Three trains, two trams, and a wild snowmobile ride through the snowy Swiss village of Bettmeralp all before 9am. This is how we roll on a ski trip to the Swiss Alps. No need for a rental car, when you travel by train to the base of ski resorts with your Swiss Pass, your ski day moves with Rolex precision. This morning we were in the charming ski town of Adelboden, now we are ready to ski Aletsch Arena after a snowmobile delivers us from the tram to our chalet Hotel Alpfrieden.
A quick check in and a ski through the center of the village, no streets or cars here, and we are loading a six pack chairlift, the first of 35 lifts connecting three mountain villages many miles apart.
The Eggishorn Tram brings us to 9,412′ and a spectacular view of The Alps’ most iconic 13,000-footers, the Jungrau, Eiger, and Mönch. Shimmering below is the extraordinary Aletsch Glacier – at 14-miles long it is the largest ice flow in the Alps. Our long ski run down is equally exciting, a narrow expert cat track swerves its way down the mountainside with fences on both sides, and serious cliffs beyond.
Most skiers have never heard of Aletsch Arena, as it is a recent branding since the interconnection of three popular Swiss ski areas – Fiescheralp, Bettmeralp and Riederalp. Suffice it to say you will be hearing more about Aletsch Arena. The skiing is amazing…so was our appetite after skiing mile after mile of prepared ski slopes and some powder in between. Fortunately Swiss flags along the trailside waved us in to a delightful hut for hearty Rösti potatoes and Goulash served with local cheese, fresh baked bread, and of course – Swiss wine and steins of beer.
At day’s end we ski back to Bettmeralp’s beautiful village, skiing by mothers pulling sleds piled with kids and provisions, passing boutiques and Swiss cafes. I was truly tempted to ski right into a postcard perfect pub, but shedding our clammy ski boots at our chalet before après ski was priority. Europeans like to party hearty in their ski gear, instructors and guides get liquored up in their uniforms – very laissez faire. These Swiss ski towns get pretty lively when the lifts stop. After hoisting beers and toasting to our great skiing, delicious Swiss fondue hit the spot for dinner by a fire. The next day it was on to Verbier (tram to trains to a gondola).
Verbier’s venerable reputation for steeps did not disappoint us, and we have skied some extreme ski terrain (Jackson Hole, Big Sky, Snowbird/Alta, Delirium Dive at Sunshine, Whistler/Blackcomb). Verbier is the biggest of Les 4 Vallées, the four valleys including Nendaz, Veysonnaz and Thyon, which is comprised of 92 interconnected ski lifts and 256 miles of prepared ski runs plus endless miles of extreme off-piste terrain.
Verbier’s slopes drop fast from the stunning Mont Fort’s 10,925′ summit, where nothing is groomed, its barely marked, so focus on the falline, not just the fantastic views of Mount Blanc and the Matterhorn.
With so much big mountain skiing and 38 on-mountain restaurants including James Blunt’s place, you need to be reminded to save amps for après ski. Verbier deserves black diamond designation both on and off the slopes. Verbier’s stylish village of ritzy hotels and tony boutiques gets wild in early evening as young free skiers, well-healed celebs and wealthy vacationers turn bars like The Farinet into an alpine frat party.
We partied plenty with our very fun Verbier ski peeps, but were pleased to retreat to our peaceful posh 4-star Chalet de Flore for a fluffy duvet and down time. Put Verbier on your ski list, then save up (yes, its Swiss Francs and its pricey), and rest up for this very extreme Swiss ski resort.
Switzerland Photos by Greg Burke
See more of our Swiss ski adventure in Zermatt and Saas Fee