Off Piste Skiing, Freeride, Ski Touring
While Zinal caters well for skiers of all levels, it is off piste skiers who will probably get the most from the resort. It really is a fantastic place for an off piste or freeride skiing or snowboarding holiday. Fall-line Skiing magazine, Spring 2007 describes Zinal as "one of the last great undiscovered ski spots". Zinal they say "is the new freeride destination". Both the pisted and off piste terrain are still quiet here and there rarely any lift queues. The high altitude and north east orientation mean there is usually plenty of untracked powder to be found.
As well as some very interesting and challenging patrolled itinerary runs, Zinal and Grimentz have large amounts of good off-piste skiing adjacent to the pistes, and also a designated free ride area in Zinal.
Piste de Chamois
This is a superb "piste" that drops all the way from the top of Zinal at 29000m to the hamlet of Mottec at 1560m, from where you can take a regular shuttle bus back to Zinal or track around the corner into Grimentz. Fall-line Skiing magazine describe it as follows: "Technically it's a piste--they somehow get a machine down it as a sort of dare--but ski it and you'll realise it's a piste in the same way that ski jumping is a type of skiing".
Try the Abondance itinerary run from the top of the Orzival drag lift in Grimentz. If you like views, take the 5 minutes to walk to the view point at the top of the drag lift. You can see pretty much the whole world from here, and there is a very good mountain identifier to help you spot Mont Blanc. To get on to the itinerary you need to drop 200m down the red run and then off to the left you will see a sign post marking the entry point. It's a bit steep at first, but then opens out nicely, with various ways down to the bottom of the Tsarva chairlift. If conditions are right, you can continue to ski down all the way to St Jean at 1327m, beneath Grimentz, a total vertical descent of 1500m. Take the free bus back to Grimentz or Zinal. You will find all the bus times on the piste map.
To the left hand side of the Zinal piste map is the Garde de Bordon freeride area. Over 100 hectares of proper off piste terrain. To get into it you have to go through a clever gate which alerts the lift company that you are there, and you can only get through the gate if you are carrying a working transceiver. You need to go there with a competent group of skiers or boarders or go with a guide.
Avalanche training centre
For those wanting to increase their knowledge of how to deal with avalanches, there is a transceiver training ground that allows you to practise searching techniques. It's open everyday and it's free. Sixteen transmitters have been installed under the snow and can be switched off and on electronically.
Off piste guiding
Take a guide for at least half a day early in your holiday to help you find the best snow. Contact details can be found at www.anniviers-montagne.ch or at the Tourist office in Zinal. Stephan Albasini on 0041 78 664 7563 should also be able to help you. He has written a book on ski touring routes in the area so I guess he knows his stuff. He offers a whole days off piste guiding for CHF170 per person. If the conditions are right he can take you from Zinal to Vercorin and back in an all-day guided 30k off-piste adventure
Ski touring potential is huge, for those who are prepared to skin up hill to seek out untracked powder. There are many routes around Zinal and Grimentz and there are a number of mountain huts which are positioned up near the glaciers to allow you to overnight before skiing back down the next day. Some of the huts are open until mid May four weeks after the end of the main ski season. If you think you are fit enough equipment and a guide can be hired.
Even heli skiing is an option, albeit very expensive. There is a heli-pad in Grimentz. Speak to the tourist office in Zinal!
There are two shops in the village offering hire of latest skis for freeride, telemark and touring, as well as all the other equipment you might need like tranceivers, shovels and probes. As usual you can test skis on the mountain and they will take the rental off the purchase price.
For reservations text Jule on 00447515898232 or email email@example.com
Aiglon Alpine: High Mountain Adventure,
Zinal Switzerland: Skiing