This winter, let me bring you to my favourite playground: Verbier and its surroundings. Bursting with loads of gems, some better known than others, this amazing resort provides spectacular views over the Alps. Everyone, from those learning to ski to experienced freeriders, will enjoy themselves in this resort, which is so dear to me. Let me introduce you to my “Verbier Playground” in a series of articles.
One mountain, three facets
In this article, let’s head to the Mont-Fort, the dominating peak (3,300m!) in the Verbier 4 Vallées ski area. You are automatically drawn to this iconic mountain and its various facets, which I’m going to tell you more about below.
An exceptional viewpoint
First and foremost, it’s from the top of the Mont-Fort that you can admire an amazing, 360° panoramic view over the most stunning peaks in the Alps. All the most famous 4,000 m summits seem so close: the Mont-Blanc, the Dent Blanche, the Weisshorn, the Matterhorn and, of course, “our very own” Grand Combin! Did you know that it’s the only 4,000 m summit situated entirely in the French-speaking part of Valais? All the others share a border with either the German-speaking part of the county or with Italy. And did you know that the Grand Combin massif actually has three distinct peaks, the highest being the Combin de Grafeneire (4,313m)?
Whether on skis or by foot, it’s easy to get to the Mont-Fort to admire this spectacular view. It’s well worth the trip, both in the winter and the summer! Thrill-seekers can even launch themselves from the top and zoom down the 1,400 m-long Mont 4 zipline, while admiring the glacier underneath.
The Mont-Fort wall: the challenge for all skiers
Secondly, the Mont-Fort is THE challenge which every freerider should try at least once! This wonderful slope is very quickly covered in bumps made by other skiers, which makes the descent more technical – trust me, your thighs will definitely remember it!
The slope starts with a gradient of 35° to 40°, which can be quite impressive. However, experienced freeriders take it in their stride, and after the first few very steep meters, they can enjoy the bumps on an increasingly gentle slope. The Mont-Fort slope goes over the Tortin glacier, which is slightly south of the cable-car route (the Mont-Fort glacier is north of the Mont-Fort summit).
After the famous wall, the slopes are groomed and lead you to the Col des Gentianes, where you can either enjoy a well-earned break or head back up again with the lifts. Personally, I love to go up to the top of this mountain early in the morning, to dream in this magical setting, and, sometimes, if it has just snowed, to enjoy an exhilarating descent in fresh powder.
Backside Mont-Fort: freedom on your skis
Finally, the Mont-Fort is also the gateway to paradise. If you choose one of the famous “Backside” runs, you’ll discover lots of options, either for freeriding or ski touring. For example, after ski touring on the Grand Désert glacier or some intensive training, you can reach the Rosablanche, which is well known because of the Patrouille des Glaciers. The possibilities really are endless and, to cap it all, it’s very easy to get back to Verbier thanks to the 4 Vallées lifts. Whether you end up at the Grande Dixence dam or in Siviez, the lifts will bring you back to your starting point.
Despite the fact that the Mont-Fort is so accessible, the area behind it is both wild and peaceful. You will always be able to find a nice secluded slope or a hidden couloir.
Be careful, however! Even though it’s fairly easy to reach with the lifts, this part of the ski area is not secured. Avalanches and crevasses are common there. Never venture out there without the appropriate equipment and necessary knowledge, or hire a mountain guide, who will take you to the safest areas.