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The Skiing - Experts Mont Fort, off piste

When you are standing at the top of Mont Fort, 3,300m above Verbier, you will be standing on top of one of the finest skiing domains in the world. Verbier and its 4 Valleys offer over 410km of trails, ranging from blissful beginner to intermediate challenges, to advanced runs reputed to make world cup class skiers hesitate. Verbier has it all. However, for this segment we will concentrate strictly on the skiing for the fit, furious group who demand to be tested.

The last 30 meters to the top of Mont Fort is a rock and ice trail along a knife-edge protected by a fixed rope. However, those with the skill and the courage to venture across (and there are many) will be rewarded by one of the most sensational panoramic views of the Alps. But again, we hasten to add, Verbier is a resort for all skiers, and in spite of its daunting reputation, it is a paradise for total beginners and those with a little more skill and confidence.

Verbier's reputation has largely been forged around its off piste skiing. This in fact almost doubles the size of its groomed terrain. Over the years, its reputation for the steep and the deep has attracted countless photographers and film crews to film the fantastic, fresh powder and brilliant sunshine. This is often combined with the element of danger that most recreational skiers would not appreciate.

Just 30 meters below the lookout point we described earlier is the top of the 3300m. Mont Fort lift. From this platform perched on the ridge, the elite skiers emerge. And make no mistake; this is an area that caters to the elite. Many will have mountain guides to lead them; they ski off the back of the Mont Fort via the Glacier de Le Grand Desert to Siviez.

This run is like helicopter skiing without the helicopter. It plunges almost vertically down steep couloirs after a traverse over cliffs. It is only for the most skillful of skiers, those that are capable of skiing all conditions from unbelievable powder to breakable crust and crud. This you will undoubtedly experience on this one devil of a ski run.

There are two reasons we highly recommend skiing with a guide. One, they will lead you to the best snow, and two, they will guide you through the safest routes. A route by the way that will take you more than 10 km. and 2,000 vertical meters.

Mont Fort, The Face
Some skiers prefer to ski the face of Mt. Fort. This Challenging bump run is one of the steepest in the Alps; and, as such, it attracts some of the best skiers in Europe. Unfortunately, on the same runs, you will also frequently see skiers that are totally out of their depth; either tumbling down the slopes or standing still, paralyzed by fear. Very often well meaning friends can be blamed for this predicament. Overconfidence is also another reason. Far, far better to join those in the cable car who know their limits and have wisely left their skis at the base. Come on up and enjoy the ride and the staggering view that takes in every mountain from The Matterhorn to Mont Blanc.

Here we should mention Tortin, one of the most challenging bump runs this side of Mont Fort. A bit of a mixture between heaven and hell, or the devil and the deep blue sea if you like. For those that are in over their heads, only Hades could be worse. However, for those adrenaline junkies with good skills and good knees this is sheer heaven. Good news waits here as well; a new 8-seater gondola is available that was authorized in the late 1990’s by Televerbier.  

About 3km as the crow flies is the summit of Mt. Gele 3,030m. For this writer this is the heart of old Verbier, and, just as it did 25 years ago, provides some of the best and wildest skiing on the mountain. Once again, this is an area for very strong skiers as each possibility drops away to such an extent that it gives many skiers vertigo. But-for those with the necessary skills - it is the stuff of dreams.