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Face To Face With The Swiss Giants

Endless slopes, summits reaching up to 3,000 metres and tons of snow. Sounds like fun? Yes, it is - freeriding in the Crans-Montana region.

When you think of Crans-Montana, it is most likely the Ski World Cup races that come to your mind, or the many vineyards at the foot of the mighty mountains. And probably not freeriding in the Rhone valley, right? But nothing ventured, nothing gained, we think, and turn on the road to Crans-Montana instead of Chamonix when we reach Martigny. There was a lot of snowfall recently and we were promised blue skies and spring sunshine for the next days. We can't wait to go on those exhilarating first runs on fresh powder and master endless tree runs.

We are among the first at the cable car station the next morning, and up we ride to the Plaine Morte glacier, the region's highest point. Already from above we can see all kinds of lines that await us down in the snow, easy ones next to the slopes, and rough ones down steep couloirs. But first we have to marvel at the sights. There are the Weisshorn and the Matterhorn to the South, and, a little further to the right, there is the fabulous Mont-Blanc slightly hidden under a blanket of fluffy clouds. What a view! Still it's time for us to set off, down the white slopes.

After two easy runs to warm up we are ready for the first long one. We decide to go all in and take the long line from the Plaine Morte mountain station all the way down to the valley. It runs right next to the prepared slopes in the beginning and can be accessed even by freeriding beginners. For now, the hills are still untouched. In an hour or two, countless lines will have demolished the snow and the magic will be gone. For this reason - and for the powerful sunlight - we highly recommend getting up early in Crans-Montana to enjoy this paradise when it's at its best. After a little ascent further down the mountain, we access a narrow, rocky labyrinth just below the Violettes mountain station. We carefully wind our way down, swing after swing. This section requires attention and good control of your skis; one mistake will let you slide down the steep couloirs. And then some tree runs. We are no longer on our own; other freeriders draw their lines into the snow as if they were dancers on a frozen lake and if there was nothing easier than racing down an almost vertical terrain at breakneck speed.

An impressive 500 metres lower, we take a few deep breaths as we reach the valley station. An amazing high rushes through our veins, but this isn't even it for the day. We go up three more times to rush through the powder in the couloirs on our way down until the snow gets too slushy from the sunshine. Enough sports for today and time for some fresh Raclette in one of the huts. The forecast predicts more snow for the next day. And we are ready for more amazing powder runs in beautiful Crans-Montana.

Fact Box

Starting point: Plaine-Morte

Finishing point: Les Barzettes

Length: about 8 to 9 km, depending on route

Duration: 45-60 min

Number of participants: 6-7 

Equipment: freeride skis, avalanche transceiver with probe and shovel, helmet

Altitude covered: 1500 m

Suited for: advanced skiers/freeriders

Difficulty level: medium

What makes this tour appealing: Fantastic view oft he Swiss mountains and a great number of couloirs in the middle section of the route

Challenges: partly rocky, good sense of direction needed

Fun: 7 out of 10

Adventure: 6 out of 10

Text: Heiko Mandl //
Photos: Heiko Mandl //

April 27, 2018

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