VERBIER LIFE ‘STAY AT HOME’ QUIZ

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If you’ve read your copies of Verbier Life over the years, you should be able to answer the 20 questions below – without the help of Google. See who amongst you and your friends has the best local knowledge! 

  1. Which Swiss female skier won the Verbier Xtreme in 2019?

 

  1. Who is the director of the Tourist Board?

 

  1. What’s the name of the blue flower that gives its name to one of our mountain passes?

 

  1. Which year was the first ‘Verbier Xtreme’?

 

  1. Which year was the Mont-Fort lift competed?

 

  1. What is the name of the local cow breed?

 

  1. Which two French snowboarding brothers have both won the Freeride World Tour title?

 

  1. Which English singer has a lift named after him?

 

  1. How many km is the 4 Vallées ski area?

 

  1. What is the meaning of ‘I na’ the local patois (dialect)?

 

  1. What type of creature is an ‘Alpine accentor’?

 

  1. You have skied down the Col des Mines, but do you know what was mined there?

 

  1. What is the name of the nursery slope in the centre of Verbier?

 

  1. The Vieux Bisse that you walk along in summer was man-made in which century?

 

  1. What is the French name of the Greppon Blanc intinerary known as ‘Mash’?

 

  1. What’s the name of the bus stop at the end of ‘Mash’?

 

  1. Which famous Swiss skier was named ‘Freeride Skier of the century’?

 

  1. What is the name of the famous avalanche rescue dog that the St Bernard dog foundation is named after?

 

  1. What was the name of the building replaced by Hotel Cordée?

 

  1. What is the name of the rocky outcrop overlooking Verbier just below Savoleyres?

1.Elisabeth Gerritzen

2.Simon Wiget

3.Gentian

4.1996

5.1983

6. Herens

7. Xavier and Victor De Le Rue

8. James Blunt

9. 410km

10. Snow

11. Bird

12. Lead/Silver

13. Les Moulins

14. C15th

15. L’Étygeon

16. Prapperot

17. Dominique Perret

18. Barry

19. Alba

20. La Tournelle


Mont 4 Zipline - The Highest In Then World

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August 13
A thick covering of clouds, howling wind and rain greeted us at the Col des Gentianes as Mother Nature reminded us who was in charge. Just one hour earlier I had left my house in warm sunshine: now, feeling more than a little nervous as I exited the Jumbo station, I wondered if my introduction to the 4Vallées’ latest attraction was about to be called off. Verbier ambassador, and all-round adventure poster girl, Géraldine Fasnacht, checked a forecast and confidently reassured me that the weather should clear up in an hour. If there is one person in Switzerland I know I can rely on for an accurate interpretation of meteorological data, it is highly experienced base jumper, pilot, snowboarder and explorer, Géraldine.

Sheltering in the comfort of the Gentianes Igloo, with thunder, lightning and snow whirling around outside, I enjoyed a hot coffee whilst François Fournier, Director of Nendaz Veysonnaz Remontées Mécaniques and Laurent Vaucher, CEO of Téléverbier talked to us about this impressive project, three years in the making. The main challenge of building a zip line at such high altitude, they explained, was ensuring the stability of the launch pad, since Mont-Fort is located on permafrost. Suddenly, with true Swiss punctuality and in keeping with Géraldine’s prediction, the clouds lifted and a shaft of sunlight lit up our destination – the 3,300 metre-peak of Mont-Fort and the shiny new take-off point of the world’s highest zip line. It was time to sign our disclaimers, be weighed and be fitted into our harnesses.

The views from the top of Mont-Fort partly helped distract me from what was about to take place. I have developed a mild fear of heights over the last few years and, for me, this new activity was a personal challenge, an opportunity to tackle my vertigo, fight the fear. I looked at Géraldine and told myself firmly: ‘Hey, if she can jump off the top of mountain, soar through the air in her wingsuit then surely I can throw myself off a mountain in a safe, controlled environment.’

 

The team made me feel really safe. The way the harness is fitted meant my body felt secure as I dangled over the edge before they pressed ‘go’. An initial movement forward put me in place, followed by a pause for the final check. The initial departure came as a bit of a surprise (even though I knew it was coming) – you can hear me let out a tiny yelp in the video but once I was whizzing through the air, I felt pure exhilaration. The speed was just right – exciting but not too hair-raising.

Géraldine followed a few people after me and said found the ride so exciting she was trembling – high praise indeed.

The Verbier Life verdict the zip line is a fantastic addition to the area, for both summer and winter. Don’t be intimidated by it, challenge yourself. If a scaredy-cat like me enjoyed it then the chances are, you will too.

Some tips:

I was holding a GoPro in my hand which put me off balance on the way down and caused me to twist in the harness and face backwards – I wasn’t the only one. The trick, I now know, is to stay in a straight and even position.
Make sure that if you are wearing a hat or sunglasses they fit securely, otherwise they’ll be needing a big lost property box at the bottom of the zip line.
Read the advice on the website: if you have heart/ health issues, are pregnant or have serious vertigo (not like my rather pathetic version) it’s probably not for you!

Practical information:

Access:
Paperwork and weigh-in in the Gentianes igloo.
From Verbier, take the Jumbo cable car to the Col des Gentianes.
From Nendaz, take the Siviez-Tortin chairlift then the Tortin-Gentianes cable car.

Make sure you book your descent online to ensure a place. Reservations can be made directly on the website www.mont4zipline.ch or www.easyverbier.com

Holders of VIP Pass and Openair Pass benefit from a free return trip to Mont-Fort.
Holders of a 4 Vallées annual pass benefit from a ‘2 for the price of 1’ voucher.
For annual pass holders:

  • CHF 45 adults
  • CHF 38 young and seniors
  • CHF 20 for children (from 7 -14 years of age. Minimum height 120cm and minimum weight 30kg)

Without a pass (includes a pedestrian day pass):

  • CHF 75 adults
  • CHF 64 young and seniors
  • CHF 36 for children

(Open weekends until September 2020, reopens for the winter season! )


Early Winter Season Activities

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Hawaiian-born Hans first came to Verbier 25 years ago. He fell in love with the skiing and went onto be one of the first foreigners to complete his Swiss Mountain Guide Exam. He lives here with his wife and 2 children.

You never know how or when the season is going to start. But one thing is for sure: there probably won’t be a solid base of snow. Rocks will be lurking just underneath the surface, waiting to ruin your skis, or worse – you.

Knowing what the ground is like at this early stage is a big help. Much of the terrain we ski over is grass, which means we can ski on just 30cm of fresh powder with a nice fat pair of rock skis without doing too much harm to them – or us.

Lower altitudes, below 2’300m for example, generally have fewer rocks and are therefore better suited to early winter skiing. There is usually more snow at altitude, so you need to be able to wiggle in and out of the rocky areas.

The Creblet run is a fine example where one minute you may get down it trouble-free, and the next minute you completely ruins your skis. The top is really rocky, so it’s best to go in easy and avoid the bumps, which are actually rocks. After this you’ll encounter a relatively rock-free line: down the initial throat, bearing slightly left, and then straight down; just avoid crashing into one of the many new chalets in town – which may have appeared overnight – right in the middle of your favorite run home.

Be sure to save an old pair of skis to use during the first couple of weeks of off-piste skiing in Verbier. Getting familiar with the terrain, and finding out where the rocks is best done on an old pair of skis – not to mention lighter on your wallet. Stay on top of the skis and don’t practice that “hip smear” technique this early in the season.

On the other hand, rain can fall high on the mountain at the start of the season. This rain, on top of a meter of snow, creates a solid shell over the ground rocks allowing free run off-piste skiing.

The ideal start to the winter season is lots of early snow.

This creates an insulating layer keeping the warm ground far away from the cold surface layers resulting in a stable snow pack for the rest of the winter.

What often happens however, is small amounts of snow fall in October and November. Cold nights and no sun on the north-facing slopes create a very high “temperature gradient”. This is just a fancy way to say there is a big difference between the type of snow on the ground and the type of snow at the surface.

In these conditions, the snow crystals grow quickly into angular globs, similar to the raw sugar I buy at the Migros supermarket. The snow is big grained stuff, which when covered with another layer of snow, offers virtually no support for the added weight. All it needs is some clown like me to come along and set it off, and bingo, I’m under two metres of snow hoping my friends have read up on transceiver rescue techniques. Not a great place to be, and better to stay home if you think you may end up in such a precarious situation.

The wild waterfalls past Fionnay, in the upper reaches of the Val de Bagnes, provide a superb environment for Waterfall sport climbing.

Our very own Val de Bagnes offers some of the finest ice climbs in the Alps. The first time I did one, it felt like I had walked into Mom’s kitchen, opened the cupboards, started pulling out glasses and throwing them all over the room. Glass was exploding with every axe placement, flying through the air, and crashing all around me. I kicked gleefully at the ice, destroying everything around me with my crampons. What a great way to pass the time on a calm, peaceful, alpine day in Verbier!

Progress up these vertical frozen waterfalls is assured with ropes and screws placed in the ice. Choosing the right time and the right place provides excellent entertainment, and perhaps even addiction for a new and cool lifestyle. Be sure to leave all those screws hanging off your belt when you swagger into the Pub Mt.Fort for the after-climb brew. The girls will certainly put you on their immediate “to do” list. But be sure to remove the crampons…

The ‘Guide des Cascades de Glace en suisse romande’ by Bob Rodzinski is a good guide book, covering most of the climbs this part of Switzerland.


6 Verbier Ski Tours

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The age of ski touring is here. The immense feeling of isolation in the wilderness. The sense of achievement in rising to the physical challenge and losing yourself in the gentle rhythm of your skis and poles. The sensation of your heart rate rising with altitude; a natural high elated by the fresh mountain air.

It’s easy to see why ski touring is becoming increasingly popular. But no longer just for the boldest of skiers and fittest of mountaineers, touring is becoming a window to the wild for all. Brands like Dynafit have entire ranges dedicated to on-piste touring. Splitboard popularity has boomed, now boasting a broader range of choice for snowboarders. Meanwhile, the touring range for skiers is becoming increasingly diverse, covering all manner of niche backcountry endeavours.

Here in Verbier, the trend is clear, with shops like Mountain Air selling and hiring more touring gear than ever before.

“I think in general, the number of people ski touring has grown exponentially, and I think it’s great,” says Verbier-based guide Hans Solmssen

“People tend to think guides are against that. But for me, I’ve got more work than ever because there’s more interest in it. I think it’s good for everybody.”

While the mountains should always be treated with respect, there’s plenty of easy tours around Verbier where novice tourers can experience the mountains in a new way. We sat down with Hans for his best rookie routes and tips.

1. Moay to Pasay

Ascent - 515m
Starting from the top of the Le Chable-Bruson lift, this beautiful trail winds through the forest in an easy-going and well-marked itinerary to La Pasay.

2. Pasay to Six Blanc

Ascent – 225m
Just a short hike from the Grand-Tsai drag over Col de Chargerat and up the south face brings you to the Six Blanc summit, which offers countless options for freeride descents.

3. Les Esserts to Croix de Coeur

Ascent – 500m
A lovely hike in resort offering solitude from the crowds, the tour from Les Esserts follows a mix of easy pistes and marked snowshoe routes. However, the southerly aspect on this route requires special attention in certain conditions.

4. Lourtier to Cabane Brunet

Ascent - 796 m
Starting from the La Barmasse carpark above Lourtier, this route follows a stunning path through the forest and impressive views across the valley. Descend via the road or stay overnight in Cabane Brunet.

5. Cabane Brunet to Mont Rogneux

Ascent – 980m
From Cabane Brunet, the push to Mount Rogneux is within reach for most. Passing through spectacular terrain, much of this route has a relaxed gradient. The north-facing slopes also often offer excellent snow conditions for the descent. Check the conditions at the cabane.

5. Gentianes to Rosablanche

Ascent – 800m
The route up to Rosablanche is hugely popular with slightly more experienced locals. After heading over the Col de la Chaux or down the backside of Mont Fort, the gentle ascent takes you to stunning alpine wilderness. The easy route down the glacier to Siviez is a popular choice but does have its dangers and tourers should be prepared with a crevasse rescue kit.

HANS’ HINTS

EQUIPMENT
“Obviously you need to have the shovel, probe and beacon. But your other equipment is really important too. It’s good to have light skis, but don’t go so light that your skis suck on the way down.”

APPS
“The White Risk application is really great. You can get a lot of information out of it and it has a lot of how-tos. Swiss Map is another great application. It shows the steepness of the terrain, ski itineraries and marks where you are on the map.”

BRUSH UP ON YOUR AVALANCHE SKILLS
“I would encourage people to sign up to the ISTA avalanche training system. There’s nothing on the market like it. Any other avalanche course before has been created by guides and is great for experts, but for people who don’t know much about it, I don’t think you absorb material as well as you do with this system.”

KNOW YOUR GEAR
“If you’ve got new equipment, practice using it at home. Also, when you dry your skins out, you should leave them stuck together and hang them up overnight. If they’re not very wet, don’t dry them for long, because what really degrades that glue is being exposed to the air.”

KNOW YOUR GROUP
“Finding a group of like-minded friends can be tough. Discuss everything in great detail before you leave. Things can change when you go out for the day; people suddenly have different ideas about what they want to do and talking it through before you go gives you an out.”

PLAN THE RIGHT TOUR
“Remember why we’re out there: to enjoy ourselves. To do that best, pick an itinerary that you’re well prepared for and don’t think that you have to go a certain speed or ski a certain slope. Just enjoy the freedom of the hills.”

www.swissguides.com
www.mountainairverbier.com


Best Verbier Winter Walks

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From immersive trails through Verbier’s stunning forests, to spectacular open tracks with views over the Val de Bagnes, Verbier’s winter walking trails offer something for everything. Take a break at one of the town’s best mountain restaurants and take in some of the best views in the valley with the 4 Vallées’ best winter hiking routes. Verbier truly is a winter wonderland for all.

1. Ruinette to La Chaux

This easy walk of around an hour offers some of the best views in Verbier. Enjoy the stunning panorama of the Combins masiff along this mostly flat and perfectly pisted trail. Take the lift to Ruinette or La Chaux and follow the 2.5km track.
Distance:2.5km
Vertical: 123m+
Time: 1h

2. St-Christophe

A classic winter walk in Verbier, the short stroll to St-Christophe is a favourite for locals and visitors alike. The 2km forest route from Périn or Patier leads to a charming little chapel overlooking the entire Val de Bagnes. Rising just 130m in elevation and well-signposted along the way, the walk to St-Christophe is a must for all ages.
Distance: 2km
Vertical:128m+
Time: 1h15

3. Clambin

The Clambin forest is a favourite in Verbier for both walkers and skiers. The casual stroll through the dappled light of the forest from Medran to Chez Deny restaurant and then onto Carrefour brings together some of the best walking and restaurants that Verbier has to offer.
Distance: 6km (return)
Vertical: 361m+
Time: 1h30

4. La Marlènaz

From Périn, follow the forest track up to the dramatic Chute du Bisse, where the Bisse du Levron (built in 1465) falls into a chasm at 1910m. From here, carry on to La Marlènaz; one of the best mountain restaurants in Verbier. Complete the 8km loop back down the open snow fields to Périn.
Distance: 8km
Vertical: 460m+
Time: 3h30

5. Carrefour to Namaste and Marmotte

The 2km stroll from Carrefour to two of the most popular mountain restaurants in Verbier is a must-do evening activity for all ages when conditions allow. Especially given you can sledge back down! Catch the bus to Carrefour with your sledges and follow the road up for an exceptional view over Verbier at sunset.
Distance:2km (from La Chaux)
Vertical:180m+
Time: 45m

5. Les Ruinettes to Cabane Mont-Fort

Starting at 2200m and traversing the valley to the charming Cabane Mont-Fort at 2457, this trail brings together epic views and authentic Swiss cabin fare. Take the trail from Ruinette lift station to La Chaux, then follow the signs to the picturesque cabin perched below Gentianes and the Bec des Rosses.
Distance:4km (from La Chaux)
Vertical: 324m+
Time: 1h30