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Verbier, Switzerland

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Even regular visitors (myself included) find the sheer variety of runs in various directions bewildering. Like a taxi driver trying to acquire "the knowledge" in London's myriad streets, I feel I am only half way to passing my exams. Not only is Verbier's own network of pistes in the Val de Bagnes vast - it is also part of a much larger, four-valley system guaranteed to keep skiers and boarders entertained for as many weeks as they might have to spare. The choices – particularly off-piste - are boundless. An instructor or guide is highly desirable. If the snow is unusually good, there is a wonderful run, almost a vertical mile, down to Le Chable from La Chaux. (If ever you manage to ski from the top of Mont-Fort to Le Chable, you will have accomplished some 2,500 vertical metres - well over 8,000 vertical feet.) Across the valley is Mayens-De-Bruson, where many Verbier cognoscenti make for to escape the crowds on good powder days. In Verbier’s main ski area, Attelas is the starting point to reach the legendary Mont Gelé, with its experts-only front face, but a powder skier's joy on its much more benign "backside". Stairway To Heaven - a short sharp climb not far from the top of the Jumbo cable-car at the Col des Gentianes - brings skiers and riders to some quite easy and enjoyable powder-fields. Perhaps the ultimate is the back of Mont-Fort, where you can chose from couloirs of varying severity. But this should definitely not be attempted without a guide. There is also some excellent heli-skiing. The four-valley tour makes for a picturesque but relatively undemanding day's excursion.

Written by  Arnie Wilson.

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