Liberty Road Report 2: Disentis Hat Trick

Liberty Road Report 2: Disentis Hat Trick

Disentis, Switzerland sits in a broad valley, with superlative views. The resort is quiet the afternoon we pull in, spring sun slanting through the clouds as puddles form at the base of the main tram. The mud next to the puddles smells of grass and cows and something else – Switzerland, perhaps – a peaty nose that hints at summer. A few skiers listlessly wait for the bus, and we don’t stay long either. The lift is closing for the day, and we’ve yet to find our accommodations.

We find them at the top of the hill, in a small hamlet called Acletta, that has a view of the tram and an even better view of the peaks across the valley, which are now bathed in the soft warmth of alpenglow. The chalet is owned by Maria and Rico Flury-Valier. Maria doesn’t speak a word of English, but her welcome is as warm as the afternoon sun. The chalet will be our home for the next few days as we explore the ski station of Disentis. We’ve heard rumors of greatness, but looking at the trail map, it’s hard to see what the noise is about. There are only 5 lifts, and the terrain is hidden from our view at the base of the mountain.

It turns out that there could – and should – be a lot more talk about Disentis. The trail map’s lack of detail becomes painfully obvious the next day as we exit the main tram out of the base. And our excitement quickly turns to euphoria by the time we’re at the limit of the highest lift, a T-bar that ends nearly 6,000 vertical feet above the chalet.

Travis Redd, King Of All He Surveys. At least for today.

Discentis’ terrain is defined my massively steep faces in-bounds, precious little grooming – there only two or three groomed runs – and endless, easily accessible backcountry. The adventure starts with Val Acletta, a massive valley with three distinct drainages, numerous aspects (think sheltered powder long after a storm) and an exit that spits us out directly at our chalet, where we can either ski back down to the tram for another hour-long lap or collapse in our beds.

Val Acletta is amazing, and we spend our first day exploring the many zones it has to offer. But it turns out that as massive as this sector is – and it is four or five times the size of Jackson Hole – that this Val Acletta is nothing but a mere warm up event for the big circus.

David Lesh powder slash. 3 minutes from the top of the lift, 3:00 in the afternoon.

And that main event is an even larger valley called Val Strem that feeds down to another town, spitting you out most conveniently at a bar that is directly next to the train station, where you catch a train that takes you within walking distance of the Disentis tram so you can go back and do it all over again.

We discover this slice of heaven the day after a cold front deposits six inches of snow across Disentis and the surrounding peaks. The warm up run is, of course, Val Acletta, which is a blank tapestry of powder, awaiting our signatures. It’s so good, as it has been all week, that we have to go back and do it again.

Redd enjoying the benefits of being a pro skier in Switzerland: fresh turns all day, and no one to tell you that you can’t go ski “that line”.

Satisfied with the effort, we poke around the in-bounds terrain in Disentis before trying our luck with a bootpack off the top of the T-bar. At the top of the bootpack it becomes obvious just how vast a space we’ve stumbled upon. Massive glaciated peaks stare down at us, while an array of chutes sit below us. The main line has a mere two tracks in it, and everything else is untouched. This is Val Strem.

Travis Redd about 2000 turns away from the bottom of Val Acletta, Disentis.

The run is a slow motion montage of visuals: massive cliffs rushing past, sloughs tumbling down mini-couliors and huge high speed turns out into open bowls that spit into yet more couloirs and chutes. When it finally ends and we’re at the bar, waiting for a train (which conveniently arrives in 20 minutes, giving us just enough time to enjoy a cold beverage), it hardly feels real, a skiing fantasy that only happens in dreams.

But of course, it is real. And it remains just as good the next time we do it and even the next time after that, a Disentis hat trick that provides the best memories of the trip so far and reminds us that dreams once in a while do come true.

The beautiful hamlet of Acletta. Oh,and the car is pretty nice, too.

Details, details:

Disentis: Disentis.ch
Information on Discentis, the resort, weather and trail maps.

Flury-Valier Chalet: 081/947 46 69
You won’t fi nd this wonderful apartment for rent on the internet and you can’t book it
through Travelocity. Call Maria and Rico for availabilty and rates.

SWISS TOURISM: myswitzerland.com
Deals on traveling to and from Switzerland, background information on ski resorts everything
else you need to know (excepting how to set up secret bank accounts).

GRAUBÃœNDEN: graubuenden.ch
The most mountainous canton in Switzerland is the place to go skiing.

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