Verbier Heliskiing Hotspots
Gilbert Crettaz is the director of Adrenaline Heliski in Verbier. He has been a mountain guide in the Alps for 22 years, 15 of those based in the resort, and has led climbing and heliskiing expeditions around the world, from Alaska and Greenland to South America and the Himalayas. He shares with us the top heliskiing hotspots around Verbier.
On this drop, there is one route which is the easiest in the area, so less experienced off-piste skiers can experience heliskiing – the Grand Désert Glacier descends gently to Siviez, where you can rejoin the Four Valleys lift system. But there are more challenging runs too – a straight-line run down the Vallon of Severeu to Fionnay, which can be steep in parts and requires stable snow conditions; and the Prafleuri, which ends up at the impressive Grande Dixence dam (from where a short taxi ride takes you back into the Thyon sector).
This is the 3,672m peak you can see from Verbier, just to the right of its big sibling, the Grand Combin – what you are looking at is the steep north face. There are many different routes down and all require a little walking and an advanced level of skiing. One of the best runs takes you into the Grand Saint Bernard valley, and that means a 30-minute climb to the couloir that connects you. But it’s an incredible view and all the hiking is at the top – after that, it’s a 2,000m descent. Alternatively, there are many variations via different glaciers to Fionnay. The best skiers can take on the Little North Face, which usually has the best snow, then ski past the Brunet cabin and finish in the Bagnes Valley at Lourtier.
This is a very interesting peak, with granite cliffs that remind a lot of people of Chamonix. It’s usually an early-season drop for us, but this season it’s been a great place to ski all winter, because we’ve received a lot of snow from the west (including a huge fall at the beginning of April). Again there is so much variety. For example, the Saleinaz Glacier and the Combe d’Orny are two parallel valleys which start and finish in the same spots. Or you can go to Champex, which has some serious climbing and couloirs. And, talking of Chamonix, another route goes to Tour near Argentière in France, and we use the lifts there to return us to Switzerland.
This is the closest to my heart because I grew up in Arolla – I climbed it when I was about eight years old, and trained on it when I was preparing to be a guide. It is roughly halfway between Verbier and Zermatt, so we sometimes combine it with a drop over there, but we can also pick up from Arolla, so you can do as many laps as you like – once we did it six times, the snow was so good! It’s also the best heli destination for snowboarders, because it has a constant gradient. My favourite run is called Tsijiore Nouve, meaning The Old Dairy, and you ski between the seracs of the glacier, before finishing in a steep but not extreme couloir which keeps good snow.
Read more from Gilbert and how to prepare for Heliskiing here