Sloping off from commentary duties: A few days in Lenzerheide with BBC star Ed Leigh
BBC Ski Sunday presenter Ed Leigh is prone to excitement. And not only when it comes to his exuberant and controversial commentary at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
We are in the resort of Lenzerheide in the Swiss canton of Graubunden, on our first chairlift of the day. Ahead of us, slopes full of pristine power glisten in the brilliant early morning sunlight.
When he has a snowboard strapped to his feet, wide-eyed Ed just can’t stop talking.
Purple haze: Lenzerheide is one of Switzerland’s most lovely – but least known – ski areas
‘Look at that run!’ he shouts. ‘Drop in there, make one turn against that snow bank and open it up, straight into the guts!’
Our guide Dave Blackburn, a Briton who moved to the valley eight years ago and runs local holiday company Snow-motions, raises an amused eyebrow.
‘There’s a fair amount of avalanche danger, so we’ll have to be careful, Ed,’ he says. ‘But we’ll still find some good snow. That’s the beauty of this place.’
Under Dave’s expert guidance we’re soon enjoying an exciting descent from the top of the 2,546m Urdenfuerggli peak down to the valley floor more than 1,000m below. It’s a long run, but the terrain is forgiving, while the snow is the stuff snowboarders fantasise about.
Hollering fills the air – and that’s just from Ed. A former professional, he’s still a powerful snowboarder, and this is a relaxing break from a busy schedule, which includes his current gig at Sochi.
It is a hectic lifestyle, especially as Ed lives in New Zealand for most of the year.
So, he’s brought the whole family with him. They are staying in The Lodge, a chalet just down the valley in the satellite village of Churwalden.
All downhill from here: Lenzerheide offers fine ski terrain (left) – to the delight of BBC presenter Ed Leigh (right)
But why choose little-known Lenzerheide over any other resort in Europe?
‘I came here last year when I had a few days off,’ says Leigh over a quick plate of chips at the bottom of the Heimberg lift. ‘I couldn’t believe the quality of the terrain.
‘Plus, there never seems to be anyone here, which means the snow stays in really great condition for days after a storm.’
Lenzerheide also has plenty to offer those who prefer skiing on piste. Snow cover is rarely a problem, while a new link to neighbouring Arosa means you have access to an impressive 220km of pistes.
‘It’s intermediate heaven, with a lot of user-friendly accessible terrain and perfect pistes. There are hardly any black runs, so it is forgiving,’ says Blackburn.
If you want wild partying, Lenzerheide won’t be for you. But there are no lift queues and it’s supremely family friendly. Bronze medals all round!