Verbier, Switzerland is paradise for people who love big mountains. We arrived after dark on February 20th, and skied in near-whiteout conditions on February 21st. It wasn’t until we woke up to perfectly blue skies and gorgeous mountain views everywhere we looked on February 22nd that we began to appreciate Verbier’s scale. Pascal met us at the base of the Medran Gondola, and we took it up the mountain, connected to the Funispace Tram, then took the Mont Gele Tram to the top of Mont Gele for our “warm-up” run. Or maybe Pascal thought we had warmed up sufficiently in the zero-visibility conditions the day before when we skied some of Verbier’s famous “itineraries” — in bounds, but off-piste — including Tortin. We had to wait in line for about 20 minutes, and found ourselves next to some guys from Alta, Utah. They said the pucker factor at the top of Mont Gele was intense. That gave us pause because, as I found out last week, Alta is not exactly full of mellow terrain. But we put our faith in Pascal and headed up. The views from the top were staggeringly beautiful.
We put our skis on and wrapped back around to the front face of Mont Gele (the part you see from the tram), where we dropped in to a seriously steep, rocky, line that was full of some of the best powder we had skied in Verbier.
We made our turns and had a blast as it opened up more towards the bottom. I launched, inadvertently, off a rock towards the bottom but had a nice soft landing in the fresh snow and we skied on to the Lac de Vaux Triple Lift, which took us up to Attelas and the start of the Vallon d’Arbi itinerary (see map).
We made some turns through more fluffy powder before traversing across into some steep bumps through the trees, where a buried stump stole one of Allison’s skis. The powder made for an injury-free,soft landing, but it was a monster workout to extract herself from the deep snow on the steep pitch and get her ski back on her foot. We picked up a road of sorts that had been carved into the side of the mountain with high snow walls on both sides, passed an amazing waterfall that was partially frozen, then dropped into more fresh powder down to the cat walk that took us to the base of the La Tzoumaz Gondola. That run alone was nearly 4000 feet of varied vertical bliss.
At the top of the La Tzoumaz Gondola, we traversed over towards the Croix de Coeur, then hiked up a short pitch, in awe of the glistening fresh powder all around us.
At the top of the pitch, we started a long, meandering traverse over to what Pascal described as “some good couloirs”.
Yet again, we had no real idea what to expect but put our confidence in the man who has been skiing and guiding here for 35 years. Eventually we reached some of the lightest, most wonderful, untracked powder I’ve skied anywhere.
Then we found ourselves at the top of a rather steep, narrow, tree-filled chute.
Pascal told us to pick our lines and go for it. Allison and I both found nice tree wells to swallow our lower bodies on the run, but managed to extract ourselves and make it down with no real drama. Pascal was digging the conditions as much as we were.
Allison and I have both skied Pallavicini at Arapahoe Basin, which was our previous benchmark for a steep, narrow run, and we thought this may have been steeper. We rejoined the catwalk and zipped down to the La Tzoumaz Gondola again.
At the top, we skied down the front side (facing the town of Verbier) of Savoleyres. The snow here was not as good — we went off-piste, but the snow was pretty crunchy. We parted ways with Pascal and boarded the Mayentzet Lift, connected to the Funispace Tram, and grabbed lunch at L’Olypmique, our favorite place to refuel on the mountain.
It snowed again overnight, so the skiing on February 23rd was almost as good as the day before.
On the 24th and 25th, we headed up to Mont Fort to enjoy the views and some steep bump skiing.
There is a small restaurant at the top with lovely views down the back of Mont Fort.
The views down the front side weren’t bad either.
As you can see, the only way down is through a nice mogul field.
At the Col des Gentianes, we picked up an itinerary that took us all the way down to Tortin — nearly 3600 vertical feet of mostly bump skiing and spectacular scenery.
After five days of skiing, tens of thousands of vertical feet, countless steep bump runs and powder shots, our legs were shelled. Verbier is an awe inspiring place — just make sure you stay long enough to catch a bluebird day!