With a huge variety of terrain to explore, Verbier is considered a paradise for freeriders. The mountains provide some of the most challenging off-piste terrain in the Alps, yet the areas are easily accessible, either via lifts or after only a short hike.
And few skiers know them as well as freerider champion Xavier de le Rue. Based in Verbier, he has descended them all and was kind enough to point us in the right direction when we caught up with him for an interview.
His top choices for perfect off-piste skiing are the steep run down Mont Gelé, the Bec des Rosses – a great run below the gondola – and the Mont Fort ridge.
If you choose to explore the latter, be aware that the Mont Fort area can get a little bit overcrowded. But if you don’t mind walking a little, you can hike up to the wonderful Rosablanche mountain – about 440 metres – and ski down to the nearby village of Siviez. You will be able to enjoy 1600 vertical metres of untraced powder!
If you want to know more about Xabier and freeriding in Verbier, check out our interview
2. Engelberg Titlis
This resort is already well-known among freeriders for good reason. The huge variety of terrain includes wide open plains, narrow gulleys, jagged overhangs and glacier crevasses.
The off-piste terrain located between the Klein Titlis peak and Trübsee below offers some breath-taking scenery of glacier ice and unusual rock formations.
Our personal favourite is the Steinberg run. Located just out of the Titlis Rotair (3020m), it offers endless options for the downhill journey to Trübsee. You can ride the “Gnarly Gaff,” on the skier’s far right side or “Never Sun” on the skier’s left side.
The Laub run is certainly not for the faint-hearted; it has a 1000 meters drop with around 38-42% steepness. The descent will take you to the Gerschnial restaurant/alp hut. From here you can you walk around 15 min back to the station or take the taxi from the owners of Gerschnialp for only 3CHF per person back to the lifts.
Last but not least, there is the Galtiberg run – or as the locals call it “the Galti run.” We simply call it “2000 vertical metres of pure joy.” Since you descend the big wide open face of the glacier, make sure you don’t do the run early in the winter as there’s usually not enough snow on the crevasses. If in doubt of the snow conditions, ask the lift guys for their opinion; they are super nice and helpful!
3. Davos Klosters
The Davos and Klosters Mountain World offers freeriders beautiful powder snow as far as the eye can see and various areas to challenge your skills.
At Davos, part of the Pischa area is especially reserved for freeriders who want to enjoy snowsports the way they used to be.
In Klosters, there is the Parsenn freeride area. Here you have two great options, both of them right next to the Parsenn gondola.
The first one is a rather short but amazing run of around 400 vertical metres between section 1 and 2 of the gondola.The second, is located on your left – just as you come of the main exit – and takes you down to the gondola base station.
Both rides are dangerous regarding their exposure, so watch out for avalanches and be safe!
Although more frequented by families, the area of Madrisa also offers some fine freeriding runs; and few people ski over here! Take the long anchor lift – snowboarders, watch your bud! –, walk for 5 minutes and prepare to enjoy a descent down to the quaint village of Fideris. Make sure you check the bus schedule so you don’t have to wait long until the next bus to Klosters; there are only 5-7 buses every day so if the timing is wrong you can be stick here for a while.
If you want to be extra responsible and are serious about your safety out in the mountains, you should check out the Avalanche Training Centre on the Jakobshorn.
The ski area of Disentis 3000, in Graubünden provides great opportunities for freeriders thanks to steep slopes and deep snow almost guaranteed throughout the skiing season.
All the off-piste areas are easily reached from the lifts and to be on the safe side, before you set off you can check the daily avalanche bulleting shown at the S. Catrina cable car station (1225m), Caischavedra cable car station (1860m) and the restaurant at Lai Alv (2505m.)
If you are looking for the perfect spot to leave fresh tracks, we recommend the Val Stream descent with an impressive height drop of almost 2,000m and the Péz Ault area; the run from the top down to S.Catrina is the longest in the resort with 12km.
The ski resort also has a small snow park where you can practise your skills and an avalanche-training area where you can learn about mountain rescue equipment and avalanches as well as search for buried transceivers; all free of charge.
If you are not very familiar with this 3000m high mountain in Andermatt that’s because snowboarders and freeriders have kept it a secret for years. And it’s easy to understand why.
The summit of the glacier offers mesmerizing views of the surrounding peaks – they say you can count over 600! – and unforgettable, steep descents; if you don’t have a GoPro just yet this is the perfect excuse to get one.
One of our favourite areas is next to the well-known Bernhard Russi run – the first slope created for carvers – so you’re best advised to arrive early to avoid the crowds and enjoy glorious thick snow.
The Felsental run also provides heart-pumping adrenaline rushes. The descent of around 1600 vertical metres takes you down steep terrain at the top of the run and later fantastic, playful and bumpy terrain at the bottom. If you ride the last traverse at good speed and good snow conditions you will only have to walk for about 5 minutes until the cable car brings you up for another Felsental run!
If you feel hardcore, you should descend the Giraffe. This is the most exposed run in Gemsstock and has a steep descent at the first 500 vertical metres that make the hair at the back of your neck stand; not many skiers/snowboarders dare to go down this route.
If you decide to give it a go, you should talk to the rescue team of the ski resort. They are based at the middle station, next to the Andermatt cable car station. They are really nice and provide freeriders with tips and help.
For a memorable day out with fellow off-piste skiers, grab your camera and take the train to Oberalp Pass – the trip is really scenic –, and then walk up for 2 hours to the top of RossbodenStock. The descent from this 2836m high peak in the Saint-Gotthard Massif down to Andermatt will leave you exhausted but exhilarated.