The Four Valleys ski
area of Verbier although extensive, is only a backdrop to Verbier’s off-piste
and ski “itineraries.” These are the famous runs that are patrolled
but not groomed. Make sure you have good edges and are in full concentration
mode—especially if you are going to tackle the famous and challenging Tortin.
To access these
off-piste areas you need to take the Médran gondola, a short walk up the hill
from the Place Centrale. We took a guide and I was glad we did. Without
knowing the terrain and given the steepness of some of the couloirs and size of
the moguls, it was good to have someone with local mountain knowledge. These
areas attract the hardcore skiers and snowboarders—even more so when
there is fresh snow. You’d be forgiven for thinking the famous Stairway to
Heaven and Hidden Valley are actually groomed with the amount of tracks running
down them. There is also the north face of Mont-Fort, which has a steep and
windy entry and is really only for those not afraid of heights. There are a
number of free-riding competitions which take place in Verbier (often draws a
fun crowd and is great fun to watch with a hot-dog and vin chaud.) If you
prefer the easier slopes, go over to Savoleyres, which is south facing so great
on bad weather days too. Although, it can get pretty slushy and crowded towards
the end of the day. There are also nursery slopes on the Savoleyres side.
To make the most of
the terrain in Verbier here are my (and a source I trust, Globalista’s)
top-notch guides, instructors and equipment outfitters.
Powder Extreme: Specializes in off-piste and organizes
lessons for kiddies (+41 76 479 8771; www.powder-extreme.com).
European Snowsports: Offers on and off-piste courses for small
groups. Snowboarders should ask for Rob Norton and Hansu Kim, they are said to
be the best English speaking instructors (+41 27 771 62 22; www.europeansnowsport.co.uk).
Warren Smith Ski Academy: This
British-run outfit has even the most advanced skiers begging for more (+41 1442
832 629; www.warrensmith-skiacademy.com).
Altitude: For both ski &
snowboarding; ask for instructor John West who I read is
“brilliant” (+41 27 771 6006; www.altitude-verbier.com).
Verbier Sport: The official Swiss ski
school (+41 27 775 3363; www.ecole-de-ski-verbier.ch).
Performance: A new school (+41 79 690 97 99; www.performanceverbier.com).
Alpine Guiding: Stephen Hadik is the one to request (+41 79
Verbier Booking: Ask to be hooked up with Francois Farquet
(+41 27 775 25 11; www.verbierbooking.ch/guide).
Divaski: Love this concept run by Fiona Worthington and Annabel Dearlove, they
offer excellent technical girls-only ski retreats (+44 20 8748 6995; www.divaski.com).
Surefoot: The best boot fitter (+41 27 771 9920; www.surefoot.com).
Mountain Air: Has a great ski shop too (+41 27 771 6231; www.mountainair.com).
La Boit’askis: A family run affair, they let you keep your boots there overnight (www.boitaskis.com).