of Les 4 Vallées
The largest all-Swiss ski area, Les 4 Vallées boasts 115 runs stretching for 412 kilometres in total and weaving a network that links no fewer than six resorts together. It is no surprise, then, that it occupies a privileged position on the European skiing scene, a position enhanced by the appeal of one of the world’s most stunning free-ride areas, which makes for quite a backdrop.
While the name of Verbier is always up in lights, its ski area is far bigger than the resort itself. The appropriately named 4 Vallées extends, in fact, from both sides of the Val de Bagnes (in the west), through the untamed Vallon d’Arbi and the Val de Nendaz, and on to the Val d’Hérémence (in the east). These four valleys are joined by a welter of peaks and summits so numerous that counting them is no easy task.
From the beating heart of Verbier, the resort’s newly installed, comfortable and speedy ski lifts (82 of them at the last count) climb over the natural balconies of Savoleyres, La Croix-de-Cœur, Les Ruinettes and La Chaux, dotted on the crests of the amphitheatre formed by the resort, which faces due south, out to the Combins and Mont Blanc massifs. Panoramic is not the word. Into the bargain there is a vast range of blue and red runs for intermediate skiers to enjoy, with snow guaranteed by a battery of snow cannons should the weather fail to deliver.
On the eastern side we soar up to the peaks of Les Attelas (2,727 m), Mont Gelé (3,023 m), the Col des Gentianes (2,950 m) and, up above, Mont Fort (3,330 m), the high point of the ski area and a place that affords the most stunning views of the Pennine Alps. Anything is possible from here, provided that you have the skills. The pick of the runs are the black one that shoots down from the summit and features long moguls sections, and the yellow runs (marked but not groomed), which offer a taste of freeride. And there’s a whole host of altitude bars and restaurants to meet your R&R needs.
Over on the northern side, we swing our way through the forest to La Tzoumaz, a tranquil family resort with a newly installed travellator, making it ideal for beginners. Blues and reds also prevail here.
Lying just to the north of MontFort, Nendaz is famed for its snow cover and proud of its “families welcome” tag, as the presence of two snow gardens, two day-care centres, a snowpark, a snow tubing park and an ice rink shows. On the opposite side of the valley stands the authentically unassuming Veysonnaz, which is home to just eight runs, among them the celebrated Piste de l’Ours, the venue of many a World Cup event.
Situated on the western flank of the Val d’Hérémence, Thyon, with its three terraces ranging in altitude from 1,600 m to 2,000 m, offers copious amounts of sunshine, facilities for children (including a snow garden), a beginners-only area (with three runs), and an excellent snowpark by the name of Centralpark. Treasure hunts are also held on the blue runs.
And let us not forget the smallest ski area of them all: Bruson. Getting there involves taking the Châble gondola lift down from Verbier and then climbing back up the opposite side of the Val de Bagnes. At journey’s end lie a fistful of runs (most of them red), good snow cover, and some superb semi-wild runs through the forest, for those of you who like to go off the marked track.