On a recent excursion down to Valais, I decided to check out Bruson. You can be forgiven for not knowing of this resort as it is somewhat overshadowed by its neighbour across the Val d’Bagnes – Verbier. However on paper it looks worth visiting. It claims to have 51km of piste and, as of last season now has a gondola lift to replace the old bus service. This means it is now directly connected to Verbier, and to the railway station at Le Châble (which connects to Martigny).
The 51km of piste that appears on most literature about the resort sounds pretty impressive, although the resort itself only claims 40km. Still, even on the lower estimate that puts it alongside resorts like Grächen, Klewenalp or Pizol, all of which have plenty to keep you occupied for a day.
I have to say I was a tad disappointed. Apart from a section associated with a surface lift up at the summit, most of the resort seemed to consist of variations on a single run near the main chairlift. The variations were on a respectable black run which you could join or avoid through interconnecting blue or red runs and some off-piste cut-throughs in the trees, with the section of the black at the top of the chairlift the steepest part. If the snow was better there looked to be some decent off-piste around the surface lift at the summit. Another surface lift connects a couple of lower runs up to the bottom of the chairlift and the top gondola station. The piste map suggests there are a couple of unprepared trails that take you down to Le Châble at 881m and Bruson itself at 1080m, although I suspect you wouldn’t normally take those even if the snow was good except to get back down at the end of a day. Those runs may explain where most of the 40km of runs comes from, because my estimate for the resort would put it nearer 20km.
With typical Spring conditions the snow got progressively heavier as the day progressed, but between the summit at La Pasay (2163m) and the gondola top station at Moay (1640m) it was fine in the morning. Indeed if there is one thing in Bruson’s favour it is that you have, easily reachable from Verbier, well-prepared slopes and empty lifts every day.
It is not especially cheap. The lift pass just for Bruson is SFr47, but the sector is included in the full 4 Vallées lift pass, so if you have the full pass and are based in Verbier, it is worth an outing – especially for confident intermediates who want to practice technique on well prepared runs without wannabe Beat Fuezes whizzing around.
I found three small restaurants with simple fare. The one half way down the main black run had friendly staff, great views from the terrace, some nice wines and a very pleasant home made vegetable soup served with some local cheese. However it seemed to charge Verbier prices for the privilege.
All in all, an interesting day out, but I wouldn’t hurry to return.
Although I am technically a resident of Switzerland, my family is living in the Netherlands, so I spend a lot of time to-ing and fro-ing. We plan to move to the French-speaking Romande area of Switzerland, so my ski trips this winter have largely had an ulterior motive, i.e. where best to live. This has resulted in a number of my trips being based in the valley to get a feel for places, and then going up the mountains to ski. And additionally I did one trip staying in a ski resort to get a feel for the pros and cons. So, given a choice of anywhere in Switzerland we could choose to live, where would it be?
And the answer is… Aigle. Ten minutes from Montreux, thirty from Lausanne, an hour from Geneva airport and a whole bunch of world class ski resorts. From a family point of view the schooling seems better than Valais and the people less provincial – and Valais is walking distance away! The weather is about the best in all of Switzerland with around 300 sunny days a year. The apartment we are hoping to secure won’t be built for at least a year, but it promises to have wonderful views of Les Dents du Midi, perhaps one of the half dozen most memorable mountains in the whole of Switzerland.
Anyway, over the next few days I will share my insights about skiing on my winter trips to Vaud and Valais, and let you into some of the adventures along the way, like inadvertently ending up in Geneva (but getting to visit the wonderful Galerie 123), watching Brigitte rock the pistes, partying with a bunch of Belgians, picking up some useful ski tips and much more. But now time to pick up the kids!
Accuweather gloomily reports that “Eastern Europe Braces for a Cold, Snowy Winter”, but for winter sports enthusiasts this sounds all too promising. Indeed AccuWeather Meteorologist Tyler Roys says “Ski conditions will be fantastic for the 2014-2015 ski season, especially when compared to last year”. There is already some good dumps occurring in the Alps and Accuweather predict that an active storm track and cold air will bring a lot of snow to the Pyrenees, Alps and the mountains of the Balkan Peninsula. Switzerland looks set for a bumper winter season.
If you want to check out the current snow conditions you could do worse than look at the web cams at Zermatt.
Some of the most joyous events in the ski season happen in Zermatt in late April. All the ski instructors, laid off for the season elsewhere, descend on Zermatt for a last hurrah. Unfettered by snowploughing novices, snivelling kids, off-piste wannabees that need to get picked up out of the deep stuff and all those other frustrations, they show the same joie de vivre as the cattle being released from their winter quarters onto the meadows. It is a great festival of impromptu events – slaloms, jumps, skicross and slopestyle, followed by shots and beers in Zermatt itself (Sadly Hennu Stall is now closed). This week also saw 4,500 hardy souls embark on Patrouille des Glaciers, the ski-mountaineering race that starts in Zermatt and ends in Verbier, running high above all the mountain villages along the route.
In fact, Zermatt is the resort that keeps on giving with the official end of the winter season, and the start of the summer season, in June. As the cams on this page demonstrate, even this late in the season there are still good snow conditions.
The freezing level recently has been low enough to mean that fresh snow has settled briefly in the village. None of the valley runs are open and, although the snow above Sunnegga and Riffelberg looks good, only the Kleine Matterhorn slopes are open, above Steg – but today that is still 104km to enjoy. With temperatures set to rise in the days ahead and sunnier weather forecast, the conditions will gradually deteriorate but – if you get up early enough and are prepared for a long ride up and back down, the snow before late afternoon is still worth going after.
Unfortunately Zermatt do not lower their prices for this more modest offering, so be prepared for an eye-popping CHf 86/- ticket price for a day, but the uncrowded slopes just about make up for it, especially on one of those days when the sun is so warm that you can ski in a T-shirt. A word of warning, though, the sun is fierce enough to burn you to blisters in only one day, and once the sun slips behind a cloud or a mountain, the air can be bitterly cold so do make sure you are adequately prepared.