Bucket-list item…. CHECKED!
I’ve dreamt of heli-boarding for as long as I can remember. On our last trip of the 2016 boarding season, we decided to go out with a bang, and take on the challenge.
From the time I arrived abroad, people have talked about Verbier as the Mecca of snowsports in the alps; the quality of the snow, the village and the variety of activities being the big draw. Verbier is best of breed when it comes to almost everything ski related. This was the main reason I decided to make our attempt at heliboarding there. We had attempted it once in Cervinia, Italy, but after bad wind and poor organization that attempt failed. I wanted to ensure we had a more predictable go this time around, and although it comes with a price, I think that’s what Verbier gives.
When we arrived to Verbier we were blown away by how NICE everything was. The hotel, the restaurants, the shops, everything was straight out of a movie. Verbier caters to a very high-class client; there is no doubt about that. The majority of the cost is spent on the accommodations and food/drink. Lift tickets and guides were mostly in line with the rest of the places we have been across Europe.
We stayed at Hotel Bristol in the village center. It was very well appointed and perfectly situated in the center of everything. On Day 1 we explored the mountain as much as we could on our own; Verbier is massive so you need multiple days to see it all.
On Day 2, we hired a guide to take us off-piste to hidden powder stashes. We ventured to a tiny little resort about a 20 minute drive from the mountain, and from there dove into what was probably the longest hike I’ve done with a board strapped to my back! Heart rates maxed and fitness fully tested, we made a good few long runs through the powder-filled trees and through a riverbed. That was an amazing experience because we do not spend much time tree-skiing, let alone navigating a riverbed!
Day 3 was the big one – the climax to our time in Verbier! We woke early, strapped on our avalanche transceivers, geared up and headed for the ski lift. Blood pulsing through our veins with anticipation and excitement, we, along with a group of 15 others, met the helicopters on top of the closest peak to our hotel. Our guide spent a few minutes ensuring our avalanche gear worked properly, and setting expectations of the trip and day ahead. Shortly after, we were picked up by the heli’s, 4 at a time. The flight took us on a majestic tour over the town of Verbier, across the valley, to the top of a peak on the other side. The ride was breathtaking. We jumped out and all huddled in a small circle, clinging to our gear until the chopper lifted off and we were free of it’s torrential spray of wind and snow.
We learned quickly that heli-boarding isn’t always as simple as getting dropped off in the perfect location and riding down. There were often times that a great deal of hiking was involved to get to our destination drop-in point. Right off the bat, we spent a good hour traversing the face of a peak, and then straight into a 10 story vertical climb to get to our starting point…. IT WAS BRUTAL!!!
However, the moments that followed our final ascent, I’ll carry with me forever. We proceeded to ride fresh, untouched powder for over 2 hours until we reached the valley floor. It’s one of those rare moments in life, where you’re completely overwhelmed by adrenaline and seratonin from the excitement and enjoyment, and utterly wasted by exhaustion at the same time. It’s a near trance-like state that I think only those whom have experienced it, or a similar outdoor excursion could understand.
We spent our final 2 days exploring everything Verbier had to offer; riding and devouring hearty meals to help our bodies recover. Verbier was without a doubt the nicest resort town we’ve visited to date. From the food to the terrain, it was simply amazing. And it will always hold a special place in my heart because it’s the first place to show me the bliss that is heli-boarding.