Flat light spoils things in Val d’Anniviers

23rd February 2010, by Chris Gill

A burst of sun at lunchtime in Zinal

A burst of sun at lunchtime in Zinal

Day four of my tour of Swiss resorts involved two small areas in the Val d’Anniviers – Zinal and Grimentz. It has been a strange day weather-wise, with a warm sunny spell at lunchtime, long periods of flat light morning and afternoon, the occasional brighter period, and no snowfall until a minor dump at teatime, which just might be continuing at altitude as I write, although it has stopped at village level. With the off-piste mostly windblown at present, some fresh would be welcome.

We’re based in Grimentz, in the excellent little hotel Cristal. There’s a splendid black piste linking the slopes of Zinal to Grimentz, so the plan was to get the 09:18 Postbus to Zinal and ski back to Grimentz at the end of the morning. In fact, we abandoned the idea of skiing back on the piste du Chamois because of the flat light; we had no evidence that the run was groomed (it’s the kind of long run that never is), and didn’t want to find ourselves struggling down 1300m vertical of invisible black moguls. The bottom part of this notable run is due to be improved for next season, so I guess we’ll be sending editor Watts to check it out then. This is a prelude to construction of a gondola from Grimentz up to the Zinal slopes, which will multiply the number of people skiing the run.

Mind you, if the Chamois piste was not groomed, it was one on its own. The highlight of the morning was the smooth, powdery, groomed blacks from the high points of the area – and the black variant on the red piste de l’Aigle back to the village of Zinal (1200m vertical, this one). Before making that descent, we got around all the main red runs, too, despite the predominance of drag lifts. We enjoyed decent snow, but in the poor viz the runs were rather featureless.

Bussing from one area to the other at lunchtime hinges on a crucial departure at 12:08; then there’s no service for 1hr20. Reader, we missed it, by two minutes. Nothing for it, then, but a low altitude lunch – not a bad idea, in an area with few mountain restaurants to choose from and high-season crowds filling them. The hotel la Pointe did us very well, and displayed a serious carte that would make it worth considering for a stay.

The Grimentz slopes are more extensive than those of Zinal, and more distinctive, with rocky outcrops breaking up the area. It also has two long fast chair lifts (Zinal has one), although the pistes of most interest to good skiers are those from Becs de Bosson at 2900m, served by drags from two aspects. The red and easy black pistes up here were in superb nick; doubtless there is off-piste that is not windblown, but we didn’t find it.

We skied back to the village at 4pm in the hope that by beating the crowds we might enjoy the run. And so it proved – particularly the FIS black variant on the middle section. This is seriously steep, but was in pretty good condition, and highly satisfying. A great end to the day.

Tomorrow we cross the valley to ski the linked areas of St-Luc and Chandolin, before heading off for our last two nights in Nendaz, and our last day skiing the area it shares with Verbier.

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