The Secret Skier has experience of the slopes in North and South America and in Europe. Armed with his International Ski Instructors Qualification (ISIA) he has taught a wide range of abilities from rookies to racers. He also has a thorough knowledge of the 4 Vallées and so is in an excellent position to give Open Secret some insight. Here he considers 3 different levels of difficulty and suggests possible routes for success in the nearby slopes. There is no doubt that here is something for everyone.
Skiing for softies
Nendaz has an ideal beginners area and also allows an excellent progression once first turns are mastered. As the top of Tracouet is a frozen lake, there is a large flat area where first-timers can get used to their movements on snow. This is especially good for young children as a number of ski schools have interesting play equipment in this area. A gentle draglift, Lac, introduces skiers or boarders to uplift. From here the blue runs, Dent and Jean-Pierre, are very accessible. Once confident on these, Alpage can be attempted and it is all downhill from there!
Red letter day
The 4 Vallées represent a haven for piste-cruisers with an abundance of red runs that allow high ski mileage with very limited need for repetition. Nendaz has long and interesting runs down from Tracouet both to the village as well as to Prarion. From here all 223km of the Printse network is fairly accessible and the black run from Greppon Blanc, when pisted, is good to attempt if keen to conquer your first run at the higher grade. Veysonnaz, Thyon and Verbier too all have long descents to satisfy the intermediate although coming back from Verbier might involve taking a lift down from either Chassoure or Col des Gentianes, with these itineraries only advisable for confident and advanced skiers. If skiing back in to Nendaz, the Plan-du-Fou cable car might have to be used in descent. Alternatively, a shuttle-bus from Siviez can easily be taken if intermediates wish to avoid the tricky black run down to Prarion. Note: itineraries are routes that are avalanche-controlled and marked with poles but are neither patrolled nor pisted.
Big, black and dangerous
For a challenging day’s skiing, try the legendary L’Eteygeon off-piste itinerary. Perhaps lesser known than the well tracked trails on the Verbier side such as the Col des Gentianes and Chassoure routes above Tortin, it is difficult to rival the fabulously varied descent from the peak of Greppon Blanc. From Nendaz, ski from Tracouet to Prarion and take the lifts up to Plan-du-Fou. From here, ski down in to the next valley towards Siviez. Then take the Combatseline chair, followed by the Greppon Blanc draglift. Once at the summit take off your skis for a short hike over the top of the peak in order to reach the start of the itinerary markers. If with a guide, it is possible to explore the whole area. Otherwise make sure the poles which mark the planned itinerary are closely followed for they guide you to a bus stop at the valley floor. The long descent eventually takes you through a forest at the bottom before arriving at the foot of the mountain in a valley dramatically overlooked by Grande Dixence, a large lake securely dammed. Shuttle buses are scheduled once an hour, from 10.30 to 15.30 although this is subject to change, so please check in resort. This bus takes you back to Les Masses. From here you are reintegrated back in to the 4 Vallées lift system. Before heading back to Nendaz, why not try Piste de L’Ours, next to Thyon, well known on the World Cup circuit for providing giant-slalom racers with some awkward moments? Although graded as a red run, imagine carving through gates on this long descent complete with dramatic rollers from top to bottom.,......
Of course, Nendaz itself hosts its very own freeride competition incorporating the itinerary from Plan-du-Fou towards Prarion. A visit to Nendaz would not be complete for the advanced skier without giving this steep off-piste trail a go. The black run, Les Fontaines, directly below it also has a thrilling gradient.
Finally, the Verbier-side, as mentioned before, is famous for its steeper terrain. Mont-Fort, Mont Gelé and Chassoure are all easily reached and skiable in a day. Just make sure you leave enough time to get back to Nendaz … It is quite easy to get carried away and find yourself stuck at Prarion, so leave yourself plenty of time before lift closure if you do ski Plan-du-Fou at the end of the day. Alternatively you can, of course, take the shuttle bus back from Siviez if you have been venturing into the outer reaches of the 4 Vallées.