5 REASONS WHY YOU’LL LOVE SKIING IN THE 4 VALLÉES (EVEN DURING COVID-19)
by Alexandra Osváth
4 valleys, 6 resorts, 410 kilometres of pistes. If you’re looking for the best ski resorts near Geneva, try the largest ski area in Switzerland, the 4 Vallées.
We usually ski in the Franco-Swiss Portes du Soleil, but with the French side closed due to the pandemic, the ski area has become much smaller. This drove us to try the 4 Vallées, and we quickly realized why it’s so popular.
Arguably the best Swiss skiing near Geneva and accessible by car or by public transport, it’s great for a ski day, a weekend away or a longer winter break.
Read on for 5 reasons you’ll want to become regulars at the 4 Vallées.
1. A HUGE, INTERCONNECTED SKI AREA
We spent our Christmas holidays in Verbier – and the skiing really is worth all the hype. Beautifully maintained pistes, incredible mountain views, great food, and efficient and socially distanced queues (which were quite long at the base of the resort during the Christmas holidays, but that’s to be expected).
But as we’re not particularly early risers (to be fair, I’m not an early riser), it was difficult to try to ski the entire area starting in Verbier, which is on the far right side of the map. You can ski uninterrupted from one resort to the next, or take a gondola down to skip particularly difficult pistes or itineraries (more on that later). While the resorts are interconnected, you have to keep an eye on the clock to make sure you time your return back – one afternoon they restarted a chairlift for us and a few other skiers as we raced back to Verbier!
So we decided to go back to the 4 Vallées for a ski day, but start in Nendaz so we were more centrally located. You can drive up to Siviez too and park there, which is even more central – so we might try that in the future. We loved exploring the ski resorts on the left side of the map, from Nendaz to Siviez, Veysonnaz and Thyon. Even though it was a Saturday the slopes weren’t very crowded, and we really enjoyed the panoramic mountain views and challenging terrain.
2. THE VIEWS FROM MONT FORT AT 3300 M (NEARLY 11,000 FT)
One word: stunning. Even non-skiers can get their dose of 365 degree mountain views at Mont Fort. Try to spot the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, and other iconic mountains. Perched on a glacier, the cold is the only reason you’ll want to leave this incredible spot.
Very experienced skiers can try the itinerary or backcountry skiing from Mont Fort, but it’s a good idea to go with a guide as there’s quite a high risk of avalanches. Otherwise, take the aerial tram back down to the Mont Fort on-piste ski area.
3. SKIING IN SWITZERLAND: COVID-19 SAFETY MEASURES
Social distancing in queues, reduced capacity on gondolas and aerial trams, takeaway only from restaurants… Get ready to ski, pandemic-style. We were quite relieved to see these measures in place, and generally felt quite comfortable on the slopes. Verbier in particular has cracked down on pandemic safety measures, deploying “COVID angels” to keep an eye on distancing in the queues and hand out masks to anyone not wearing one.
You don’t have to wear a mask while skiing, just when you’re in line, on lifts, or in busy pedestrian areas in the villages.
With non-essential shops closed again, what about ski rentals? Don’t worry, ski rental shops in Switzerland will stay open – find out more here.
Our only complaint is that the aerial trams were still very full. There was a little ventilation on top of the trams, but it wasn’t enough to make us feel completely safe. As for gondolas, we preferred to have our own when possible, but we were okay sharing with up to two other people on larger gondolas. The resorts now have signs asking skiers to keep the windows open on gondolas, too.
For more on our experience skiing in Switzerland during COVID-19, read this.
4. WORLD-CLASS OFF-PISTE SKIING NEAR GENEVA
This is definitely beyond our level, but experienced off-piste skiers will find powder and adventure in the 4 Vallées. Several resorts have what’s called “itineraries”, which are marked in yellow on the map. These are basically off-piste routes that are marked by poles, so you won’t get lost – but they’re not controlled for avalanches. If you’re not sure if you can ski them, talk to your ski instructor.
5. GREAT FOOD – YES, AT A SKI RESORT
Many European resorts feature great alpine dishes, and the 4 Vallées are no different. Of course things are different this year as the restaurants and bars are now restricted to takeaway only, even on the slopes. But many restaurants are getting creative – who would have thought a raclette sandwich was the perfect energy boost?
We particularly loved the Cabane Mont Fort, a restaurant and inn perched on a sea of snow, surrounded by jagged mountain peaks. You can access it from the pistes in the Mont Fort ski area.
We also tried several restaurants in Verbier and the food was always excellent – even as takeaway.
As for après-ski, it’s pretty non-existent this year but that’s a small price to pay for incredible skiing near Geneva during COVID-19.
Official 4 Vallées website: http://www.4vallees.ch/en/index.htm
4 Vallées COVID-19 measures: http://www.4vallees.ch/en/covid-current-measures-fp48064.html
Official Verbier website: https://www.verbier.ch/winter/
We also loved snowshoeing in Verbier – a real winter wonderland.
Buy your lift tickets online in advance, so you can skip the queues.
Always wanted to try skiing, but not sure it’s for you? Nendaz and Veysonnaz are offering a “Special Beginner Offer”, valid on several weekends this winter.
Check it out here.