Header image: Ski touring high in the Nendaz backcountry. Photo: Ryan Van Kesteren
The Swiss canton of Valais (or Wallis, if you’d prefer German) is one of the gems of European winter sports. No matter what tickles your fancy, it’s got the lot: Shredding piste? You’ve got the choice of 2,000 kilometres of some of the finest cord on offer. Prefer sipping on Pinot noir? Valais is the largest wine producing region of Switzerland. How about ski touring in the wildest locations in the Alps? Valais is home to 45 summits above 4,000 metres, including Western Europe’s second highest peak – Monte Rosa. This canton packs an alpine punch.
There are many renowned resorts nestled in this region that borders both Italy and France; Verbier, Zermatt and Saas Fee to name just a few. But why stick to the age-old clichés? We headed to the less well known resorts of Valais to meet up with the locals and learn that you can get all of the benefits of the giant resorts without the queues and extortionate prices.
Technically the largest ski area in Switzerland, as it’s part of the Swiss – French giant that is Les Portes du Soleil, you’ve got a whopping 600 km of pistes spread between 12 different resorts all accessible from the Région Dents du Midi. This means you’ve got a mighty fine range of terrain to select from, whatever your ability level. It’s impossible to get bored here.
“You’ve got a whopping 600 km of pistes spread between 12 different resorts”
We met up with local ripper and Swiss Olympian Camilla Berra to get her best spots in the area. Camilla is a born and bred Champéry local, most known for her appearance in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where she competed in the Slopestyle event. Before showing off her style in the air, Camilla had a specific run to get us warmed up on…
Région Dents du Midi is known for the “Pas de Chavanette” or the Swiss Wall to you and I. The Swiss Wall is a kilometre long vertical drop of mogul heaven for all you locked-knees mogul skiing aficionados. Now a single kilometre may seem measly at first but consider that the Swiss Wall drops away 400 metres with gradients of up to 40 degrees at the top, and you’ll soon realise that this isn’t some plucky nursery number.
Head to Région Dents du Midi if the 400km and 104km of piste in Nendaz and Aletsch Arena just aren’t enough.