I’m recently returned from a weekend of skiing in Val Thorens where two ‘secrets’ of the mountains became apparent.
First, even at half-term you can get almost empty slopes on a Saturday because being ‘change over day’ very few people other than locals are around; second, that even five days after a dump you can still score perfect untracked powder if you ski with the right person.
The ‘right person’ in this case was André Bianchini of Free Ski Attitude, a youthful 64-year-old mountain guide who has skied the slopes above and around Val Thorens for 40 years. This means that he knows them like the back of his hand.
Indeed, André told me how he used to ski here with his father before the resort had even been built; it’s kind of hard to imagine the slopes around the world-famous VT bereft of ski lifts and mountain restaurants – it must have been a mountain paradise.
André’s intimate knowledge of the terrain meant that we pretty much only used the pistes as links between the world-class off-piste. Well, the pistes and ‘La Tyrolienne’.
This is the highest zip-wire ride in the world, which you do with your skis strapped to your back. It takes you from 3230-metre Pointe du Buchet over a 250-metre drop and a distance of 1.3 kms to 3003-metre Crête de Thorens. You fly through the air at speeds of between 65 – 105 kph and it’s not to be recommended if you suffer from vertigo.
If you don’t then ‘La Tyrolienne’ is highly recommended indeed; the views are, of course, sensational, and the feeling of speed and elevation is simply stunning. Even better, we could see the tracks we’d scythed through thigh-deep powder earlier in the morning on the slopes beneath us.
If you know Val Thorens and the location of ‘La Tyrolienne’ you’ll probably have some idea of where I’m talking about; a long several hundred metre north-facing pitch that offered fluffy powder on every turn; if you don’t then I’m afraid you’ll have to remain in the dark, as I’m not giving it away here – I want to ensure it’s still untracked next time I go to VT!