Nendaz is plugged into a large network of ski runs: 407km in the Four Valleys area, taking in everything from Verbier and Bruson in the southwest to the tiny hamlet of Les Masses in the east. The highest point in the area is the renowned Mont Fort Glacier, at 3,330m - this is actually owned by the Nendaz commune - while Nendaz is situated at 1,350m. That's a lot of vertical you can cover in one day.
The smaller Printse area covers Nendaz and the villages of Veysonnaz and Thyon. The cheaper lift pass represents good value, especially for intermediates who will enjoy the mainly red and blue runs on offer, and also allows access to a few tough itineraries. There are 220km of runs in Printse. One of the lovely things about the area is the dramatic views over the vineyards and the Rhône Valley (where excellent local wines are produced) to the peaks beyond.
From Nendaz, you can find some of the most world-reknowned off-piste, or as the Swiss call it 'freeride', skiing; for example, the legendary route down the back of the Mont Fort glacier. This involves skinning as well as hiking and can be fatal. Definitely necessary to hire a guide for the day.
Above Nendaz is a sunny plateaux at the top of the high speed Tracout bubble, which is ideal for children and beginners alike.
Siviez is the hub of both the Four Valleys and the Printse areas and it takes about 45 mins to ski there including lift time. The main Tracouet bubble is the way to ski out of Nendaz taking you to 2,200m and allowing you to ski to lifts that link with Siviez - a drag and then a cable car.
Otherwise, to get to Siviez you can drive and park there as it is only 7km along winding roads - but this is not recommended in high season because of the difficulty in finding a parking space. There is also a free shuttle bus service to Siviez every half hour so it's well worth checking out the timetable.
The four-person Etherolla lift in Thyon was installed recently opening up the skiing in that area with a long black and a red branching off the top. But a lot of the lift system, especially in the Printse area, would benefit from updating to make the links between the different resorts speedier. There are many button lifts and T-bars - and some of them, such as Greppon Blanc, are very long. There are a few old two-man and four-man chairlifts that are rather slow such as the Siviez chair, the Prarion chair, and the Les Masses chair.
The good news is that constuction of the lift proposed to link Siviez to the top of Plan du Fou with a high-speed cable car is expected to begin in the next few years.
Recommended is taking a local guide on a tour of the Four Valleys area to show you all of the best ways to link up between resorts and to avoid the queues, which can be up to five minutes long in peak season.
However, most of the integral linking lifts in the Four Valleys system is high-speed chairs or fast bubbles such the chair from Siviez in the direction of Verbier. On the Verbier side, there are a better proportion of faster lifts and only one very slow two-man chair.
Worth bearing in mind is that if you get stuck in one of the outlying resorts (apart from Siviez) this could mean a very costly taxi ride back to Nendaz, so best to be aware of the timings of important lift closures such as the Lac des Vaux chairlift. Lifts are open between 8.45am to 3.30-4.30pm. From Verbier to Nendaz by taxi costs around 300CHF and takes about an hour.
Book ski passes on www.telenendaz.ch. A six-day pass for the Printse area costs £165, and for the Four Valleys costs £212 at the time of writing.
At the top of Tracouet, a quick bubble ride from Nendaz town, there are rope pull lifts, magic carpet lifts and a children's snow play area with large inflatable toys. The flat kiddie area is actually situated on a frozen lake and it's a suntrap. Novices will appreciate the gentle and extremely wide blue run slopes off the rope drag and a short button lift on Tracouet and, as confidence progresses, testing their turns on the longer blue and red runs down to resort at the bottom of the Prarion chairlift. You can take a blue run all the way in to Nendaz and the snow is normally good because of the north-facing aspect.
Ambitious beginners who are up to skiing red runs by the end of a week's skiing and are willing to go further afield may find it a good plan to try the blue and red runs into Siviez. These can get crowded in peak season as Siviez is a hub in the Four Valleys system. If you are not up to a well-groomed but quite high gradient black run down to the Prarion lift up to Tracouet, you can take the bus back or drive back from Siviez. If you decide you want to try it, you can get the gondola down the itinerary section of this face.
The blue runs off the back of Ethérolla, such as the choice of easy runs from the top of the Trabanta chair, would be a great place to stretch your legs if you are a beginner. But you need to be skiing red runs to get over to the Thyon side and back.
Again, you would need to be skiing red runs confidently before heading over to the Verbier valley, and then Savolyeres will be best for its winding blue and fairly gentle red runs. You need to get a bus to the Savolyeres bubble from the bottom of the Medran lifts, which is a bit of a mission.
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The two main areas that intermediates will enjoy are the runs off the back of Ethérola, including a black run served by a new high-speed chair, and the many red and blue (and largely empty) motorway runs. Runs in Savolyeres, especially on the La Tzoumaz side, are also great fun for wide carving turns.
The main blue run into Nendaz, next to the Alpage chair, and the red run both give the skier lots of space for a proper blast. The snow on these runs is usually in excellent condition as they are on north-facing slopes.
Ceour, from the top of La Tzoumaz bubble, is a lengthy red run with plenty of fun rollers - perfect for playing around practising your carving, switch and ollies. Watch out for the kids tobogganing at the side of the run though!
The reds from the top of Cheminée and further down into Veyonnaz are fun and flighty. Check out the blue and red runs on the other side of the ridge towards the rustic villages of Les Masses and Les Collons as well.
The Long Attelas red run from the top of the Funispace becomes a crowded motorway for those getting back into Verbier in the evening; but first thing in the day it offers some perfectly groomed wide corduroy pistes.
The Four Valleys has some of the gnarliest terrain anywhere. The infamous Bec des Rosses, which you can see from Mont Fort, is where the World Freeride Tour culminates. Skiers and snowboarders make their way down a near vertical, 800m-long run riddled with cliff drops. For those that aren't pro skiers, there are plenty of options, from black runs, to ungroomed itineraries and a multitude of off-piste possibilities. But do go with a qualified mountain guide and the proper avalanche safety equipment on powder days.
Two itinerary runs down to Siviez are Chassoure and Tortin. They are both very long, with large, compact bumps if it hasn't snowed for a while - watch out for uneven snow coverage or rocks. On a powder day these itineraries come into their own; but if they are tracked out it is worth getting a guide to take you on other routes. If you want to ski from Verbier in the direction of Nendaz, you have to ski Chassoure or you can take the gondola down.
The Mont Fort glacier has some excellent snow and one of the few genuine black runs on the Four Valleys - a steep bump run that mellows out into a wide piste for large carving turns. The views from the top are astounding. Spot the Matterhorn, the Aiguille du Midi and Mont Blanc.
A favourite run includes the itinerary Vallon D'Arby, taking you down from Lac des Vaux towards La Tzoumaz in the valley between Verbier and Nedaz. The run is marked by poles with a yellow strip at the top and it's a good place to ski when there's poor visibility. When there's powder snow, there are many variations on the itinerary route that take you into gullies and glades, and spit you out on a cat-track at the bottom.
There is a very long east-facing itinerary called L'Étegeon down from the top of the twin Greppon Blanc Lifts at 2,700m taking in over 1km of vertical. As with all itineraries, expect either bumps or powder stashes if it has recently snowed. Free buses ferry you to the village of Les Masses and run from 11.30am to 4.30pm every hour taking half an hour. Allow 20-30 mins for the run or take a taxi if you can't squeeze on the bus.
There are some decent groomed black runs on the Verbier side including the FIS from the top of the Les Attelas high-speed six-person chair called 'James Blunt' after he inaugurated it. You can also have a blast down the short, steep, rollered Lac des Vaux run.
The Four Valleys are home to some world-class snowboarders such as local heroes Alex Courdray and Geraldine Fasnacht for one simple reason: the backcountry riding options are almost limitless. If you have a love for powder riding, Nendaz is a good place to base yourself. Don't just follow tracks as you never know who made them - book a guide.
There are also many perfectly-corrugated pistes to swoop down, although beginners and intermediates may wish to avoid the itineraries when they are full of sizeable bumps. Intermediates will love the itineraries when it has dumped with snow.
Beginner or early intermediate snowboarders might be a little frustrated by the amount of cat tracks running out of the bottom of pistes such as the links going between the Thyon sector towards Siviez and at the bottom of Mont Fort past the Cabane Mont Fort. A head's up for advanced boarders: there is a really long cat-track is at the bottom of the Vallon D'Arbe.
For the freestylers there are two parks in Nendaz at the top of Tracouet including the Burton Progression Park. As implied in the name, this is for those wanting to improve their freestyle moves with instructors on hand for advice on Mondays between 1.45 and 4pm. See www.onthemountain.ch or call +41 (0)27 288 3131. The Nendaz Snowpark for beginners' is off the Jean-Pierre lift on the other side of Tracouet which hosts a couple of jam format competitions. There are kickers, rails and boxes to play on.
There is also a large snowpark in Verbier.
There is a Tardis-like restaurant at the top of Tracouet seating over 300 in the self-service part and around 80 in the staffed part on the first floor. There are also sun terraces. Four more self-service restaurants in the vicinity are Combatzeline, Plan du Fou, Col De Gentianes, and Chotte de Tortin. See the Télenendaz site for more info on these.
For table service and probably better value for money food, book into Les Chottes (Phone: +41 79 652 45 42), a rustic barn-style restaurant next to the T-bar of the same name in the slopes above Veyonnaz. The portions of Swiss cuisine are enormous and there's seating under the eaves on a tiny mezzanine.
Cabane Mont Fort (Phone: +41 27 778 13 84), on the way down from Col des Gentianes, is a slice of old-fashioned alpine charm with a gorgeous panoramic terrace and the most reasonably priced lunch options to be found. Everything from soups and paninis to burgers. And they do a delicious apple tart.
If you are staying locally, Les Etagnes (Phone: +41 (0) 27 5659000), conveniently just above the entrance to the Tracouet bubble in Nendaz, is a restaurant with tempting two course lunchtime offers and high quality food.
Further afield, there's a good pizzeria with a wood-burning oven at the bottom of the slopes in Veyonnaz and Les Marmottes (Phone: +41 27 771 6834) and Namasté (Phone: +41 27 771 57 73) are both good options on Savolyeres on the slope facing Verbier.
Nendaz is situated on the mountainside overlooking the Rhône Valley. The old part of town is downhill, further away from the slopes, and started as a farming community. Tradition still thrives: there are cowsheds you can visit and in summer there are alphorn festivals and fruit orchards to visit. The baroque church in Nendaz was built in 1499. The centre is partly pedestrianised.
Nendaz is a fairly large town comprising chalets, apartments and hotels, a variety of restaurants, bars and amenities such as physiotherapists and crèche services. The main streets lead off the roundabout next to the tourist office which is topped with a traditional gondola.
There are plenty of ski and board hire options, but the Skiset outlet is handily placed, close to the lift and the Hotel Nendaz 4 Vallees & Spa and the Hotel Edelweiss in the centre of the resort, and has a good range. Like other ski rental shops it won't give a discount if you just go into it when you arrive, but it will give a generous discount if you book online in advance here. You will also save time in the shop by having your selected equipment reserved and ready for you.
Nendaz is easy to get to. It's only half an hour's drive on winding roads from Nendaz to nearby Sion which has an airport and railway station. Geneva airport is approximately a two hour journey by car. There are good private/shared transfer services from Geneva if you don't want the hassle of driving yourself. Although it depends where you are staying, for the most part a car is not needed in nendaz itself.
Tel: +41 27 289 55 89
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Straight off the slopes you don't have to go far to the après ski terraces of Les Etagnes and Lime It's Up for your first vin chaud or beer of the evening. These terraces have a welcoming and convivial atmosphere, but if you prefer something indoors, try Tchin-Tchin, a sophisticated and cosy piano bar with a log fire adjoining L'Arôm' Antique pizzeria.
There's a host of friendly and relaxed themed bars in Nendaz, including the Mexican-style Cactus saloon which attracts a chilled, young crowd, Le Malabar (which also has a tiny restaurant in the basement, phone: +41 (0) 27 288 13 68), with a Morrocan-themed interior and serving decent-priced beer and the Canadian Pub, which is a disco-cum-pub decorated with stuffed a moose head on the wall and other paraphernalia.
For those that want to party on into the night, there's L'Oxygène, a disco that has free entry.
There are 30 restaurants in Nendaz, so there is plenty of choice, including the Mont-Rouge Restaurant with a 13-star Gault et Millau rating (Tel: +41 (0) 27 288 1166). Gastronomic main are not cheap, but the food is special and is served in elegant surroundings.
Other recommendations are the Trattoria Dei Savi (Tel: +41 (0) 27 288 12 68), which has a loyal following for its delectable Italian antipasti, pastas and seafood, L'Arôm' Antique (Tel: +41 (0) 27 288 2510) with its wood-fired pizzas and cozy atmosphere, La Cabane (Tel: +41 (0) 27 288 2011) for its generous servings of modern Swiss cuisine in a cute timber chalet, La Poya at Hotel Mont Fort (Tel: +41 (0) 27 288 2616), for modern brasserie-style French and Le Chant du Torrent (Tel: +41 (0) 27 288 2446) which serves local specialities such as fondue in an informal atmosphere and is good value.
Nendaz offers something quite special in the form of moonlit skiing three times each winter in January February and March - a fun night out with friends or a romantic excursion. Contact Télenendaz for information or to book. Tel: +41 (0) 27 28 95 200 or Email: [email protected]
Snowshoeing and winter hiking are popular here with 40km of snowshoeing trails and 100km of winter walking trails. The hiking trails are demarcated with yellow signs and ribbons and the snowshoeing trails with purple signs and ribbons. There is a map showing trails in purple and routes start from the forested outskirts of Nendaz at the top of Tracouet and from Siviez. You can hire snowshoes from sports shops in Haute-Nendaz.
Other activities include finding out where your fondue cheese comes from with a cow barn visit, exploring the old village, sledging, snow tubing, paragliding, ice-skating at the sports centre and 11km of cross-country skiing trails.
Nendaz has been given the 'Families Welcome' award by the Swiss Tourism Federation for its provision for children. There are the two creches, one new for 2008/2009, and organised activities such as mini treasure hunts organised by the tourist office.
There are no spas in Nendaz but there is a booklet available from the Tourist Office with a list of massage therapists and beauticians in town or that can visit your accommodation.