Kurt Hoy In Europe: Verbier, Switzerland

“I like a girl who’s hard to keep up with on the mountain.”–Christian Robertson

“I never have fear when my snowboard is under my feet.” Verbier’s local girl, Sophie Schaad didn’t really have to say it. We followed her up and down the bootpacks and slopes of Switzerland’s answer to Chamonix all day on Monday. That is, until we got ourselves so stuck on this exposed face that Sophie was left downclimbing (without her board under her feet) and gripped.

Verbier can definitely do that to you. There’s some easy access to the steep and burly around here, and it’s all especially “fun” with the limited snow coverage. But the season is on the upswing, and certain aspects are filled in real nice. By Tuesday it was dumping again–remember that one day of snow, one day clear cycle? It seems to be three days of snow and one day of clear now. With the new snow (and it’s good, cold snow), our Euro bros are stoked and Verbier will be going off. Call your travel agent.

Yeah, you’ve got to be on your toes when exploring, but this is also where we’ve had the best sustained powder runs of the trip–basically heli-boarding by lifts. Most of the killer runs are also certified glacier free, which means more carefree riding than at some other places.

Verbier is only an hour from Chamonix, but a much different, more Swiss village vibe: not the big city that Cham is. Town is centralized on a hillside and chalets spread out from there in a tasteful sort of Alpine sprawl. Some cool, rootsy places. Verbier should be on the top on your “places to spend a season” list for both town and terrain.

It’s a busy time at resorts all around Europe because of winter holidays, but it’s not really a problem once you get out of the base area. The mountains are huge and not many people go off piste, especially if a hike is required. Verbier actually has some pretty sweet long groomers, too. From the top of Mont Fort, where a lot of the good riding is, you can pick out the Matterhorn near Zermatt and still see the Mont Blanc.

Riding from top to bottom (through an especially rad gully) can take a while at Verbier. On the way, don’t be surprised to come maching over a knoll to find a guy traversing the run on a ski bike. This is also the place for sledding down the runs–anything goes.

Monday was St. Valentine’s Day and not too romantic with Jason and Christian and our three bags of clothes that need to be washed. I left those guys in Verbier after riding a half day on Wednesday (still snowing) and split for a little town called Sierre to pick up Shannon Melhuse–we’re going to rally around for a while together.

While you’re in Verbier, sample some of the Valais region’s wines–pretty well-known. On snowy days, ride the trees for a while and then the Sports Center is a good call–swimming pool for seven francs and internet access to write home and tell people that you’re swimming (1 franc for three minutes). Oh, a dollar is worth about one and a half Swiss francs.

Next stop: mingling in the midst of the Matterhorn and being full-on tourists in Zermatt–such a famous resort that even my mom has heard of it. I’ll let you know. From there it’s east toward St. Moritz, Laax, and Austria (Italy, too, if the snow gets good down there).