Next up on our Ski Europe adventure…Verbier and Engelberg in the Swiss Alps. First, we drove from Les Trois Vallées to Verbier, Switzerland. We chose Verbier for a couple of reasons. 1) Like Les Trois Vallées, Verbier is covered for 5 days of skiing by Vail’s Epic Pass. 2) We had hiked in the Verbier area on the 3rd leg – the Haute Route – of our month of hiking in Switzerland in 2013, and thought it was beautiful. That also meant that there should be some trails for snowshoeing (as these are often hiking trails in the summer), and our focus for these two weeks was more snowshoeing and less skiing.

Which was a good thing, as we weren’t overly impressed with the skiing in either Verbier or Engelberg. One factor was that they REALLY needed snow here by the time we arrived and even more so by the time we left. But in general, the runs were hard to get to from town (spoiled, I know), very spread out, and once you did get to them, there just wasn’t that much variety. Because of this, everyone was on the same runs, so it was also a bit crowded. If it’s going to be crowded, at least give us the huge variety of Vail to ease the pain of the lift lines!! Verbier is supposedly well-known for great off-piste skiing, but there just wasn’t enough snow to get to many off-piste areas.

We knew before we went to Engelberg that the skiing wasn’t going to be the primary reason to be there. Our fourth week in the Alps was the week of the English and French school winter break, so we had searched out a place that was uniquely beautiful and quaint but wouldn’t be a huge draw for hordes of winter-breakers. And uniquely beautiful it was. The cute little alpine town is completely surrounded by mountain peaks (think box canyon like Telluride). We had bright sunshine every day and we walked all of the available hiking/snowshoe trails (and a couple of them twice). We didn’t get our skis out of the bag.

 
A beautiful drive through deep canyons and through Chamonix, under Mont Blanc.

A beautiful drive through deep canyons and through Chamonix, under Mont Blanc.



Verbier ski map.  Difficult to get from one valley to another.

Verbier ski map. Difficult to get from one valley to another.



Verbier in winter.

Verbier in winter.



Verbier in summer.

Verbier in summer.



The main lift station in "downtown" Verbier

The main lift station in “downtown” Verbier



Verbier rooftops were loaded with snow.

Verbier rooftops were loaded with snow.



The town of Verbier is nestled in a broad plateau about 1,500 feet above the valley floor.

The town of Verbier is nestled in a broad plateau about 1,500 feet above the valley floor.



Happiness is walking in snow with sunshine on my shoulders.

Happiness is walking in snow with sunshine on my shoulders.



The first time that we have seen gondola cars interspersed with chairs.

The first time that we have seen gondola cars interspersed with chairs.



Verbier is known as one of the premiere "off-piste" resorts in the world.

Verbier is known as one of the premiere “off-piste” resorts in the world.



Long interconnected runs meant that you need to know where you are going!

Long interconnected runs meant that you need to know where you are going!



The ski area is surrounded by deep valleys.

The ski area is surrounded by deep valleys.



...expansive as well as deep.

…expansive as well as deep.



Richard Branson's local hotel in Verbier.  We didn't check the prices.

Richard Branson’s local hotel in Verbier. We didn’t check the prices.



Verbier to Engelberg

Verbier to Engelberg



Engelberg ski/snowshoe map.  Notices the trails are on top of successive plateaus with cliff faces.

Engelberg ski/snowshoe map. Notices the trails are on top of successive plateaus with cliff faces.



Engelberg's box canyon in winter.

Engelberg’s box canyon in winter.



Engelberg's box canyon in Summer.

Engelberg’s box canyon in Summer.



 
One of the more interesting peaks above Engelberg.  It reminded us of a corkscrew.

One of the more interesting peaks above Engelberg. It reminded us of a corkscrew.



The snowshoeing in Engelberg was awsome!

The snowshoeing in Engelberg was awesome!



We hiked through large fields of snow on successive plateaus.

We hiked through large fields of snow on successive plateaus.



The plateaus has sweeping pastures of snow.

The plateaus have sweeping pastures of snow.



Another view of the plateau.

Another view of a plateau.



And one more view of the plateau.

…and one more view.



Engelberg's hiking trails were clearly marked.

Engelberg’s hiking trails were clearly marked with pink poles.



Shauna taking a picture of Mark taking a picture.....

Shauna taking a picture of Mark taking a picture…..



The little town of Engelberg down in the valley.

The little town of Engelberg down in the valley. Wow, we hiked a long ways up!



"Railway in Operation"

“Railway in Operation”



Engelberg ski runs at the top.

Engelberg ski runs at the top.



Stay on the trail!  It is a long way down.

Stay on the trail! It is a long way down.



Engelberg peaks from down in the valley.

Engelberg peaks from down in the valley.



Engelberg peaks from up high.

Engelberg peaks from up high.



The Brunni carnival parade is held to ‘welcome spring’… Feb 14 seems a little early for spring, but all the next week was sunny with warming temps, so maybe not! Shazam would have a hard time recognizing this song; oh, and don’t miss the gold-cape-clad-bikini-woman!