Epic Race Mountain 18 Verbier, Switzerland

Hydle woke us up (after our big night) at about 8:30 am, and by this point he had already gotten up, moved the car, checked out the downtown area and eaten breakfast. Remember. We went to bed at 3:45 am. But, as Hydle once said to me, “Cooley, I’m a fucking rockstar” so I wasn’t surprised. Now, for the record, Hydle is normally the slow poke in the group, but he was over the top upbeat and chipper for it being 8:30 am after a late night. So, Rhinehart and I were struggling a bit to get up, and Hydle was making it very well known that he would like to get on the mountain asap since he was basically ready to go, even though we had just woken up. So whatever, it was his turn to wait, so we took our time getting ready, and made it downstairs for the best breakfast we’ve had on the trip so far at the Ferinet, where Hydle went for a mini round two of breakfast because he was bored waiting on us.

After breakfast, Hydle told me I needed to practice walking fast in my boots (because this is an EPIC race you know), so we hiked from the downtown area up to the gondola at high speeds for ski boots, all while I’m still a mess from the night before. Ugh. Haha.

We met up with some epic racers – Colin, Trevor and Ryan – in the ticket line, and rode up with them all the way up to the Mon Fort. The top of Mon Fort is about 10,000 feet high, and it’s the highest peak at Verbier, overlooking the Swiss Alps, and the Matterhorn in the distance. When we got to the top of the tram, there was a really cool viewing deck and super cute fondue and drinks hut with incredible views.

The group we were with all decided we should do a hike up from the viewing deck to this peak (just like a 5 minute hike up, but super steep up) to a big cross. The hike was a little bit sketchy, there were snow covered steps (and we were in ski boots) and ropes on either side that you definitely needed to hang on to, considering if you fell, you would definitely be sliding all the way down this snow covered mountain. For reference, this same ski slope that you would have slid down has a huge steep ramp dropping into it that the world speed record on skis was set on, so you get the point.

The top was incredible. It’s hard to explain with words how vast and big the Alps on, they surround you in 360 degrees with no end in sight in any direction. All I could keep thinking is what it must have been like for the first explorers to encounter them thinking about trying to cross them not knowing how long they would go on for!

After our hike back down, we ran into some other epic racers, Carol and Sarah who are both from Vail, and both have kids in high school. We convinced them they should do the hike up to the top too because it was worth it, and Rhinehart was a total gentleman and offered to hike up with them so they would feel more comfortable heading up. The rest of us headed back down to the mini fondue hut with the rest of our group, and ordered a round of drinks and some delicious fondue.

Rhinehart, Carol and Sarah caught up with us, and we all had good conversation over fondue and drinks, and then all of a sudden the door flies open and Adam Warot rolls through the door just like Kramer from Seinfeld and says “I thought I smelled epic in here.”

After hanging out as a big group in the hut, we all were ready to head down, which was our most fun run of the trip so far I think. It was pretty steep and moguley at the top, but the bottom was wide open, smooth and soft.

We all kinda got split up after that, so it was back to the three of us, and we headed through the park and did a couple laps in the main ski area, and then decided to head down to our final stop, Bar 1936 toward the bottom of the mountain. Um. This was the worst cat track I’ve maybe ever taken considering HALF of it was uphill! Wtf, there are a lot of things about European ski resorts that are just so different (including the fact that nothing is roped off for out of bounds, even if there was a cliff, they wouldn’t warn you about it if you decided to go off the run which is perfectly legal here). Basically they just don’t give an F, including when you may have to ski an uphill cat track for a long time without warning you about it!

After a lot of poling, skating, and sweating, we made it to bar 1936 which was our final stop, and ran into Carol, Sarah and Adam again. We had a round there, and then decided to get on the road because we needed to drive all the way to Les Tres Vallees, France that night and wanted to be able to see as much of the drive as possible since we were gonna ski through Chamonix which is a world famous ski area that we all admired (and everyone said the drive was beautiful).

Well, they were right. Once we were on the road, we drove down windy roads from Verbier onto a valley area, and then we drove straight back up a super windy road, gaining a ton of elevation just on short switchbacks overlooking Verbier and the valley floor. It was also a big moon night, so the mountains were glowing and lit up in the dusk, so pretty.

After driving through adorable little mountain towns, we came across a town that had an incredible church lit up in the middle of a valley (where it seemed that nobody else was living in the town). It was both lonely, and beautiful at the same time.

We finally made it to Chamonix where we decided to pull over and have some dinner. We stopped outside this inviting looking restaurant/hotel called Les Rhodendrones. We parked right outside the kitchen window where a really welcoming lady looked at us and smiled and waved us in.

It turned out this place was a pizza place, so we sat down and ordered some food, drinks, and we ended up hanging out there for about 3 hours! Hydle made some friends who helped give us tips on how to make the drive into Les Tres Vallees since there was a road closure detour on the way, Rhinehart edited his video the whole time, and Hydle also got a shot bought for him by a hammered guy who was convinced he was Mc Fitti, and Hydle was perfectly content to just let him believe that’s who he was. Haha. And I pretty much just drank wine. And blogged.

Our waitress was the best one yet. She was so friendly, accommodating, and even let me make a call on her personal cell phone to inform our hotel we would be arriving late in Meribel.

Our little visit in Chamonix just gave me a taste of wanting to come back and actually ski it, but we had to continue on to our final destination at Les Tres Vallees because we are on a short timeline to be on track to finish the race on December 20!

We powered on, Hydle drove like a champ, we figured out the detour despite not knowing the names of anything on the street signs, and finally made it to Les Tres Vallees, where we made it to our hotel where Hydle immediately passed out on the couch (he deserved it for driving such treacherous roads) and Rhinehart and I unpacked the car and parked it (this was about midnight by this point – long day after staying up til 3:45 the night before and skiing and driving all day!).

Long fun day from Verbier – Chamonix – Les Tres Vallees. Worth it!

Cooley’s Video – Mountain 18 Verbier