Espace Dent-Blanche ski region in the Val d’Hérens region of Switzerland offers skiing on stunning alpine peaks above the wine-rich Rhone valley, with 3 ski areas – Arolla, Evolène, and La Forclaz (all included on the Magic Pass). While this valley does not get the name recognition of nearby Crans Montana or Verbier, this is indeed a very special ski valley.
The drive up to these smaller Swiss ski areas is quite wild to start your adventure. From the gateway city of Sion you climb narrow switchbacks clinging to the hillsides, not always guarded by railings, passing old wood chalets dotting the mountainside and the occasional hotel and restaurant. Among the remarkable sights are the Pyramids of stone dating back to the Ice Age, and jagged spires and rock outcroppings that the Val d’Hérens (Evolène Valley) is known for.
Arolla, Evolène, and La Forclaz offer 100 kilometers of prepared trails all tolled, with elevation up to 3,000m and majestic views of Dents Blanches – which means white teeth, perfect description of the peaks soaring to 4,357m in these Valais Alps, just 10 kilometers west of Zermatt as the crow flies.
Arolla is a high mountain ski area, from 2,000 – 3,000m altitude, served by five rustic pomas that reach 47 kilometers of trails. But don’t let that dissuade you. Arolla is peaceful, beautiful, mostly above-tree-line, facing the majestic Pigne d’Arolla and Dent Blanche mountains. When its clear, Arolla is magnificent. When it clouds up, or heavy snow moves in, its tricky to see.
Arolla has no fancy base lodge, just a yurt, and a simple beginner area at the base. The views of Glacier D’Arolla and Glacier du Mt Collon are blue and mesmerizing as you ride up the 2 consecutive very long pomas (1,700-meters) all by yourself. Its so tranquil, except for the sudden tug as you grab the poma, the cable speed is fast, and the start can be like riding a rodeo out of the gates.
From Arolla’s summit poma, admire the amazing views, visit the basic chalet hutte Buvette 3,000m for a warm up, then make your choice – ski the groomed trail to the left or right, or explore the wild limitless off-piste terrain. This is best done by hiring a guide like local based Gilles of Swiss Powder Guides! These mountain peaks are part of the challenging “Haute Route” that runs from Chamonix to Zermatt. Arolla has many uphill skiers, Randonnée, climbing the ski slopes to access this uncharted terrain. There’s also a route from Col de la Forclaz to Arolla.
Arolla’s most difficult prepared run is the ‘Noire du Mont Dolin’, which is 5km in length. Arolla’s lower mountain offers a few trails, and another rustic happy hut – Le Chotte just a short traverse from Poma Fontaneseses 1. What Arolla lacks in sophisticated lifts and on mountain lodges, it makes up for in natural stunning terra8in and vistas!
There are few lodging options in Evolene valley. We stayed at the Hotel Du Pigne – a chalet hotel just off the slopes, and enjoyed the classic Swiss hospitality and wonderful cuisine so close to Arolla’s ski slopes in this beautiful region. See our review of Arolla’s Hotel Du Pigne.
We’ve also stayed at the lovely historic lodge, the 1896 Grand Hotel Kurhaus. With ski-in/ski out access just off the slopes from Arolla, Kurhaus offers charming Swiss rooms with magnificent views. Après ski in the Bar offers music and billiards in this hidden mountain palace. Evenings at Kurhaus, the best Swiss Cheese fondue in the cozy dining room is popular, as well as their menu of local cuisine, not just with the fortunate guest but the few Val d’Hérens locals as well.
La Forclaz Ski Area across the valley, up more wild winding roads, is reputed for being sunny, offering skiers 360-degree views of the entire Val d’Hérens. With 15 kilometers of ski trails and 3 T-Bars plus a magic carpet, La Forclaz is also humble, natural. Forclaz is especially popular for its tree skiing, with big larch forests creating well-spaced glade skiing.
Evolène skiing offers splendid views of the Dent-Blanche, the Matterhorn, and the village of Evolène below. Tele Evolène Chemeuille ski terrain is between 1,404 – 2,632 meters, with 3 surface lifts and 42 km of trails. It’s very near the huge Les 4 Valleys region which includes Verbier, Bruson, La Tzoumaz, Nendaz, Siviez, Thyon Les Collons, and Veysonnaz.
The Evolène region has a big Carnival – carrying on vibrant old traditions by celebrating Pagan rituals in a festive way, incredible costume characters parade the villages scaring bad winter spirits away.
Espace Dent-Blanche Ski Stats:
Trails: 38 Slopes plus hundreds of acres of Freeride terrain.
We recommend a Swiss ski safari in Valais, the Evolène region to include Arolla, Evolène, Les Forclaz plus neighboring Anzère, Grimentz Zinal, St-Luc/Chandolin, Crans Montana, Leukerbad and Nax Mont Noble, plus more.