This article has been adapted from Ski Stories 2020.
The From Switzerland With Love crew filmed exclusively in the canton of Wallis, and focused largely on Laurent De Martin’s local area: a collection of six villages near the southeast end of Lake Geneva called the Région Dents du Midi. Named for the massif that dominates the horizon, this region represents the Swiss side of the Portes du Soleil, a huge ski resort complex spanning the Swiss-French border.
The Région Dents du Midi: four interconnected resorts and six villages on the Swiss side of Portes du Soleil.
Roots run deep here in the Val d’Illiez, where a Celtic presence dates to 6,000 B.C., local myths tell of settlement by rogue Roman soldiers, and agriculture is still a major part of the local economy. These days, the region’s spectacular views, extensive lift network and easy accessibility are turning these quaint Swiss villages into a popular summer and winter tourist destination.
The name Portes du Soleil carries clout among skiers as one of the world’s largest interconnected resort areas: a single-ticket ski resort sprawling across 14 valleys and 12 villages, with 190 lifts and over 1,000 square kilometers of terrain. Though the bulk of this area lies in France, the Swiss side features plenty of its own highlights, from the freeride terrain of Les Crosets and the daunting Le Mur Suisse (Swiss Wall) to the geothermal baths in Val d’Illiez.
Our guide to the region: Laurent De Martin. Photo: Flück
Local advice is the best advice, and Laurent De Martin has been skiing here his whole life. So we asked him to spill the beans on a few of his favorite shred spots in the area. Regardless of where you choose to lay your tracks, Laurent recommends a stop at the 7Peaks Brasserie in Morgins to sample their diverse menu of locally brewed beer.
Laurent’s Favorite Spots
Tree Skiing in Morgins
A lot of the skiing in Région Dents du Midi takes place above the treeline. When the weather is socked in and skiing up high isn’t an option, Laurent likes to head for Morgins and the more sheltered tree skiing off the La Foilleuse lift. To the west of the lift in the Val de Morgins, the tree skiing all leads back to the piste that connects from Les Crosets, bringing you quickly back to the lift for your next lap. For a longer run, you can drop off the back of the Bochasses lift into the same valley.
With a bit of looking around La Foilleuse, you might happen upon a zone Laurent called “Little Japan,” a playful powder pitch with well-spaced trees. “We filmed all the powder shots in the movie there in just two days,” he says.
On bad-weather days, Laurent seeks shelter in the trees above Morgins. Photo: Flück
Freeriding in Les Crosets
When the sun is shining and the snow is fresh, Laurent will start his ski days at Les Crosets. Underneath the Crosets and Grand-Conche lifts, serpentine snow gullies make for playful off-piste runs, while the lift up to the Pointe des Mossettes opens up a realm of more technical freeride terrain. “You can just go up this lift and look around, and you’ll see so many possibilities,” says Laurent. But keep your eyes open on a big day, because things can get a bit hectic when the powderhounds are out in force.
Building a jump in the playful terrain of Les Crosets. Photo: Flück
Another option for in-bounds powder is the Chavanette lift, home to Le Mur Suisse, “the Swiss Wall.” Although its popularity means that it gets tracked out quickly, descending this permanently ungroomed slope is a rite of passage for visitors to the region.
The Col de Cou is Laurent's stomping ground—literally. Photo: Flück
Backcountry basics: Col de Cou
Known to local crews simply as “La Zone,” the Col de Cou at 1919m is home to a number of prime jump spots made famous in several classic snowboard movies. “We grew up watching Absinthe Films, and most of the European shots were filmed there,” says Laurent. “They brought all the best snowboarders out there for many years.” During the filming of From Switzerland With Love, Laurent and crew spent a night in the old border-guard station on the pass.
Around a 40-minute skin from the lifts, the Col de Cou is also a popular ski touring zone, with several descents of various difficulty leading back down to the Grand Paradis lift station in Champéry. Just try not to leave tracks in anyone’s landing on your way down.