Dec 11 29
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We surprised ourselves this week when we agreed that some new scenery away from the Chamonix pistes was an exciting idea… An adventurous excursion was called for, and so on Wednesday we booked bus tickets to Verbier for a full day of Swiss piste bashing. The bus only goes once a week on Thursdays, leaving Chamonix bus station at 8AM. As we walked to the bus station in early morning darkness we worried a little what the weather would do to us, the forecast read “PRECIPITATION : continuous – moderate to heavy in the morning – light in the afternoon…”! It was snowing heavily in Chamonix. Would it be similarly snowy the other side of the mountains in Switzerland? Would we spend the whole day in whiteout conditions feeling seasick trying, and failing, to see where we were going on unknown pistes?

When we arrived in Verbier after the 1 hour 15 minute ride it was snowing a lot, and it was bitterly cold.

We have passed through the Verbier resort before when we did the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt in 2007. Today’s adventure started at the same point, one of the utterly amazing and complex lift systems. First you leave the main car parking area, Châble, by bubble-car to Verbier centre. Then the same bubble-car goes round two bends where you can alight or continue on higher. Next there’s an escalator to reach another bubble-car! The lift system complexities are numerous and, for those interested in engineering, extremely varied.

As we started our first run we could hardly feel our fingers, toes, or noses, our bodies were shivering, and the whiteout was complete, we could only see a meagre 10 metres. Was today turning in to a big mistake?

In the few hours before I took this picture of Laetitia the conditions were simply too awful - we were using all our energies and concentration just to stay alive, warm, and within sight of each other!

Although there are some complex lift systems in the 4 Vallées there are also a lot of very long drag lifts…

One of many very long drag lifts vanishing in to the cloud!

Luckily, although it didn’t get any warmer, the snow and cloud did eventually clear… Phew!

Luckily in the afternoon the snow storm moved on and we were blessed with a little sunshine and great views. It also allowed us to plan our route far more easily! But boy, it was still bitterly cold!

The skiing in Verbier, like many of the enormous linked ski areas of the alps, is properly awesome. However, in my view, Chamonix skiing still has two definite advantages – the off-piste options and the incredible mountain scenery!

We reckon we covered over 70km during our day travelling through all four of the 4 Vallées. But even this only scratches the surface of the 410km of advertised piste.

Eventually we got back to Verbier and then Châble, and only just in time, for our strict 4.30PM deadline to catch the bus home to Chamonix. Missing the bus would have been a disaster! So there were three great reasons for big smiles all round:

  • We’d made it (just) in time!
  • The day’s skiing in Verbier had been fantastic – especially after the whiteout conditions had cleared!
  • The bus was warm!

Hooray! A great day's piste bashing in the 4 Vallées and now we are finally nice and warm on the bus back to Chamonix!

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