Verbier : adventure sports
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Verbier is a mecca for adventure addicts, with a host of companies competing with each other to come up with the newest and most exciting extreme thrill of the season. The Maison du Sport (Sports Centre; 027/775 33 63, verbier-sportcenter.ch) is home to ski and snowboarding schools, the mountain guides office, Centre Parapente offering tandem paragliding and hang-gliding flights, and No Limits with luge, snow-carting, snow-scooting and plenty more. Bureau de la Fantastique (027/771 41 41, www.lafantastique.com) offer heli-skiing, qualified guides for off-piste (Fr.390/day for one person) and long-distance ski safaris.

Verbier comes into its own as testing ground for extreme sports. One of the best annual events is the Xtreme Freeride Snowboarding Contest (www.xtreme-snowboard.com), one of the top international showcases of the sport, held each March. Bec des Rosses, way up on the mountainside at Gentianes, is the scene for twenty of the world’s best boarders to do their thing, competing by invitation only in the most dramatic of locations, with 55 degree gradients, broad expanses of powder and plenty of obstacles.

The Patrouille des Glaciers (Glacier Patrol; www.pdg.ch) is a long-distance endurance test across the 53km of glaciers, summits and passes between Zermatt and Verbier. Dubbed “Paris–Dakar on skis”, it was halted in 1949 after three deaths, and restarted in 1984 with more than six hundred participants; since then it has taken place every other year (next in May 2002), with the current record standing at 7 hours 13 minutes. Not to be outdone, mountain biking has its own world championship at Verbier, an exceptionally tough one-day race over 131km to Grimentz, completed in 1997 in an amazing 6 hours 26 minutes.

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