Two great days in Val d’Anniviers

13th March 2020, by Dave Watts

Stefano from Zenit ski school, WTSS off-piste consultant Nicky Holford and mountain guide Nick Parks in St Luc

Stefano from Zenit ski school, WTSS off-piste consultant Nicky Holford and mountain guide Nick Parks in St Luc

Nicky Holford and I spent Tuesday and Wednesday this week in sleepy old Val d’Anniviers, a little-known valley with chocolate box unspoiled resorts with rustic cores of old wooden houses lining narrow lanes.

Our base was the lovely 4-star Bella Tola hotel, one of my favourites in the Alps. Built in 1859 it has been beautifully renovated by its current owners and has fabulous views, interesting old artifacts everywhere, a fine spa, sunny terrace and good restaurant. More on the hotel from Nicky Holford soon.

Typical wooden houses and ancient stonework give the villages an old-world rustic atmosphere

After arriving late on Monday to a clear sky and full moon, we woke on Tuesday to a steady snowfall. The plan was that I would ski the pistes with Stefano, head of Zenit ski school based in Zinal, and Nicky would ski off-piste with well-known mountain guide Nick Parks, who built up Mountain Tracks before selling it to the Ski Club three years ago and now trades as Backcountry Adventures

Nicky and Nick did a bit of off-piste but the pistes were coated in ankle deep powder and deserted – most of the time it seemed that we were the only four people on the mountain. One blue piste above Chandolin had hardly any tracks in it and reminded me of heliskiing in Canada. And my favourite run in St Luc, the long top-to-bottom red on extreme skier’s left away from all the lifts was much the same – we didn’t see another soul on it.

Dave enjoying the powder on a deserted piste in St Luc

Wednesday could not have been more different. Full on sunshine and 9ºC. Sadly, it had rained overnight and the lovely light powder had turned the heavy, slushy snow. Nevertheless the pistes of Grimentz and Zinal were in good condition and made for a lovely day’s skiing in the hot spring sunshine. I was guided around the pistes by Ben, from the Saas Fee branch of Zenit ski school.

Grimentz has much more extensive piste skiing than Zinal (linked by a huge cable car). Many of the blue runs in Grimentz had very narrow cat track sections, the reds and blacks were generally easy with just short sections justifying their gradings. But in Zinal, the runs are much wider – basically pistes made out of a huge bowl.

The Avoin blue run from the top of the Grimentz gondola is shared with walkers and tobogganists

Sadly my favourite runs in the area – the long black Chamois from Zinal back to Grimentz and the reds served by the Durand draglift on skier’s right at Zinal – were closed because of avalanche danger.

But overall, it has been a great couple of days to start our tour of seven Swiss resorts.

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