Friday, January 21, 2011

Backcountry ski touring in Verbier

I had one of the most incredible days yesterday in Verbier, Switzerland. We came here after the World Cup in Les Contamines for a few days of free skiing.

Yesterday, a friend (the coach of Swiss Ski Cross racer Fanny Smith) took us backcountry skiing off the back of Mont Forte, Verbier. The peak reaches a massive 3300m. As you can imagine at that height, the view from the top is incredible. It’s almost as if you’re in a helicopter, looking down on the Swiss Alps. You even get a close view of Mont Blanc. Guilliame, our guide for the day, lives in Verbier, and therefore knows the mountain like the back of his hand. There’s nothing like a local to show you around the mountain!

We started the day by hiring the necessary gear; touring skis, skins (put under the skis to grip whilst climbing up hill), a beeper and a parachute pack (designed to open if caught in an avalanche or in a dangerous situation and you need protection). There wasn’t a whole heap of fresh snow, so the likelihood of an avalanche was pretty slim, but it’s always better to go out there well equipped in case! Better to be safe than sorry.

Once we reached the peak, we skied off the backside of the mountain. It was steep, rocky and pretty intimidating. We skied down an impressively steep couloir and down into the first valley. It was a good two hours of skinning up hill from there. Tough work at 3300m! The air is thin and cold.

The scenery was incredible. There was just the four of us in the middle of the Swiss Alps, with not a person, house or hint of civilisation in site.

Once we made it to the top, the ski down was well worth the hike. There was one long open section where you could just hammer down with some big swooping GS turns, making fresh tracks. We finally made it to the bottom, well below Verbier and into another town, over 5 hours later. It was an epic journey and I was absolutely spent, but so excited to have experienced something so amazing.
(On top of the World at Verbier)

(View from Mont Forte, Verbier's peak, at 3300m)

(Impressive wind lip)

(Sami, myself and Matt, ready for an epic adventure)

(Above the couloir)

(View of the couloir we just skied from the bottom)

(Skiing through tunnels)

(Exhausted from a full days hiking and skiing)

(The beautiful Swiss town of Verbier)

(Looking down onto the massive mogul field at Verbier's peak)

(Traditional Swiss raclette melting by the fire)

(Bandit in the gondola looking as though he's about to rob me...)