The 4 Vallées is enormous. 412km of marked piste supports more freeride terrain than you can shake a ski pole at. Unfortunately, many of Verbier’s visitors never get to see the whole ski area which is a shame because with a little bit of planning, you will have one of the most fantastic ski tours of your life.
If you are an intermediate skier who is comfortable on all red runs then you are capable of making the long trip across. However, the trip over to Veysonnaz involves some unique challenges such as cat-walks, T-bars and the legendary Chassoure-Tortin itinerary route. Doesn’t sound like your cup of tea? Trust me when I say, with a guide handy, getting over to the 4th valley is one of the most satisfying experiences for any skier. You really feel like you’ve earned your day out and what’s more, the skiing over in Veysonnaz will reward your efforts to no end.
Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your 4 Vallées Tour!
Take a guide
Ok, it sounds like a cheap sales tactic, however the very nature of the 4 Vallées make it very difficult to navigate. Areas in the 3rd valley (knows as Greppon Blanc and Les Chottes) have some hidden routes which, if you miss, can leave you in a carrousel of T-bars and button lifts. One of the tricks to a successful trip across the 4 Vallées is negotiating this area with minimal fuss. Our instructors can help get you across to Veysonnaz and Thyon as efficiently as possible and ensure that you don’t end up stuck in the middle.
The way back poses its own challenges as well. Mainly, making sure you have left enough time to get the last lifts back over to Verbier. There is nothing worse than feeling rushed when you’re skiing and a mistimed tour can ruin your day in more ways than one. A taxi back to Verbier from Veysonnaz takes two hours and will cost you the best part of 500 CHF. Leaving plenty of time to get back whilst making the most of the skiing in the 4th valley requires a real knack. Again, having a guide will ensure you can actually enjoy the ski itself and not worry about the logistics of getting home in time.
It all sounds a bit stressful, eh? Well, it is a long day’s skiing so taking a guide will really help you to ensure it all runs smoothly.
Take a Flaik!
A 4 Vallées Tour will involve anything between 35 and 90 km of skiing, depending on how many of the slopes in Veysonnaz you decide to take on. Yep, that’s a heck of a lot of skiing and you can record it all by using one of European Snowsport’s Flaik GPS Trackers.
The Flaik will track your route so you can look back at it over a few beers in the evening. It will show you what runs you’ve skied, how far you went and what your top speed was. You can even compete against your friends to see who can ski the most pistes in the 4 Vallées and if one of your party gets lost then they will be easy to locate! 🙂
What can you expect to ski on your 4 Vallées Tour?
During your trip, you will encounter all the best ski pistes that the 4 Vallées has to offer. Here are just a few of the outstanding ski runs you can expect to explore:
Chassoure – Tortin (Advanced only)
En route you will encounter the legendary Chassoure-Tortin itinerary route. A mile of moguls and a real leg burner, it is a very energetic start to your day as it is only the second run you will face after a quick warm up down Lac des Vaux. After you have negotiated the sometimes terrifying traverse across a huge snow bowl, this run offers some of the best, marked freeriding in the Alps. Depending on snow conditions you can face powder, bumps and chalky wind blown snow, sometimes all in the same day.
No fear if you have not yet developed a love for the steep and bumpy as you can always take the gondola down to the bottom and continue on your journey from there.
Le Piste de L’Ours
One of my personal favourites, the Piste De L’Ours is a real rollercoaster of a run starting in Thyon (2000 metres) and finishing at the Mayens de L’Ours (1400 metres). This amazing piste used to be part of the World Cup Super-G circuit. You can really see why when you are rocketing down through the trees negotiating its steeps, rolls and tight turns. Franz Klammer – eat your heart out! The Piste de L’Ours is a real treat and it is almost worth making the trip across the 4 Vallées just to ski it!
The Veysonnaz Red
Known to many as “Le Grand” or “the longest run in resort”, the Veysonnaz Red commences at 2450 metres at Etherolla and finishes all the way down in Veysonnaz village (1400 metres). I dare you to try and tackle it in a “oner”! In all seriousness, this is one of the most spectacular pistes in any ski resort. You take in a 1000 metre descent, all in the glorious backdrop of the Rhône valley. The whole run overlooks the city of Sion and if you are extra lucky you will see a plane take off from Sion Airport over a kilometre below you on the valley floor!
Etherolla Freeride (advanced only)
For an off-piste enthusiast, the 4 Vallées Tour offers a whole host of great off-piste skiing opportunities. There are some tremendous areas on Mont Rouge, Greppon Blanc and off the Plan-du-Fou if you are heading in the Nendaz direction. However, the cream of the crop lies above Thyon 2000 on the Etherolla peak. From Etherolla, the 4th valley’s highest point, there is a whole ridgeline of fun to ski on. Tight couloirs, steeps, open powder bowls and tree skiing await you, if you know where to find it. And the best is yet to come! Unlike Verbier, there is no real freeride culture in Thyon as it is very much a family ski resort. This means that you can ski fresh lines days after the last snowfall and you are very rarely fighting for the best routes down the face.
Sash is one of those enigmas in the world of skiing; a marked run that appears to lead to nowhere. In actual fact this itinerary route (real name L’Eteygeon) is a fun park of open bowls set right back in the Swiss wilderness. It is not too challenging so is a great place to learn some off-piste technique.
When you do eventually reach the bottom of Sash (which can take up to an hour!) you are greeted by a road and a hot dog stand. It is here where you wait for the bus to take you back to Les Masses, which connects you back into the ski area. Be aware that the buses go once an hour on the half hour so it takes some planning if you want to squeeze Sash into your day’s skiing.
Will we eat on our 4 Vallées Tour?
Yes, is the short answer! There are so many great lunch stops across the 4 Vallées but it can be a little bit of a minefield if you don’t know where to look. Here are a few of my favourites:
Situated in the 3rd valley, known as Les Chottes (or “No-mans Land” to the locals) this quirky yet traditional cow barn serves up some of the best local cuisine in the whole area. With all that skiing under your belt you’re going to need a hearty meal and you need look no further than the Civet de Cerf (deer stew) served at Les Chottes. On a sunny day you can sit out on the large terrace and sample some of the region’s wines. For the more daring of you, there is a hot tub to pass a couple of hours in (often frequented by Swedish holiday makers) and I definitely recommend that you save room for dessert!
Oh, and one last thing. See if you notice anything odd about the service in Aux Chottes. It’s “highly” amusing.
If cheese is your game then La Remointz, situated half way down the Veysonnaz Red, is a great place to stop. They make, and I quote from a real cheese fanatical client of mine, “the best crôute in Switzerland”. For those of you not in the know, a crôute is wine dipped bread that is smothered in cheese and ham and then grilled in a ceramic bowl served with some cornichons and pickled onions. Proper mountain food that will see you full till next week!
Combatseline (“the Dead Duck Restaurant”)
Nicknamed “the Dead Duck Restaurant” due to its questionable decor of stuffed animals, the Combatseline self-service restaurant is one of the best quick lunch stops in the area. Situated above Siviez on the Greppon Blanc, the buffet style-self service serves a great range of soups and stews as well as a decent kids menu. The sunny terrace also makes for a great coffee stop en route across the valleys.
Ok it’s not much of a long lunch venue but the Tippee at Thyon 2000 is worth a stop for a quick coffee and a sandwich. If you want to keep the kids happy then this Indian style tippee ticks all the boxes. It has a very fun atmosphere and often has DJs and live bands playing through the afternoon.
To sum up, the 4 Valleés has so much to offer. Don’t let it sit there unused on your next trip to Verbier. Take one of our instructors for the day and ski it into the ground. You will not be disappointed!
Written by Sandy MacLaren