Skiing and la Chaux Essay

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eFor serious off-piste routes and for mogul fields, Verbier is one of the world’s cult resorts. For vibrant nightlife, too, it is difficult to beat. At first, with its claimed 410km of pistes, Verbier also seems to rank alongside the French mega-networks as a dream resort for keen piste skiers who like to ski for a week without doing the same run twice. But if the French 3 Vallées floats your boat, you may be sorely disappointed by the Swiss 4 Vallées. The network is an inconveniently sprawling affair, with lots of tedious links.
Verbier’s local pistes leave a lot to be desired, too: in comparison with the slopes of somewhere like Courchevel, they are distinctly limited. A good intermediate skier could cover them in a day. This is partly because many of the runs that could and should be black pistes are classified as unpatrolled itinéraires – something that we have been moaning about for years. Read the full guide | Verbier overview | Verbier piste guide | The best chalets and hotels | Restaurants and nightlife |
Extent of the slopes
Very spread out
Savoleyres is a small area effectively isolated from the major network, reached by a gondola from the north-west end of the village. This area is underrated and generally underused. A new access gondola from the central nursery slopes is planned, but has been repeatedly delayed. It has open, sunny slopes on the front side, and long, pleasantly wooded, shadier runs on the back. You can take a catwalk across from Savoleyres to the foot of Verbier’s main slopes.
These are served by lifts from Médran, at the opposite end of the village. Two gondolas rise to Les Ruinettes and then a gondola and chairlift continue on to Les Attelas. From Les Attelas a small cable car goes up to Mont-Gelé, for steep off-piste runs only. Heading down instead, you can go back westwards to Les Ruinettes, south to La Chaux or north to Lac des Vaux. From Lac des Vaux chairs go to Les Attelas and to Chassoure, the top of a wide, steep and shady off-piste mogul field going down to Tortin, with a gondola back.
You can also ride a chondola from Les Ruinettes to the sunny, easy slopes of La Chaux. At the bottom of these slopes a jumbo cable car goes up to Col des Gentianes and the glacier area. The lovely, often quiet, red run back down to La Chaux is one of our favourites. A second, much smaller cable car (now with new panoramic cabins) goes up from Gentianes to the Mont-Fort glacier. From the top, there’s only a long, steep black run back down. From Gentianes you can head down on another off-piste route to Tortin; the whole north-facing run from the top to Tortin is almost 1300m vertical. A cable car returns to Col des Gentianes.
Below Tortin is the gateway to the rest of the 4 Valleys, Siviez. From here, a ridiculously outdated chair goes off into the long, thin Nendaz sector. A fast quad heads the other way towards Veysonnaz-Thyon, via a couple of drags and a lot of catwalks.
Allow plenty of time to get to and from these remote corners – the taxi-rides home are expensive.
The slopes of Bruson, across the valley from Verbier, are described briefly at the end of this chapter.
Verbier piste map
Fast lifts
Locally fine
The main access lifts are gondolas and chairs. Further afield, more upgrades are needed to improve links throughout the 4 Valleys (especially between Siviez and Veysonnaz-Thyon, where draglifts are the norm).
Not the problem they were
Queues have been greatly eased by investment in powerful new lifts and have barely been a problem for reporters over the past few years. There may be queues at Médran if Sunday visitors fill the gondola from Le Châble, but they shift quickly.
Queues still occur for outdated lifts in the outlying 4 Valleys resorts, and the quad at Siviez gets busy at peak times and if the weather is poor.
The quiet Savoleyres is generally queue-free.
Terrain parks
Expert and beginner options
The Swatch Snowpark, Verbier’s main freestyle area,