12/1/11 – Fun in Britsville part I

For a couple of days this week I’ve been in Verbier. Although I’ve spent a lot of time in the Swiss Valais, until this week I have not been a great fan of this sprawling town and its giant ski area, the Four Valleys. In the past, during the half-dozen day trips I have made there from Anzere, the other side of the Rhone Valley, where I am often based, I have found it to be full of Brits, generally crowded and on the pricey side.

Camilla and Josh round the back of Mont Fort

But this month I’m risking a couple of short breaks there – and visiting people who know every nook and cranny of the mountain, away from the worn pistes and mogul-pocked itinerary runs. What a difference it makes!

Right now I’m staying with Camilla, whose family own a lovely apartment in a quiet but convenient part of town, and who I met a few years ago at the Inferno (see next week’s posts). I arrived by train and bus on Monday. On Tuesday we headed straight for her favourite spots – equipped of course with transceivers, shovels and probes, and the knowledge/training to use them – and barely saw another soul all day. The back of Mont Fort, the front of Mont Gelee, Highway and the Rock Garden were all fair game.

On this note, more and more friends these days ask me about avalanche training and off-piste courses. Interest in getting off the beaten track is rising, and I’m not surprised, given the crowded pistes of many resorts frequented by Brits. The good news is that several British companies, using both British and local mountain guides, offer plenty of courses for aspiring off-pisters – see links opposite for some of those I’ve heard good things about.

The insider Verbier experience got better and better. Yesterday, with a foot of fresh snow, we played in the Vallon D’Arby and the trees of Savoleyres. Happily for us, the bad viz had put most punters off, so we had the place to ourselves. Today we joined the Ski Club of GB leader – who I know from the leaders’ training course (see previous posts) – on his advanced day, and skied fresh powder on the much-overlooked section between Veysonnaz and Siviez, lunching especially successfully in a not-too-pricey cowshed-turned-restaurant on the Veysonnaz side.

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Filed under Off-piste, Switzerland

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