Les 4 Vallées

A ski area worthy of superlatives

Text Laurent Grabet / Photo Raphael Surmont
Date of publication Winter 2019-2020

Switzerland’s largest ski area, it is also one of its most complete. There is something for every snow sports lover at Verbier, from novice freeriders to foodies out for a Sunday ski trip.

 

Easy to reach by rail, especially from Geneva Airport, Les 4 Vallées ski area is truly in a league of its own. With its 410 kilometres of runs served by 80 ski lifts and stretching across the resorts of Verbier, Veysonnaz, Thyon, Nendaz, La Tzoumaz and Bruson, it is the largest in Switzerland and the third-biggest in Europe. One day is nowhere near enough to discover it in its entirety. In fact, it will take you all that time just to ski from one end to the other.

Les 4 Vallées is also one of the highest ski domains in Switzerland, rising as high as 3,300m. In these days of global warming, it guarantees snow, with a battery of 510 snowmaking machines in reserve just in case. The season starts here in December, without fail – and sometimes even in November – with the traditional “opening session”, where skiers dressed up as Santa Claus or Père Fouettard (St Nicholas’ helper) can ski for CHF5. The season comes to a close in mid-April.

The very best skiing
Les 4 Vallées caters for every taste and level, from beginners, freeriders and freestylers to seasoned skiers and racers. The runs are impeccably prepared and patrolled. Lovers of steep slopes and complete tranquillity make a beeline for Bruson, for a long and wild descent through the trees to Châble.

Freeriders are simply spoiled for choice, from the countless lines on the famous Mont Gelé, whose cable car was refurbished two years ago, to the Mont-Fort backside run, or one of the area’s seven ski itineraries. These runs, covered by non-packed snow, are patrolled and accessible to proficient skiers, even if they don’t have an avalanche transceiver (DVA) or any avalanche expertise. Verbier is also an Alpine mecca of heli-skiing and lies close to no fewer than four areas dedicated to it.

A visual feast
Les 4 Vallées affords unique views of the Swiss, French and Italian Alps. From the peak of Mont-Fort, at 3,300m, the eye is met by a land where the snow always lies, taking in summits as beautiful and as legendary as Les Combins, La Dent Blanche, the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc. A “photopoint” has been set up at the entrance to the cable car and allows skiers to activate the camera with their ski pass and then retrieve their photos from the website www.skiline.cc.

Les 4 Vallées has another string to its bow: its cuisine. The Verbier-Bruson sector alone is home to some 23 high-altitude restaurants and bars. The Igloo du Mont-Fort is the highest of them all, but not the largest, and serves the highest fondue in the Alps. Verbier? It’s a place that only superlatives can describe.

www.4vallees.ch

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