So there I was, sipping on a Carlsberg while listening to a cover band bust out a string of hits from the likes of AC/DC, The Stooges and The Black Keys. The musicians were dressed in drag, and as they belted out the chorus of You Shook Me All Night Long, the tambourine player jumped off the stage with a liquor bottle in hand. He started pouring booze down my throat as I looked up towards the ceiling. Just then, the roof retracted and it started snowing inside the bar. Was this some sort of dream? No. This was Sunday evening at the Après Ski Bar in Verbier, Switzerland.
Perched on a hillside, about two hours east of Geneva, this mountain town has everything you could want from a ski destination, including a raucous après scene like the aforementioned one. In addition, the terrain is seemingly endless, and whether you’re a full-time resident, a ski bum “seasonaire,” or just visiting town for a few days, you’ll be hard pressed to ski it all.
Verbier is just one of the four valleys that make up the Les 4 Vallées ski area. The other three are Nendaz, Veysonnaz and Thyon. The base of Verbier is situated at 4,921 feet above sea level, and the highest point of Les 4 Vallées, the summit of Mont Fort, is at 10,925 feet. One gondola, one chairlift and two tram rides from the base, the peak offers a spectacular view of the Alps that includes the Matterhorn to the southeast and Mont Blanc to the southwest. Between all four valleys, the area has close to a hundred different lifts, gondolas and trams that zig-zag across the vast terrain and provide access to some of the best skiing in the world. Each lift ride offers a different perspective as you gaze at the couloirs and bowls of peaks that you can ski in almost every direction.
Given the sheer size of the resort, it takes a couple of days to get your bearings. After that, it’s pretty easy to get around, though there’s always a new zone to stumble upon. Just under Mont Fort, at Col Gentianes, you have the option of heading toward any corner of the resort, and can get a prime view of the infamous Bec des Rosses, which plays host to the Xtreme Verbier freeride competition every spring. If you’re not quite ready for that challenge, you can take a high traverse that accesses a hike called Stairway to Heaven. A 15-minute climb (straight) up the bootpack gives you access to a number of wide-open powder fields along with a satisfyingly steep couloir that I felt compelled to jump into. Not a bad decision after the snow gods blessed the resort with a spring dump of waist deep snow. The turns were some of the best I’d have all season. I love it when a plan comes together.
From the top of Stairway to Heaven, you can also scout a line off the backside of Mont Gelé, which is accessed by another tram. The second tallest peak in the resort offers a variety of terrain that will likely leave you with a shit-eating grin on your face. I could go on for days about all the different peaks and valleys, but rest assured, if you like it steep and deep, you’ll be in your element here.