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The Swiss Wall

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
musher wrote:
I can only recall skiing it once, and the moguls were the size of VW Beetles so not that difficult. Steep and scraped at the top, gentle at the bottom, and not a piste I would rush back to do again in that condition.

The thing I remember best about the PDS is skiing over the roof of a cow shed and ending up on top of a dung heap Embarassed


That'll be the Donkey's Knob run over Chatel way - good fun, and a favourite of resort guides.

That roof can be taken at far more speed than you think it can, when t conditions are nice and soft. Remember that, next time. Everybody bottles it, which is a shame!
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Apologies for resurrecting this thread, but I just thought I'd share my rather sobering experience of my first time on the Wall this Saturday. I've not skied it before, my previous opportunity was a freezing cold and cloudy day about 10 years ago when instead of freefalling into the cloud and taking our chances, we decided, perhaps sensibly to go into the cafe at the top and get some hot drinks instead.

This weekend though, I was in Avoriaz for the first time in 10 years, the weather was gloriously sunny, and the snow, although on the hard side was not particularly icy. My wife and I had planned to take the lift up to The Wall just to get a view over the top and have some lunch. I've done a fair amount of skiing over the years, moguls and steep slopes didn't use to faze me, and I'd enjoy them, though latterly I have been taking it very easy on the slopes with my young family. Somehow I looked at the drop over the Wall and thought it didn't look too bad. It wasn't too busy, nobody seemed to be falling over, the first few moguls were smaller than car size and negotiable so I thought I'd give it a go. So I left my wife to order drinks, relax in the sunshine listening to the DJ and told her I'd be back in 15 minutes...

...it must have been at least twice that I was delivered back to the top of the chairlift, somewhat shaky, out of breath, but fortunately just my ego bruised, and with one very bent pole.

Although I had started over the top confidently enough, I slipped on around my fourth turn and popped out of a ski. OK, no problem I thought, I'll just stop and put it back on, but gravity had a better idea and I slipped on a further 20 metres or so. I unclipped and searched above me to see where I'd left my ski. Easier said than done as it's hard climbing up 35/50% slope in skiboots and the big moguls obscure the dips. As I clambered around looking for my lost ski I glanced down and saw that it must have carried on way past me, and had ended up about a third the way down the slope just above the first set of rocks.

So what to do...as people have said on here it's probably more dangerous to take your skis off and walk down a slope, but I wasn't sure what other option I had. I gathered my remaining ski and poles and started to gingerly walk down to my ski but inevitably slipped again, and started sliding uncontrollably, and more worryingly at an increasing speed, down the slope. In the process I let go of the ski I was holding, and a pole, but I gripped my last pole and held it under me as a brake to stop me sliding. Initially this had little effect though it stopped me accelerating, and I did manage to feel it catch and bend considerably in the process of stopping my slippery descent.

Eventually I ended up not far from the rocks, which I guess provided a slight decrease in gradient to slow me down fully, but my situation was a bit stark. I had one ski 30-40 metres above me, one slightly below me, one pole nowhere to be seen. So I sat and had a breather, and waved at the friendly passengers of the chairlift overhead who were calling "encouragement" from above Smile . To my good fortune and to the credit to a couple of skiers coming down behind me, one appeared with my pole, and a further skier passed my ski to me after I had climbed up halfway to retrieve it. Lucky too that the slope was pretty clear so nobody got hit by me or my falling equipment.

From this point I was pretty exhausted by climbing about and shaken by the slide, but got my skis back on, and carefully picked my way down the rest of the moguls to the bottom without incident, but was reminded that moguls require a pretty high level of physical exertion and concentration, and gratefully collapsed onto the chairlift.

My wife, having drunk my vin chaud as it was getting cold, taken some very nice Instagram shots and selfies, had then begun pondering whether it would be French or Suisse emergency services she needed to call after I'd not appeared for a while so was pretty relieved when I turned up at last, though perhaps not as much as me who was pleased to have only made it back with just a bent pole and not hurt myself or anyone else in the process!

A big lesson for me though: stop lazing about on reds and blues, get fitter, and get some decent lessons and practice on serious slopes and proper moguls again. And above all, don't ever underestimate the mountain and my own abilities!
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@Randyp909, Welcome, and thanks for taking the time to post -- interesting !
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@Randyp909, welcome to Snowheads
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great first post. Welcome. @Randyp909,
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I know it depends on conditions etc., but how difficult is the Swiss Wall compared to an average (French) black run?

I know it's mogulled and quite long.
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Think I might have a go at this for the first time next week, weather/conditions permitting. I'm a snowboarder so it's almost guaranteed to be a hellish experience, but it is a bit of a badge of honour - quite embarrassed that I've been to Avoriaz 3 times and still haven't attempted it.

Not sure if I'm actually good enough to take it on in anger but surely if it's way beyond my level I can just side slip down?
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Nice report, and will done for sharing! A friend of mines dad did a similar thing. A slow motion fall of no great significance led to a ski popping off, and he ended up hurting head first down the wall shedding bits of kit as he went. He did over half the run face first, lost both skis, both poles, hat, gloves, goggles and one boot shell! All to much applause from the chair.....
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My son and I went down it on Friday and it was in really nice condition. Medium sized moguls and fairly soft.
We also did it just before Christmas when there were no moguls, which just made it an enjoyable black run, even so I returned someones ski at the bottom, but couldn’t find his second one. He said it was ok as someone else was bringing it down and they were right at the top, so even without moguls he’d slipped the whole length of it.
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@denfinella, What do you regard as an "average" French black run? pisted? ungroomed? mogulled? The Swiss Wall is always a tough run and is usually large-ish moguls. In my experience there are very few tougher runs in French resorts unless you have an ideal snowfall which makes the moguls seem more benign. It does seem as @Paxo, mentions to be a "badge of honour" for many visitors to the PDS, but it is usually a "survival" experience for those who rarely ski in the bumps.
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It is made tougher because its “badge of honour” status means many people who shouldn’t be trying it, are.

So the entry is often worse than it often should be.

Once you’re in, it’s not significantly steeper than anything else, in fact it tames off significantly about 50% way down. Picking your line is important.

I skied it once in jeans, gaiters and on a monoski.
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@denfinella, very difficult when compared and gets harder as the season progresses as more snow accumulates. The bumps especially at hi are misshaped due to skiers trying to traverse. I’ll try to find some photos that I’ve posted elsewhere on snowheads.
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@barbossine, average mogulled black run. I know "average" is a bit hard to define.

Thanks all, think I've got a idea of what it might be like. Probably right on the edge of our abilities so it'll depend on snow conditions.

There are also a few videos online to check it out.


Last edited by So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much on Mon 6-01-20 21:14; edited 1 time in total
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Not as hard as “Col du Machon” (which may no longer be a marked piste), not as hard as the hard black in Torgon, not nearly as hard as “pointe du vue” or “pylones” in Argentiere, nor “pic janvier” in Flegere (although is is more patchy and less skied ...
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@under a new name, my French / unpisted black run experience is mostly limited to resorts which don't have a reputation for tricky blacks. Some of the trickier ones I recall would be Gers and Diamant Noir in Flaine, the two from the glacier in La Plagne, Mont Joly in Megeve. These were all OK.
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@Randyp909, welcome to snowHeads, what a brilliant first post! Very Happy Your experience is uncannily similar to mine on the Tunnel in Alpe d'Huez some years ago. Somewhat unnerving, to say the least. Skullie
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@Randyp909, great tale! Welcome to Snowheads. That would probably happen to me if I ever tried it (I wouldn't). Same goes for the Tunnel.

I do not like to be frightened on skis!
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@denfinella, with no disrespect to the new OP but this Swiss Wall Fail video gives you a good idea.. gets quite amusing from about 1:15 min and is typical of the skill levels and Dutch courage that are sprawled all other ten wall. There is a great outdoor bar on top for a quote shot before braving the wall. It’s easily accessible from the Fornet ‘family’ sector of Avoriaz.


http://youtube.com/v/RioREwL_7xc
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@HoneyBunny, it would have been fine, had it not been for the fact that I had reached the point of no return before I realised a) that the slope was extremely icy and b) that there was someone standing and trembling on every single car-sized mogul, leaving me with limited turning options. rolling eyes
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@denfinella, I would submit that Gers is actually and for a longer pitch, steeper, just not skied as often by people who shouldn’t be there.

Diamont Noir, you’re right, not as steep.
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@Ozboy, he is quite drunk isn’t he? And a bit useless...
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GordonFreeman wrote:
Anyone ever done the Swiss Wall in Morzine over to the swiss side.
There was a heavy dump and we were skiing on the white out. To be honest, I was a bit worried about the avalanche risk as it was 3 that day and this is quite a steep slope - any thoughts?


I know this was from quite a while back but interestingly the below photos illustrate that it can happen as was the case when we were there last week.

The first photo is at about 1000 on 30/12/19 later in the day we went back to the area at around 1530 and saw that an avalanche had come down in the vicinity of the run. It is a bit to the skiers left but not that far to the side and people had been skiing the avalanche path earlier in the day.


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About 30 years ago a couple of foolish and not so skilled skiers decided that skiing the Swiss Wall when it was officially closed would be a good idea. From what I remember we both managed to get to the bottom without too much drama (certainly less drama than the Dutch guys), I guess it might have been a stiff test of our side slipping skills Very Happy I dont think that we thought repeating the experience would be a good idea Madeye-Smiley .
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Combette in Avoriaz (turn left halfway down Arare) is the toughest marked piste in PdS. Others might be steeper, but Combette is evil - tight, no traverse options, no flow, relentless, brutal and knackering. I've skied it with some superb skiers over the years, and never seen anyone look good on it. Keep going back for more though Madeye-Smiley Skullie
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Bear in mind that (like other runs) The Swiss Wall varies considerably according to snow conditions, from a glassy bone breaking roller coaster to a soft'n'fluffy descent of mashed potato.

For the last three times (separate years) I've visited the Wall, it's been closed. Evil or Very Mad I am not a happy bunny.

In conclusion, the skier invariably discovers that they have the wrong equipment - skis instead of a snowboard. Twisted Evil
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I've seen a recent video of Ben Cavet expertly doing the Swiss Wall. On his Facebook I think. Sorry, don't know how to put it up on here.
Ben is English, lives in France and represented France at last two Olympics. I met him in Morzine before Sochi Olympics. He was ranked 30_40 in the world then. I offered to send him a tray of Thatchers cider if he made the final.....he did, and I did.
He's now top ten mogul in world....the video is great if anyone can put it up
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lambert wrote:
I've seen a recent video of Ben Cavet expertly doing the Swiss Wall. On his Facebook I think. Sorry, don't know how to put it up on here.
Ben is English, lives in France and represented France at last two Olympics. I met him in Morzine before Sochi Olympics. He was ranked 30_40 in the world then. I offered to send him a tray of Thatchers cider if he made the final.....he did, and I did.
He's now top ten mogul in world....the video is great if anyone can put it up



http://youtube.com/v/hPwQFKMVvok


Been down the wall a few times on my snowboard, not a fan of moguls but it was ok.
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Yup that's a great vid, he makes it look so easy Shocked
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@lambert, @Skrabble, fabulous. Thanks for posting.
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https://www.facebook.com/christopher.hicks.58/videos/vb.509951130/10153762123566131/?type=3

I'm hoping that link works.

2 things to note, firstly, the ski flying down the hill right at the start, could have seriously hurt someone.

Secondly, I did tell my mate it's probably best he didn't do this run, but sometimes confidence outweighs ability...... rolling eyes rolling eyes
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Ben Cavet certainly made it look easy. The Dutch guy not so much.

You don’t think it could be Stanton do you - overweight Dutchman who’s a bit of a knob on skis but has a high opinion of himself?
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Notice how they cut out the bits where Ben Cavet slid over after the 4th turn (and sprained his wrist), paused after the next 3 turns, and then hesitated at the end of each of two more traverses, before the Wall finally shallowed out and he was able to treat it like a normal mogul run?

It ain't difficult to make most skier descent videos look decent - if you miss out all the embarassing bits. wink
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Took these last February during half term but was surprisingly quiet. The lone skier on the second picture assuming the toilet seat position gives perspective to to size of the moguls. It’s much easier skier’s left as less skied.

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How do SHers think the Swiss Wall compares to the Tortin at Verbier? Or the Piste du Chamois at Zinal?

For the sake of discussion let’s say each with decent conditions underfoot and overhead.
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@Ozboy, cripes, I could easily hide behind one of those moguls standing up. Shocked
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That is a most definite "nope".
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Looks fab, worth a trip to Morzine just for that.
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@IanTr, Tortin in Verbier is a piece of cake compared to Swiss wall......or was it Tartin Puzzled

And it’s avoriaz as opposed to morzine
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Notice how wide the thing is though?! I saw quite a few people ticking it off by traversing all the way across it. Swiss wall done, total turns 3! Gnarly.
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polo wrote:
@IanTr, Tortin in Verbier is a piece of cake compared to Swiss wall......or was it Tartin Puzzled

And it’s avoriaz as opposed to morzine


Geographically it’s in Champery Les Crossets and not sure if the lift back up is included in the Avoriaz area ski pass?
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