Verbier, Switzerland: February 12-16, 2019

ChrisC

Well-known member
Thought I would post this TR very belatedly since I am a big fan of Verbier, and had these photo albums assembled..

I have tried to ski there unsuccessfully a few times:
  • Early January 2015 - one day. There was maybe a bit over 100cm base which is way too low for the type of terrain. Basically, a rock fest with few if any itineraries open. Ski at your own risk. Even the advanced red runs were hurting. Meanwhile, Chamonix was highly skiable on a 150+cm base.
  • Early February 2016 - one day. Not much better. Maybe a 120-130 cm base. Some itineraries were open, but off-piste was not very accessible.
Returning from a work & ski trip in February 2019, I was able to stop off on my return to the USA for a Tuesday-to-Friday - catching Verbier in a storm cycle with a 200 cm base.

Verbier is an incredibly expensive place to stay - primarily because there is so little real estate, no original core village, and a high number of chalets (likely many private). Yes, Zermatt and St. Moritz have reputations for being high-end, but they sprawl down valleys and were historic towns so there is some heterogeneity of lodging at different price points. Verbier is more equivalent to the USA West Coast model of selling lots of private homes that likely sit vacant most of the year, and have inflated hotel, restaurant, and bar costs due to scarcity. Being close to banking capital Geneva helps too.

I was able to find decent lodging with breakfast, parking, and a 5-10 minute walk from lifts for $120-140 at the Hotel La Rotonde. The friendly Swiss manager was kind enough to put in a double with views for my stay. I would include Le Chable in searches too since the Gondola connection is open early/late and near the train station. There are some reasonable bars and restaurants. Perhaps the best deal is the Farinet bar which was live music every night inside and sundeck patio without cover.

Is Verbier's off-piste reputation justified? I thought so and would rank it up there with Val d'Isere/Tignes and St. Anton/Suben/Zurs/Lech. While it does not sprawl attractively and easily as these other two, Verbier's off-piste requires almost no effort to access (10-15 minutes is an exceptional effort) and its steep terrain is co-located so you are not wasting time transferring between sectors. Compared to Chamonix, you probably could get 2-4x the vertical on a powder day due to ease of use and lift system. I also found Verbier less rocky then Zermatt, larger than Andermatt/Engelberg, etc. BTW, I like this list of best Off-piste/Freeride European skiing.

Who might not like it? Intermediates. There is surprisingly little terrain. And the 4 Vallees do not connect well since there is very challenging terrain from Verbier to Tortin. And the connection to Thyon is 1970s/80s disaster of Euro surface lifts. And Savoleyres is also cut off from the rest of the area. Too many Buts/Ands. Not sure why the high-end skiers chose it over other destinations. Probably the same type who goes to Aspen and just yo-yo the HSQuad at the top of Aspen Mountain all day.

Here is the piste map for Verbier/4 Vallees. You could buy individual tickets, but if you want to ski Mont Fort, an all-mountain pass is required - a small price difference. Also, you notice the yellow itineraries on the map. I understand in Switzerland their definition is: not pisted, marked, and patrolled? But I don't know for sure. These itineraries are on maps at Zermatt and Davos.

1580063296jpg_render.jpg



This is a good map of the many Freeride lines in Verbier by Fatmap. You can see a sea of blue. The only area without lift access/significant hike is the Bec des Rosses where the Xtreme Verbier Freeride Competition is held every year. Super serious area.
FATMAP - Verbier2.JPG



More lines all over larger 4 Vallees area:
FATMAP - Verbier.JPG



Also, this is a really guide guidebook that can be purchased at the Verbier Guides Office.
couverture-livre1.jpg



When I arrived at Verbier late Monday, the valley rain/snow changed to all snow by Le Chable and the switchbacks to Verbier were tough to navigate. The result was still snow coming down the next morning with about 30 cm +/- wind-loading or scouring. The rule of thumb for storms is to head to the Bruson sector since it's lower, has more trees, and is less prone to wind closures. However, Verbier was running its main Medran gondolas, the Funispace to Attelas was expected online, and lifts out of La Chaux were running. If it was awful, I could always retreat and go over to Bruson.

Slightly ominous start. But hey - it's a powder day at Verbier and no one is out on the hill. No lines.
IMG_1023.jpg



I went over to the La Chaux area. The first run was a bit braille skiing, but quickly some sun breaks/storm breaks appeared. I had 2 lifts in my own little semi-private playground for the morning:

Some braille skiing off Le Chaux 1 lift:
IMG_1024.jpg


My tracks
IMG_1029.jpg
IMG_1033.jpg


More of my tracks. Others started to follow.
IMG_1040.jpg
IMG_1041.jpg
IMG_1044.jpg



Switched other Le Chaux 2 lift after an hour or so. Mount Gele in background.
IMG_1048.jpg
IMG_1050.jpg
IMG_1056.jpg



While not the steepest powder morning ever, the quality and quantity were there. After a quick lunch warm-up, I saw that the Funispace was running and went over to that sector. I think Mount Blanc was also helping to slice up the storm a bit on this aspect since it faces into the range.

(Continue for PM pictures)
 

Attachments

  • IMG_1030.jpg
    IMG_1030.jpg
    118.2 KB · Views: 48
Last edited:

ChrisC

Well-known member
The front side of Verbier had more frequent snow squalls and intermittent fog. However, you could make out the terrain - especially if you skied some of the couloirs with defined rock walls from Attelas. Vertical was enormous - a powder run of 3,500 vertical. If you wanted an untracked line, you simply traversed further to skiers' right.


Each of the Attelas couloirs is quite famous. I mostly skied Creblet (easiest and widest) and one on Rock n'Roll. Did a few laps off the Mayentzet chair as well.
FATMAP - Verbier3.png



Some pics of the various afternoon runs in this zone. Even more snow over here 30-45 cm/ 12-18 inches.

View from Funispace gondola to Col de Mines
IMG_1060.jpg
IMG_1061.jpg
IMG_1063.jpg



Creblet - view down
IMG_1068.jpg


Creblet - view up
IMG_1072.jpg



Other Couloirs - Verbier below thru fog and snow
IMG_1079.jpg
IMG_1084.jpg
IMG_1089.jpg
IMG_1090.jpg



View over to the Funispace and Les Ruinettes
IMG_1091.jpg
IMG_1093.jpg



Exiting Couloirs into the massive powder field above Verbier
IMG_1098.jpg
IMG_1101.jpg



Just traverse to find untouched lines near end of day
IMG_1106.jpg
IMG_1111.jpg
IMG_1116.jpg
IMG_1119.jpg
IMG_1120.jpg
IMG_1124.jpg



Bell-to-bell day. Never made it over to Bruson. Snowy Verbier.
IMG_1128.jpg
IMG_1136.jpg
IMG_1140.jpg



Le Chable gondola. Bruson across the valley with trees and some open slopes.
IMG_1144.jpg
IMG_1145.jpg
 

Attachments

  • IMG_1110.jpg
    IMG_1110.jpg
    208.2 KB · Views: 30
  • IMG_1103.jpg
    IMG_1103.jpg
    229.2 KB · Views: 31
  • IMG_1095.jpg
    IMG_1095.jpg
    157.2 KB · Views: 30
  • IMG_1071.jpg
    IMG_1071.jpg
    154.8 KB · Views: 33
  • IMG_1077.jpg
    IMG_1077.jpg
    117.9 KB · Views: 36
Last edited:

ChrisC

Well-known member
February 13, 2019

This would be the test of the type of feeding frenzy there is on a powder day at Verbier with 12-18 inches of new snow and a bluebird sky. Overall, it was mostly walk-on the gondola and maybe 1-2 car waits on trams. The Medran did not have a huge line-up - maybe 20/30 people in front of me at 8:45 am.

1580063296jpg_render.jpg


I immediately went up the Funispace lift and made my way over to the Tortin-Chassoure gondola. I realize I had not really given my thought to a 'powder plan' for the day. I noticed Mount Gele was open...Should I have gone there? I had some familiarity with the terrain of the tram and gondola that originate from Tortin, so I thought that was a good call. There were a lot of skiers making their way over there, so not much time for photos except from the lifts. Needed to stay ahead of the crowd.

FATMAP - Verbier4.JPG


The first 2 runs were from the Tortin-Chassoue gondola. I started with the itinerary - skier's right. Generally, this route can be very bumpy, but it was all filled in today. Vertical 2400 to 2800 ft.

IMG_1146.jpg



The second run was also off the gondola, but further off the traverse to the skier's right over the ridge - Col de la Mouche / Super Mouche. Photo from a later tram ride:
IMG_1149.jpg

IMG_1173.jpg




The tram from Tortin-Col de Gentianes had a delayed opening so quickly moved over there to score some first tracks on stayed on the tram for 3 runs: 2 down the main itinerary and one to the skier's right of the tram to a line called Highway. Just needed to traverse out further from the main line either right or left to get fresh tracks.

IMG_1155.jpg




IMG_1156.jpg


IMG_1159.jpg


IMG_1160.jpg



You can see Mount Gele (back right) and the Highway route past the tram towers.
IMG_1162.jpg


IMG_1153.jpg


IMG_1163.jpg




After most of the AM spent in the Tortin sector, I wanted to try Vallon d'Arbi. It takes you from Chassoure to La Tzoumaz - nearly 4200 vertical feet below. Passes through an open bowl, then into glades before a long runout. Since this run takes you out of the main Verbier area, there was lots of untracked around noon-ish.
FATMAP - Verbier5.JPG


Bowl
IMG_1192.jpg


Trees to the right
IMG_1193.jpg


Runout
IMG_1194.jpg


Vallon d'Arbi behind
IMG_1200.jpg



Stopped for a quick on-the-go lunch at the top of the gondola at Tzoumaz-Savolyers.
Views to Verbier - where I was skiing yesterday on left
IMG_1207.jpg
IMG_1223.jpg


Views across the valley to Bruson
IMG_1225.jpg


To be continued.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_1175.jpg
    IMG_1175.jpg
    332.1 KB · Views: 34
  • IMG_1152.jpg
    IMG_1152.jpg
    346.1 KB · Views: 35

ChrisC

Well-known member
February 13, 2019 continued.

Made my way over to Mont Gele to see what I could ski in the afternoon. I think the Mount Gele tram is my favorite lift in the ski world. It's 360-degree skiing with every aspect and type of terrain available on about 1700-2500 vertical ft. I was prepared for Big Sky tram lines since there is just a single car that just goes back-n-forth that holds 40 people. However, by 12noon the powder frenzy had subsided leaving a ton of untouched terrain still available, and unbelievably, waits were basically one car, maybe two. Also, the lift is very short so wait times were minimal. Verbier is not Jackson Hole for sure - thankfully. Nor Big Sky.

Guidebook overview of Mount Gele North Side
Gele.JPG


FatMap views - Northwest Face
FATMAP - Verbier6.JPG


360 View
FATMAP - Verbier7.JPG




Mount Gele Northwest Side Couloirs and tram. Still plenty of room for tracks and plenty steep. Can't get enough of this lift.
IMG_1272.jpg
IMG_1274.jpg
IMG_1275.jpg
IMG_1285.jpg

IMG_1288.jpg
IMG_1296.jpg



Run#1. Skied Mount Gele Backside (east-facing) itinerary to Tortin
IMG_1240.jpg
IMG_1246.jpg
IMG_1248.jpg



Run #2 - Skied Itinerary to Le Chaux (South-facing). Snow is still holding up.
IMG_1256.jpg
IMG_1260.jpg
IMG_1262.jpg
IMG_1263.jpg
IMG_1265.jpg



Finally, started skiing the NW couloirs. Lots of blow-in and powder in the aprons.
IMG_1299.jpg
IMG_1303.jpg
IMG_1304.jpg


Another run down to Ruinettes
IMG_1319.jpg
IMG_1322.jpg
IMG_1325.jpg
IMG_1329.jpg
IMG_1330.jpg


End-of-day Verbier
IMG_1337.jpg
 

Attachments

  • IMG_1284.jpg
    IMG_1284.jpg
    394 KB · Views: 34
Last edited:

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Nice timing of this TR. Liz and I were at a get together last night of old Mammoth Forum people. One of them, Tim Connolly, has skied ~100 days in Verbier, mostly with Bob Mazarei, whom we visited with Jimmy Petterson last April 5-6. It's quite evident we need to look up Bob if we are ever in Verbier whan conditions are right.

ChrisC has the place sized up exactly right. In Feb. 2004 I was in Verbier on a daytrip from Chamonix. Verbier was by far the largest single lift connected ski area I had seen at the time.
Who might not like it? Intermediates. There is surprisingly little terrain. And the 4 Vallees does not connect well since there is very challenging terrain from Verbier to Tortin. And the connection to Thyon is 1970s/80s disaster of Euro surface lifts. And Savoleyres is also cut-off from the rest of the area. Too many Buts/Ands. Not sure why the high-end [meaning wealthy. TC] skiers chose it over other destinations.
Now that I've skied 63 places in the Alps, yes the pisted area of Verbier proper is modest by Alps standards. In terms of unusual proportion of accessible piste vs. off-piste, Engelberg is similar though not as expansive.

Given very limited time that day in 2004, I did figure out if I was going to ski one ~2 hour itinerary on my own, it would include Mont Gele to Tortin. I don't think there are any groomed pistes from Mont Gele; that probably limits the crowds. Did ChrisC mention if he was guided Feb. 12-16, 2019? If not, that was an impressive job of route navigation. Was there any concern about snow stability?

I doubt I ever looked twice at the Attellas to Mayentzet off-piste. That's very sunny exposure and similarly exposed pistes coming back into Verbier at the end of the day were slushy even in 2004. Gentianes to Tortin is the only off piste I skied this year in Verbier, but even in 2004 it was famous enough to have lots of moguls. So in both of the above examples ChricC really scored with the powder in 2019, comparable to our Zermatt/Cervinia experiences.

We will definitely keep an eye on Verbier for our late January/early February trips. Adequate coverage for the off piste will be the key concern then.
 
Last edited:

ChrisC

Well-known member
Given very limited time that day in 2004, I did figure out if I was going to ski one ~2 hour itinerary on my own, it would include Mont Gele to Tortin. I don't think there are any groomed pistes from Mont Gele; that probably limits the crowds. Did ChrisC mention if he was guided Feb. 12-16, 2019? If not, that was an impressive job of route navigation. Was there any concern about snow stability?

I was a little loose with 'best practices' on the first two days at Verbier. Had my gear and Avalanche Rating was a 3 for both days - not bad, but not great. It was a little risky to be out on the Attelas couloirs on day 1, and the front NW couloirs on day 2. However, these get decently skier-packed throughout the season, but still..... I believe the itineraries that are marked, and patrolled are semi-controlled.??

Guided Freeride skiing at Verbier is a bit odd compared to other places like Val d'Isere, St Anton, Engelberg, etc. For a world-renowned off-piste mecca, there are no daily groups you can join. The local guide office & Adrenalin school try to run an off-piste group only on Wednesdays - but with a minimum of 4 skiers at 150 CHF/each. They did not meet the minimum amount this week. Odd.

On day 3, I finally got my own private guide. The Mont Fort tram had been closed, so it meant that the 'Backside of Mont Fort" was unskied - perhaps Verbier's most famous off-piste lines. This is not a run where you just follow the herds or befriend someone and nor is it visible from the ski area.

Also, not every ski school can supply guides for off-piste glacier skiing since they do not have the proper certification. Therefore, I finally just sucked it up and got my own private guide for half a day AM from the Verbier Guide Bureau. Expensive (275+ CHF), but the conditions really warranted it - and I was liable to get into some trouble.

I did not do this - the private guide option while in St. Anton with my brother - since they could not guarantee 'Back of the Valluga', and there was a lot of good snow easily accessible. We just did 2 group guided days, but groups no longer ski the Valluga backside. They would have 3-5 groups of 6+ persons out each day at St. Anton. Val d'Isere works the same way. Engelberg obviously has better programs. And Andermatt tries harder than Verbier.

Likely a business opportunity lies here. This is not rocket science, there must be some other issue(s).

My goal for the guide was 1. The backside of Mont Fort and 2. some couloirs. And there are so many couloir areas - Attelas, Mont Gele front, Mont Gele to Tortin, etc.

I doubt I ever looked twice at the Attellas to Mayentzet off-piste. That's very sunny exposure and similarly exposed pistes coming back into Verbier at the end of the day were slushy even in 2004. Gentianes to Tortin is the only off piste I skied this year in Verbier, but even in 2004 it was famous enough to have lots of moguls. So in both of the above examples ChricC really scored with the powder in 2019, comparable to our Zermatt/Cervinia experiences.

We will definitely keep an eye on Verbier for our late January/early February trips. Adequate coverage for the off piste will be the key concern then.

The exposure is very sunny since the open expanse above Verbier faces southwest. Was lucky to ski it on a storm day because it does degrade in 48 hours. The couloirs are more hidden from the sun (west-northwest facing with rock walls) and preserve better.
 
Last edited:

ChrisC

Well-known member
February 14, 2019

The goal of today was to ski the Backside of Mont Fort, Verbier's highest peak. I hired a guide so I would not kill myself in the process. It's a 5000 vertical foot run far away from the resort boundaries and vantage points - and crosses glaciers - with some added couloirs too.

1580063296jpg_render.jpg



Below are the major routes down the backside of Mt. Fort. Basically, for mortals / non-mandatory airs, there are two: 1. Traditional Route (highlighted) and 2. Mont-Fort Glacier (looker's left). The glacier is a little more mellow since it's on broad open terrain and likely to hold untracked snow longer, but I wanted to do the couloirs into the powder fields. One thing with the below map - you want to be on the other side of the reservoir at the bottom.
FATMAP - Verbier8.JPG


I didn't really have time to take a bunch of photos to try to get first tracks via 2 gondolas and 2 cable cars. But mission accomplished.

Backside definitely ranks up there with some of the top off-piste runs in the Alps (5k vertical, mostly powder, off the beaten path):
  • Giraffe @Andermatt,
  • Galtiberg @Engelberg,
  • Stuben Albonagrat to Langen @Stuben/St. Anton,
  • Rendl North Faces to Pettnau am Arlberg @Rendl/St. Anton,
  • Petit Envers @Chamonix,
  • Col Pers @Val d'Isere.

Guide on Lower Part of Mt. Fort Backside. Glad he's making it safe for me?!
IMG_1301.jpg


Looking back up to Mont Fort. The traverse out is a bit long but not too bad compared to others to rejoin civilization.
IMG_1314.jpg



I stole this picture off the web to show the top half of the Backside. I didn't take photos of the couloirs, but the looker's right variant is the easier one. The more difficult couloir is the looker's left - it can narrow and be unskiable at its choke some seasons.
DSCF2404.JPG


We did a couloir from Mt. Gele afterward, specifically Le Banana. We essentially skied and hiked a bit for 15-20 minutes on the NE ridge from the cable car. A little sketchy at times, but Le Banana drops into a beautiful funnel. Access is the trickiest part. No photos, trying to focus.

Afterward, it was time for lunch. We stopped at Cabane du Mont Fort which is actually located near the base of La Chaux near the Jumbo cable car. It's one of the Haute Route cabins. Beautiful setting - definitely one of my favorites in the Alps. I also liked the food was to order at a window - so you could get as much or as little for relatively reasonable prices for Switzerland. (Part of the Freeride World Tour Finals terrain is behind the cabane in the first photo).

IMG_1442.jpg
IMG_1671.jpg


After lunch and saying goodbye to the guide I decided to go back to Mont Fort and ski the front side and take photos. A bit more mellow.


The funny dome lunch structure - not sure I am a fan?
IMG_1369.jpg
IMG_1372.jpg



Mont Fort Tram
IMG_1377.jpg
IMG_1378.jpg
IMG_1379.jpg



Need to ski the direct lift line.
IMG_1381.jpg



Mont Blanc is straight ahead and further back in photos. You access the Backside of Mont Fort at snowcat - take a left in front of it.
IMG_1383.jpg
IMG_1385.jpg
IMG_1393.jpg
IMG_1394.jpg



Photo of the Matterhorn. I think it's the one furthest back that looks quite dark.
You can also see some tracks in front of the photo - that's the Petite Mont Fort Glacier/backside variant. It's easier but wider and can hold untracked snow longer.
IMG_1397.jpg
IMG_1404.jpg



More Mont Fort tram. The groomer was fun and you could still ski powder far right or left.
IMG_1411.jpg



Finally got under the tram directly.
IMG_1428.jpg
IMG_1429.jpg
IMG_1432.jpg
IMG_1434.jpg




After a couple of tram runs, I wanted to ski another very famous Verbier off-piste run - Stairway to Heaven. It's very popular and not too steep. Why the name Stairway? Requires a 15-minute boot pack above the Tortin-Gentianes cable car. It also faces due north and is sheltered so holds the best snow on the mountain late into Spring.
IMG_1405.jpg
IMG_1406.jpg




Stairway to Heaven joins the itinerary from Mt. Gele. (If you are lazy, you can ski by the hike and do Highway which is steeper and less trafficked).
View from below. Still lots of untracked areas 2 days later after a storm. Stairway - looker's right. Highway - looker's left.
IMG_1365.jpg

IMG_1427.jpg
IMG_1423.jpg



And I finished up the day on Mont Gele. Notice the big line.
IMG_1354.jpg
IMG_1355.jpg
IMG_1357.jpg


Look into itinerary into Tortin
IMG_1358.jpg


Skiing NW front chutes again.
IMG_1361.jpg



To be continued.
 

Attachments

  • FATMAP - Verbier9.JPG
    FATMAP - Verbier9.JPG
    306.5 KB · Views: 32
  • IMG_1386.jpg
    IMG_1386.jpg
    447.4 KB · Views: 34
Last edited:

ChrisC

Well-known member
February 14, 2019 continued.

Checking some of the Attelas couliors again. This one is called James Blunt. My guide said I should ski them in the AM after a decent freeze. Point noted.
IMG_1444.jpg



Checking out some of the massive groomers coming off of Attelas going into Verbier. They are long and wide. Some top-notch cruising.
IMG_1450.jpg

IMG_1449.jpg



Verbier. Great afternoon light.
IMG_1456.jpg



Apres-ski time.
IMG_1458.jpg


This is Bar 1936 which serves drinks and has bands until 5pm. Nice way to watch the sun go down. It's located a few hundred feet above Verbier. A tamer version of St. Anton's Krazy Kangaroo/Moosewirt.
IMG_1629.jpg
IMG_1460.jpg

IMG_1463.jpg
IMG_1465.jpg



Verbier alpenglow
IMG_1466.jpg
IMG_1467.jpg
IMG_1469.jpg



View from room
IMG_1471.jpg
IMG_1474.jpg


By this point, I had gotten a lot of "Must Do" lines out of the way and in great conditions. The next days would be more exploring.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_1472.jpg
    IMG_1472.jpg
    192.8 KB · Views: 32
  • IMG_1453.jpg
    IMG_1453.jpg
    232 KB · Views: 32

jamesdeluxe

Administrator
Wow, paydirt -- how could you forget to post a TR of that visit? Right during the middle of the Euro school break and it looked deserted. LCC it ain't.

You walked past the watch store that I own there. :icon-lol:
img_1467-jpg.32434
 

ChrisC

Well-known member
Wow, paydirt -- how could you forget to post a TR of that visit? Right during the middle of the Euro school break and it looked deserted. LCC it ain't.

You walked past the watch store that I own there. :icon-lol:
img_1467-jpg.32434
I know .... was going to comment on your luxury watch store in downtown Verbier. Would have loved to stay at a place above it.
 
Last edited:

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Right during the middle of the Euro school break and it looked deserted.
Maybe the British and French families don't like Verbier. My day during 2004 was Feb. 19. Chamonix and Courmayeur had some chokepoint lift lines that week, while Verbier did not.

The Diamond Dogs' Zermatt trip in 2014 was Feb. 9-14 and not that crowded with conditions similar to this TR. Fraser said at the time that the British and French holidays that slam the French resorts have little impact upon Zermatt, and perhaps that's true for Verbier also.
 

jamesdeluxe

Administrator
The Diamond Dogs' Zermatt trip in 2014 was Feb. 9-14 and not that crowded with conditions similar to this TR
I've never been to Zermatt but doesn't it have a type of "Aspen effect" similar to what we've ascribed to St. Moritz -- or is that apples and oranges?
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Drive distances from airports are similar. Zermatt is 2:40 from Geneva and 3:30 from Zurich. St. Moritz is 2:40 from Zurich and 3:30 from Milan. If driving you must switch to train from Tasch up to Zermatt.

Verbier is only 1:50 from GVA. I suspect the lodging cost issue is the big deterrent to school holidays in Verbier.

The school holiday market probably wants those big on-mountain apartment complexes that many of the French resorts have. Sbooker seems to feel that way too.
 

ChrisC

Well-known member
February 15, 2019

Decided to see the outlying areas of the 4 Vallees today, so lots of mileage. Trying to get from Verbier out to Nendaz, Veysonnaz, Mayens-de-L'Ours, Les Masses, Siviez, etc. and back.

1580063296jpg_render.jpg


Early ride up the Funispace gondola looking at couloirs:
(Late afternoon photo - but wanted to show how this lift traverses the Attelas couliors)
IMG_1615.jpg

This sketchy couloir is Three Fingers - one of the worst from the top.
IMG_1478.jpg




The ski over to Nendaz is quite nice now. They have replaced the old t-bars and trams with modern gondolas. Thumbs up. There is pretty interesting skiing coming off the Plan-du-Fou summit.
IMG_1480.jpg
IMG_1481.jpg
IMG_1482.jpg



Nendaz was more typical groomers. They only have snowmaking on one way down to the resort/village. I skied the natural snow variant - horrible. Stone grind. If you cannot keep a decent base in mid-February on a key run, it's time for snowmaking.

IMG_1489.jpg



View into Scion/Rhone Valley. This is the heart of the Valias wine-making region. Switzerland produces very good white wines that rarely get exported since they are consumed within borders or the EU.
IMG_1496.jpg
IMG_1497.jpg


Nendaz
IMG_1504.jpg



Views of off-piste terrain from Verbier-to-Nendaz. I'm sure this stays great for days due to access.
IMG_1507.jpg



Tram back up to Plan-du-Fou. Lots of nice expert chutes here with a north aspect.
IMG_1508.jpg

IMG_1510.jpg


Plan-du-Fou to Siviez. Backside of Mont Fort is to the looker's right. Note the hydroelectric dam in the center.
IMG_1513.jpg




Welcome to the retro side of the 4 Vallees. And not in a good way. I skied this sector almost 20 years ago - and it's still the same sh-t show. Zero investment. Zero improvements. What the heck is going on by this lift company? They have nearly 10 surface lifts, one old chairlift, and limited snowmaking seving the connection from Siviez/Verbier to Veysonnaz. Some nice terrain - but totally underutilized.

Double T-bars to Greppon Blanc. (Too bad most intermediates and children were falling off and could not make the interconnection).
IMG_1516.jpg


Looking over to Mont Gele from Greppon Blanc.
IMG_1519.jpg
IMG_1520.jpg



Looking over to the uninspired network of surface lifts and catwalks to Veysonnaz. About 3 HS lifts could fix everything. Don't understand the lack of investment. 4 Vallees really skis like 3 Vallees since one valley is practically cut off due to lack of technology. The terrain is there.
IMG_1523.jpg



The gondola and FIS course down to Veysonnaz. Skied more like a hard-packed New England run. Fun and fast. Different climate here than Verbier - even though they are similar in altitude.
IMG_1524.jpg



Skiing down below Thyon to Les Masses. Lots of new home construction.
IMG_1528.jpg
IMG_1529.jpg



The Etherolla lift has some nice skiing in this sector. It's a little low, east-facing, and exposed so the off-piste was not worthwhile, but likely good right after a storm.
IMG_1535.jpg



The Swiss are OBSESSED with skiers scaring wild animals in the forest. They asked what we do in the USA? I replied - the animals have so much forest it's not an issue. And most get scared and get out of your way. Maybe a porcupine or a fox hangs out with skiers, but usually we show healthy respect in the woods. But this is a serious transgression in Switzerland - big fines if caught scaring the deer.
IMG_1537.jpg



Nendaz from across the valley
IMG_1539.jpg



Working back to Verbier - Greppon Blanc surface lifts
IMG_1548.jpg



View to Verbier/Mont Gele/Siviez
IMG_1551.jpg


Tortin
IMG_1556.jpg
IMG_1557.jpg



Back in Verbier. These are the amazing groomers off the Jumbo cable car. Lots of nice off-piste areas are still good due to elevation.
IMG_1560.jpg



To be continued.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_1506.jpg
    IMG_1506.jpg
    630.6 KB · Views: 31
Last edited:

ChrisC

Well-known member
February 15, 2019 continued.

Did a very late lunch at Cabane du Mont Fort. (I did hear at La Chaux has amazing pizza, but I get obsessed with outside/veiws/certain places.) I was trying to sample the entire menu. Some Jumbo cable car photos before eating.

IMG_1565.jpg
IMG_1571.jpg


Must be 2:30/3 pm. No crowds.
IMG_1563.jpg

IMG_1574.jpg
IMG_1575.jpg


IMG_1568.jpg
IMG_1579.jpg
IMG_1581.jpg
IMG_1584.jpg

IMG_1602.jpg
IMG_1606.jpg



This will be tomorrow's off-piste adventure - Barry's Bowl. Snow protected by Bec de Rosses. And a 15 minute hike out.
IMG_1599.jpg



Return to Verbier - You could still find fresh on North-facing chutes from Fontanet to Ruinettes
IMG_1618.jpg

IMG_1613.jpg


Overall, Verbier-Bruson-Savoleyres-Nendaz connects quite well. They need to reconsider the access to Thyon.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_1595.jpg
    IMG_1595.jpg
    266.2 KB · Views: 32
  • IMG_1600.jpg
    IMG_1600.jpg
    379.6 KB · Views: 32
  • IMG_1605.jpg
    IMG_1605.jpg
    407.2 KB · Views: 33
  • IMG_1614.jpg
    IMG_1614.jpg
    519.9 KB · Views: 31
  • IMG_1615.jpg
    IMG_1615.jpg
    399.4 KB · Views: 34
  • IMG_1588.jpg
    IMG_1588.jpg
    275.8 KB · Views: 32
  • IMG_1585.jpg
    IMG_1585.jpg
    220.1 KB · Views: 29
  • IMG_1583.jpg
    IMG_1583.jpg
    497.7 KB · Views: 31

ChrisC

Well-known member
Maybe the British and French families don't like Verbier. My day during 2004 was Feb. 19. Chamonix and Courmayeur had some chokepoint lift lines that week, while Verbier did not.

The Diamond Dogs' Zermatt trip in 2014 was Feb. 9-14 and not that crowded with conditions similar to this TR. Fraser said at the time that the British and French holidays that slam the French resorts have little impact upon Zermatt, and perhaps that's true for Verbier also.

I think the Brits, Germans, and French really go on ski weeks - the Swiss and Italians might be more weekenders. The traffic coming in/out of Geneva or Zurich on a Friday or Sunday is astounding. If you want double your drive times, get in the wrong way of one of the winter exoduses or returns.

You can also see that reflected in lodging rates - weekday vs. weekend.

I was re-reading the 'Where to Ski and Snowboard 2014' Italy section for this coming winter and came across this passage at the beginning regarding week/weekend crowds:

IMG_0997.jpg



I have always seen the French mega-resorts decently busy. Mid/late April in Val Thorens, Les Arcs or La Plagne was incredibly busy - like mid-winter.
 

ChrisC

Well-known member
Wow, paydirt -- how could you forget to post a TR of that visit? Right during the middle of the Euro school break and it looked deserted. LCC it ain't.

I am socializing or doing work when I travel, and when I get back I'm off to other things or playing catch up.

Instagram is easier since it's one highly edited, filtered, cropped photo and fifty different #'s that are vaguely relevant. And nothing needs to make sense.
 

jamesdeluxe

Administrator
The traffic coming in/out of Geneva or Zurich on a Friday or Sunday is astounding. If you want double your drive times, get in the wrong way of one of the winter exoduses or returns.
I've never experienced that but believe it. It's fascinating how Saturdays there don't have the same peak-time traffic situations as in big U.S.ski cities like Denver and SLC. Over the past 20 years, virtually all of my nonstop arrivals to Zurich, Geneva, and (last season) Milan have been on Saturdays -- I land on an early morning flight, am usually out of the airport by 9:30 am, never hit traffic, and am booting up by late morning.

'Where to Ski and Snowboard 2014'
Hah, that's the last year I bought the full version of that book. An excellent primer for Euro skiing; however, as I've noted before, you learn as much or more about British culture and preferences as you do about skiing in the Alps. :icon-lol:

I am socializing or doing work when I travel, and when I get back I'm off to other things or playing catch up.
Yeah, I get it. I recently posted a Zinal/Grimentz report five years after the fact; however, it was far from a classic powder day like this one. Sometimes I have to really push myself to finish up a piece. My main motivation is to have a quasi diary of what I've done because otherwise it would disappear into the ether and I'd forget about the entire experience.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
My main motivation is to have a quasi diary of what I've done because otherwise it would disappear into the ether and I'd forget about the entire experience.
Yes, and fortunately I have a 220MB spreadsheet documenting all of my ski days that takes maybe 10 minutes to update for a new ski day. So sometimes the detail online report can wait, though I recall James is the one who advocates for timeliness. Going through pictures is the time suck, and I'm sure that entered into ChrisC's thinking considering the impressive pics in this TR.

There is a timing pattern to most of my longer Euro ski trips. We most often land on a Thursday or Friday morning and depart very early on a Sunday morning, so we have escaped Friday night/Sunday night traffic issues. On mountain, the one weekend day that stands out for crowds was a new snow Saturday at Avoriaz, though some of that was due to upper lifts still being on weather hold. Nonetheless I have to believe that Morzine gets a lot of weekenders due to proximity to Geneva.

A Sunday at SkiWelt was very busy, though Austrian lift capacity handled that well. We were in the Dolomites over a weekend, though we skied more obscure sectors Saturday (Alpi di Suisi, Seceda) and Sunday (Grand Guerra circuit) and saved the Sella Ronda for Monday.
 
Last edited:
Top