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Europe Stop #6 – Verbier, Switzerland

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When pigs can fly, will all the crazy statements people have made over the years come true? More importantly, if billy goats could fly, would they all migrate to Verbier, Switzerland for the winter to join the lucky ones already there?

 

Fortunately, since the invention of airplanes skiers can fly, and anyone with a sense of adventure should be headed to Verbier as soon as possible, to hone their billygoating skills in one of the gnarliest mountain playgrounds on earth.

 

With Verbier scheduled as the third to last stop on our tour, nobody told us it would evolve into our last. Spending the first few days covering as much terrain as we could, it became obvious we wouldn't touch even a fraction of the terrain in the resort, not to mention the backcountry potential stretching as far as we could see. With the same tropical spring conditions that hit most of Europe, our choices were at least made easier by sticking to the highest and most northerly terrain we could find, of which there was no shortage.

 

Topping out the resort, the Mont-Fort tram spat us out at 3330m where a short traverse led to a maze of steep North and East facing ridges and chutes to session for the days to come. And in true big mountain Euro-style, the long laps finished with a descent to Lac de Cluesen, the impending traverse around it, sliding the side of a huge damn, and tucking through single track trees towards a chairlift in another village below. And every afternoon we pushed our luck further, trying to squeeze in yet another lap before the lifts closed. The fear was not of being stranded in another ski town, but of missing our daily 2 for 1 happy hour at the Pub Mont Fort.

 

When the beer started flowing so did the stories, and soon enough the drunken rumors of a huge spring storm had made it's way through the fervent crowd. If pigs could fly I might have believed that a 3-foot snowstorm was on it's way in mid April, aimed to burry sundecks, spring flowers, unsuspecting pedestrians in flip-flops, and anything else in its path. Luckily though, we were at least curious enough to stick around for the outcome… scoring more snowy bounty than any drunkard could have anticipated.

 

After 2 days of merciless snowfall, the balmy streets of Verbier in April had swung full circle back into the wintery playground we'd been looking for. With over 3 feet of freshies in the alpine and clearing skies in sight, we were in no hurry to leave. The new snow had opened up a whole new realm of tempting terrain, so we frantically skied as many easy-access laps as we could before returning to the real goods; the north face off the Mont-Fort, for unrelenting steep powder from top to bottom.

 

But it wouldn't be Verbier without a little billygoating, so to wrap the trip we climbed and skied the nearby Bec de Rosses to sample the steep venue of the annual O'Neil Extreme Freeride contest. A true billygoater's paradise, the Bec de Rosses' 45-55 face is scattered with cliffs and doglegging chutes to give any competitor or aspiring billygoater a run for their money.

 

As we milked every bit of the vacant, knee-deep bowl below, our fast-approaching flight to Canada was a dismal thought to contend with. After all, it's hard to look forward to sharing a plane seat with a pig.

 

DETAILS

 

Resort
Located in South-West
Switzerland, Verbier is best accessed from Geneva. For more info about the resort, visit the resort site at www.verbier.ch.

 

Events
Verbier is home to a few high caliber big mountain events. Find out more about the Verbier Ride and the O'Neil Extreme Freeriding contest.

 

Accommodation
If you're looking for nice accommodation to impress the girlfriend/boyfriend, be sure to try the 'Aux Vieux Valais' chalet & restaurant right in the heart of town, with incredible views of the Grand Combin across the valley.

For cheap accommodation, the local bomb shelter doubles as an underground hostel, 'The Bunker'. Yes you read that correctly, and hey, at least you'll be safe. Find out more at www.thebunker.ch/

 

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