The basics: Portes du Soleil ski area is open from mid-December to mid-April: A six-day lift ticket costs about $310.

Getting there: The closest international airport is Geneva. From there, trains head for main rail gateways to Portes du Soleil in Switzerland (Lausanne, Montreux, Aigle) and France (Thonon-les-Bains, Cluses). The rail journey to Champéry takes 2½ hours.

Gearing up: Save yourself hassle (and excess baggage fees) by renting top-line ski/snowboard equipment from Borgeat Sports at the base of the Champéry tram. Plus the free overnight storage means you won't have to lug gear to and from your hotel.

Staying in Champéry: The town offers numerous small hotels, most family run. Set in a renovated 1896 building, Hotel National offers 24 guest accommodations in the heart of the village. Ask for a room away from the church, where the carillon peals with enthusiasm at 6 a.m.

More great skiing: Good train connections make it easy to explore other top ski resorts in Valais, including Crans-Montana (a World Cup venue), Verbier (a favorite with British Royals, celebs and super-experts), and Zermatt (ski into Italy with great views of the Matterhorn).

Special events: In 2015, the Canton of Valais celebrates the 200th anniversary of joining the Swiss Confederation with concerts, performances and exhibitions. On Feb. 20, the "13 Stars on the Summit" project will light huge bonfires atop famous mountain peaks, including the Dents-du-Midi and Matterhorn. A summer illumination is planned for July 17.

Risa Wyatt