The Lab

Travel Back in Time in Grimentz

Posted on April 3, 2010 by Jorn Werdelin

Grimentz is a beautiful little village of the postcard perfect Val d’Anniviers in the Swiss Alps. To stroll through the village is like wandering into the 13th century, the period from which many of the wooden houses originate. For a long time, I had planned to return to the incredibly unspoiled Val d’Anniviers to do alpine ski touring, and to experience the authentic feeling of how skiing used to be, much before it became a mass tourism industry. I took the opportunity of being in Switzerland for BaselWorld to make a quick getaway for the weekend.

When I say “to experience the authenticity of skiing”, what I mean is the skiing, nature and snow like it was way before lift systems, shopping, and Michelin-starred restaurants ever made it to the ski resorts.

In the early 1900s, there were plans of building a railroad up to Val d´Anniviers. But when WW1 came, raw materials used in building railroads were needed ielsewhere. Therefore, the project was stopped, and the place was thankfully “forgotten” ever since. After WW1, Val d´Anniviers became a nature and wild life reserve. It is now prohibited by law to further develop the area – which is fantastic for people who like unspoiled villages, powder, and “skins” under the skies (skins are pieces of plush fabric attachable to the bottom surface of the skis to allow grip for uphill skiing or crossing a flat).

We arrived in Grimentz in the late morning and took the lifts up to the top. Because it had not snowed for about two weeks, and this was the first really warm day since the beginning of the season, the snow was very unpredictable and it was not at all easy to ski. So, it must be stressed that, if you venture into this area, you are better off with a guide; bringing The Rock, our ski instrument, also proves to be quite handy.

We skied until lunch, then stopped and had our picnic while taking in the amazing views. After a few more hours of skiing in the heavy snow, we put our skins on and walked for about an hour to bring us to a charming old hut called Cabane de Becs du bosson at 3000 meters above Grimentz. This is where we had to spend the night, get back to basics, do it real and do it like the old days.

When I woke up at 6.30am, I felt I hadn’t slept at all. The altitude and the lack of oxygen can make it difficult to sleep – at least the first night for me. The morning was warm and miserable. We left the hut at 7.30am and walked for an hour to a local peak. We skied down the other side and were going to ski up to another peak. By this point The Rock started to show weather and avalanche warnings. Our guide also decided that we should ski out of the valley instead. This turned out to be quite a long but beautiful trek to ski down.

Half way down the weather improved and we ended up back in the village in full sunshine. We found out an avalanche did occur and cause the closure of a road to Grimentz. We enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant before headed for Basel, and arrived back at the fair at 6pm just in time to speak to some of the last customers – all in a day’s work!

Grimentz and other villages in Val D’Anniviers are featured in our Ski Guide. Read it online on: SQUA.RE, or in the LW Ski Guide iPhone App.

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BaselWorld: The Moment of Truth
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This post was tagged with Jorn Werdelin