Backcountry Spotlight | 5 of the Best Backcountry Descents In Région Dents du Midi

We pick out five of our favourite backcountry skiing and snowboarding descents in Région Dents du Midi

While you’ve got a whopping 600 km of pistes accessible right from your doorstep, the Swiss alpine towns of Région Dents du Midi, which sits within Les Portes du Soleil (one of the largest ski resorts in the world), is also sporting a huge variety of off piste and backcountry skiing and snowboarding. Enough, we’d like to add, to please even the most serious of the diehards amongst us.

“Les Portes du Soleil encompasses a staggering 12 different resorts”

Spanning two countries, Les Portes du Soleil encompasses a staggering 12 (yes, 12) different resorts. All of these resorts are accessible from Région Dents du Midi’s modern and extremely well connected lift network. It’s this lift network that provides the Région Dents du Midi with the longest vertical metres of descent in Les Portes du Soleil which, to us backcountry skiers, means there’s heaps of hidden powder bowls and steep couloirs to go at.

We headed to Région Dents du Midi to get a taste of some of the best backcountry skiing descents in the region. Here are a few of our favourites.

Disclaimer: If you’re planning to ski any of these descents, then please ensure you do so in stable conditions, with the correct equipment (transceiver shovel and probe), partners and correct training to perform avalanche rescue. If you’re unsure of what stable conditions are then a mountain guide will happily show you.
*Although we list some of these descents as ‘beginner’ difficulty, we mean beginner backcountry skiers. In our opinion, a beginner backcountry skier should be capable of taking on black graded slopes, in a range of conditions.
This guide has also been written assuming good snow conditions on the descents – they’re obviously going to increase in difficulty if you find them in icy conditions.

Chavanette (Swiss Wall)

Rating: ***
Difficulty: Beginner*
Equipment: Downhill skis

Now, while not strictly backcountry skiing, we couldn’t overlook the infamous Chavanette (Swiss Wall) the resort is best known for. This run sits directly below the Chavanette chairlift, which offers the best seat in the house to watch all the carnage unfold on this steep face. The Swiss Wall is a great way to tune your ski legs in a safe and controlled environment, ready for when you decide to head beyond the pistes.

While in summer, the Swiss Wall may look like a regular, extremely steep, slope, it’s in winter where it really gains its notoriety. Left as a totally un-groomed itinerary route, the Swiss Wall quickly forms some hilariously large moguls early on in the season, which quickly return – even after large snowfalls.

If you’re lucky enough to catch the Swiss Wall in safe conditions straight after a powder dump then you can quickly snag some fantastic powder conditions before the moguls make their inevitable return.

Pointe de Vorlaz: Northwest Face

Rating: ****
Difficulty: Advanced
Equipment: Touring skis

If you’ve got a head for heights, and you’re willing to work a little for your turns, the northwest face of Pointe de Vorlaz should sit right at the top of your backcountry ski descents hitlist. The descent offers a fantastic way to feel like you’re right ‘out there’ in the backcountry, without having to break too much of a sweat on the bootpack up to it.

The start of this itinerary begins by taking the northwest facing ridgeline that can be found at the top of the Cubore chairlift. A bootpack can usually be found on this ridgeline in peak winter, but if you’re lucky enough to find the face in fresh conditions then you’re going to have to set your own. The hike takes around half an hour, so pop your skis on your backpack for added comfort.

The summit of Pointe de Vorlaz feels extremely airy, with steep slopes dropping away all around you (this makes the panoramic views even more spectacular, so take it all in). You can (carefully) click into your skis from the summit to then traverse in a northwest direction to find the top of the descent. Once you’re at the top you can pick your own way down the face, with a wide open bowl quickly opening out below.

Once the meat of the powder bowl is out the way you’ll soon find yourself on mellower terrain, with the option of skiing the valley all the way down to Les Brocheaux. Alternatively, hop onto the Mossettes piste.

Pointe de Chavanette East Couloir

Rating: ***
Difficulty: Intermediate
Equipment: Downhill skis

This tasty couloir sits on the eastern side of the Cuboré chairlift. You can find it just below the summit of Pointe de Chavanette and it can be accessed straight from the chairlift. Thanks to this easy access, the couloir gets tracked out quickly after a snowfall and, being an east-facing couloir, it’s always best to save this one for early morning missions.

To access the couloir, just take a high line in an easterly direction from the Cuboré chairlift until you see a large wide opening. The top section is wide and very steep, so ensure you get yourself well out of the firing line in a safe zone as you wait for your ski buddies to join.

The couloir itself is fantastic; just that perfect blend of pitch and length, with large walls flanking you adding to the atmosphere. Once you’re out of the couloir you can head to the Ripaille Blue piste to return to the lift system.

East Face of Pointe de Chésery

Rating: *****
Difficulty: Expert
Equipment: Touring skis

Sitting on the Swiss/French border, the East Face of Pointe de Chésery is a steep skiers’ paradise, with a range of lines to be taken and a 47 degree pitch to keep you on your toes. That being said, this certainly is a line reserved for all but the most experienced skiers.

The summit of Pointe de Chésery can be found by traversing east from the top of the Rochassons chairlift. You can either hike or attach skins to make the ascent, but given it’s a 30-minute ascent, we’d recommend attaching your skins (if you’ve got a pair). Once you’re at the summit, the east face drops steeply below, so care is required.

A band of cliffs sit a few hundred metres directly below the summit, so a rightwards traverse needs to be taken to avoid going over these cliffs. Once you’re clear of the cliffs then you can choose a wide range of lines down the face before you’re spat out in the wide open, and remote, valley below. A cruise down the La Tovassière piste will bring you back to Morgins.

Pierre Plate

Rating: ****
Difficulty: Intermediate
Equipment: Downhill skis

Home to a stop on the Freeride World Qualifier circuit, Pierre Plate offers a variety of terrain and features that make it a freeride playground. The face itself can be reached by taking the Mossettes Chairlift before jumping on the piste back down towards Les Crosets. Once you reach a col (where the piste forks), you can take your skis off to begin the short bootpack up the broad summit of Croix de l’Hiver.

You’ll be able to clip into your skis from the summit, and ski the ridgeline down until you find a drop in spot that tickles your fancy. The great thing with Pierre Plate is that there is a huge range of descent options available, giving you the chance to seek out the fresh snow, if stable conditions allow.

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