Swiss winter sports resort Verbier has been on many a freeskier’s and freerider’s menu for a long time. In 1996 a new breed of freeride challenges was born at the Bec des Rosses: The infamous Xtreme Verbier. Initially conceived for the fiercest of snowboarders, it opened up for participants on two boards in 2004. Since then, the Xtreme Verbier has been the grand finale of the annual Freeride World Tour.
Verbier itself is the gateway to the 4-Vallées. Take the gondola up from Médran (1532m) and you’re smack in the middle of this fantastic resort. Together with neighbouring resorts Savoleyres/La Tzoumaz and Bruson, you can roam 195km of piste and chose between 34 lifts. We asked Swiss snowboard pro Emilien Badoux on to tell us about off piste variations and his favourite freeride runs.
Emile, on which mountain are your favourite runs located?
My freeride mountain of choice is the Bec des Rosses. Its runs are long and extremely steep! Another plus for freeriders is the huge selection of variations you can take. Bec des Rosses is a mighty range reaching up to 3222m. Rookies should definitely hire a guide to go up there; it’s not an environment for beginners, mind you. Bec is only for experienced freeskiers and riders who can handle steep terrain and its intrinsic dangers.
Verbier also offers less demanding freeride runs for sure...
Whenever I go hiking in the backcountry, my favourite spot is the Mont Gelé. They have reinstalled the old cable car from the 1970s only recently, which adds to its charm, at least for me! With only this gondola going up to the top, you have an incredible choice of powder runs. Apart from that, the snow stays virginal much longer since there’s only limited access to Mont Gelé; it offers powder runs to every level of riding. Having said that, first time visitors should stick to the marked runs. Once you’ve got the hang of it, and figured out the environment, you can pick traverses that will take you to some steep and dainty couloirs.
What’s your favourite ski hut in the region?
That’s an easy one: The Igloo in Gentianes for its excellent food and classy atmosphere.
And which bars can you recommend to take the edge off a hard day of riding?
Most freeriders hang out at the Offshore Coffee Bar, located close to the valley station of the Médran gondola.
Any party locations you’d like to share with our readers?
The best club in town is the Farm Club at the Nevai Hotel. It’s really heating up at night and I have been to some memorable parties there. Farm Club is run by two Italians, Giuseppe and Serafino Beradi, who know how to turn on party people.
Which shops can you recommend in town?
Check out the Ski Service Shop at Rue de Médran 16. It’s a shop that has been around for the last 40 years, the guys there are very helpful and kind. They also offer a great selection of top quality rental equipment.
You mentioned that Bec des Rosses should be ridden only with a good freeriding guide. Where do I find one in Verbier?
If you’re looking for a guide, book one of the locals who work for the ‘Bureau des Guides’ which is situated at the Rue de la Poste in Verbier. They know the entire Verbier backcountry like the back of their hand and even published a book on freeriding in Verbier.