Powder snow and a sense of boundless freedom
Valais: 36 ski areas, 2,000 kilometres of marked pistes. The pristine, snow-covered slopes draw large numbers of freeride enthusiasts, keen to explore this vast winter landscape. In Valais, "freetracks" and "itineraries" - runs that are marked and secured but not groomed - guarantee a thrilling experience for powder fans. 19 heliski landing sites up in the mountains allow experienced freeriders to reach new heights and leave their tracks in virgin powder. Various ski areas also offer exciting descents by fatbike - for a completely new sensation of gliding over snow.
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Freedom! Freeride on the freetracks
“Freetracks” and “itineraries” are runs that are marked and secured but not groomed. These are aimed at experienced freeriders, powder fans who avoid ill-considered risks. At Verbier-Nendaz, Zinal and Zermatt, freeride enthusiasts will find dedicated terrain with immaculate landscapes, steep slopes, fresh powder – and above all that coveted blast of adrenalin. Skiers and snowboarders can also practise using their transceivers and other avalanche rescue equipment at special “Safety Parks”. Valais has three: at Verbier, Zinal and Les Crosets.
Paul-Victor Amaudruz, head of piste security at Téléverbier S.A. and mountain guide with Les Guides de Verbier:
“There’s nothing better than tracing a flowing line in fresh powder after it has snowed. I was born in the mountains and I live for skiing. The safety of my clients and of our guests is my priority, whether as a mountain guide or on the pistes. For me, a feeling of freedom means being able to let go, and this is possible specifically when I feel safe. The marked ski itineraries offer just this combination: adrenalin and the freedom to ski on the powder snow of a non-prepared run in secured terrain.”
Mr “Patrouille des Glaciers”: Florent Troillet
He already knew in 1985, at the age of 4, that one day he wanted to win the legendary Patrouille des Glaciers. In 2010, he established the record for the course with his team-mates: an objective from the very start of the race. A border guard by profession, Troillet has now retired from championship-level competition, but he is still involved with the iconic race across Valais. In 2016, he introduced two Chinese athletes with little experience of high-altitude conditions to the challenges of tackling 4,000-metre summits – and ended up accompanying them on the Patrouille.
Florent Troillet, ski mountaineering champion and winner of the Patrouille des Glaciers:
“The Patrouille des Glaciers is one of the world’s toughest ski mountaineering races. Every competitor has to be in top form, both physically and mentally. At a certain point, when the body is pushed to its limits, the motivation to reach the chosen goal and the wish to cross the finish line become a mental challenge. Preparing for the race demands a serious and regular training schedule.”
The famously long, scenic runs of Valais offer skiers endless unadulterated fun. Here, skiers enjoy runs up to 25 kilometres long – without having to take a single lift. Some physical fitness is required, and especially a love of skiing! And off you go down the perfect pistes, from the high peaks down to the valley floor – with fantastic carving conditions, challenging slopes and headlong schusses. The only reason for skiers to stop is to call at one of the many picturesque ski huts situated along the pistes.
Tip 1Fatbikes: riding the pistes on two wheels
Pure adrenalin, for spectators as much as participants! On 10 March 2018, the skilled mountain bikers competing in the Glacier Bike Downhill at Saas-Fee will be riding not on tarmac but on ice and snow - over an exhilarating descent from an altitude of 3,500 m down to 1,800 m. Thrill-seekers who would like to try riding the pistes on a bike - at rather lower speeds - can try the fatbike experience in the Goms Valley, at Grächen, in the Aletsch Arena or at Crans-Montana.15th Glacier Bike Downhill
Tip 2Alaïa Chalet
Alaïa Chalet is set to become an innovative hub for action sports, unrivalled worldwide, with skateboarding, freeskiing, snowboarding, BMX and a gym and trampoline zone. The spacious site (5,000 sq. m) will include both indoor and outdoor facilities complete with lounge bar, and will be equipped with modular elements that can be reconfigured according to needs. The Chalet is scheduled to open in Spring 2018.Alaïa Chalet
Tip 3The ultimate run
Alone on a high summit, admiring breathtaking mountain views before setting off down pristine snowy slopes towards the valley: heliskiing offers experienced freeriders the ultimate thrill. Valais has 19 landing sites, of which the highest are located more than 4,000 metres above sea level.
Tip 4Freeride events
Valais, and especially Verbier and Nendaz, are iconic destinations for freeride enthusiasts. The Freeride World Tour culminates here with the finals (Xtreme Verbier), which take place on the sheer face of the Bec des Rosses between 31 March and 8 April 2018. High thrills are also guaranteed at an earlier qualifying event, the Nendaz Freeride on 16 and 17 March.Xtreme Verbier
Tip 5Ski touring events
The ski touring scene is booming, with ski mountaineering competitions becoming ever more popular. The iconic Patrouille des Glaciers takes place from 17 to 21 April 2018: an international military ski mountaineering race organised by the Swiss army, also open to civilian teams. This is one of the world's toughest sporting contests, with teams required to conquer 110 "effective kilometres" from Zermatt to Verbier via Arolla. Enthusiasts who prefer a gentler challenge can take part in the Petit Défi des Faverges (1,980 m of climb, 23 km distance) on 17 March 2018. The Grand Défi on the same date extends for 30 km, with 2,850 m of climb.Patrouille des Glaciers from 17 to 21 April 2018
The magic of winter in Valais – in figures
- 2,000 kilometres of piste
- 45 peaks higher than 4,000 metres
- 36 ski areas
- 6 spa resorts
- 75 gourmet restaurants
- 1040 Gault&Millau points
- 12 Michelin stars