future,” says Hubscher, “if we make sure they enjoy themselves now, we can expect them to come with their own families in the years to come.”

by Imogen Foulkes

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR