One of the greatest things about Disentis is the opportunity to ski truly big runs. With over a mile of lift-serviced vertical, and easy skinning from both top lifts, huge runs are not uncommon. Bagging 4,000 vertical feet (1,200 metres) from lower entries quickly becomes routine. Most North American ski areas would kill to have even 3,000 vertical feet (900 metres).
It doesn’t take much for our peak-to-valley routes to get good: 5 cm snowfall in the valley bottom usually means 20 cm up high, with perhaps 40 blown-in on higher lee slopes.
And so it was a couple of days ago when I ventured out for an 8:15 am cable car with Sebastian, a great young waiter working at Lodge Sax, and his dad Mats, a very fit gentleman in his early 50s with thousands of powder days under his belt.
Along with a dozen or so locals and another dozen or so Swedish visitors, we started out lapping the Lai Alv chairlift. The poor light was actually a good thing, keeping people from spreading out and eating up the best lines immediately. Instead, people tended to ski right beside the last set of tracks just for something to navigate by. We were all snow farming without wanting to.
Eventually the fog dissipated, the sun made an appearance and Lai Alv was shredded within half an hour.
Not so the Parlets Chair. The steep couloirs running beneath the chair became the playground of fewer than 10 skiers. Yells of triumph echoed around upper Val Segnas as the three of us, now joined by Disentis ski bum Christopher and his buddy Per, laid down four laps of knee-deep blower. Despite it being February, the Alps’ busiest ski month, Disentis still isn’t overrun with freeriders.
What everyone was thinking the entire time was, When will someone say we need to ski Val Segnas to valley bottom? The temptation is there with every lap of the Parlets Chair, as getting to the lift requires a sharp traverse halfway down lines that are almost irresistibly drawing one further down the fall-line.
It was past noon, but we were the first group into Val Segnas, which skied beautifully right to the valley floor. Next up was Val Pintga. At 1 pm, we were the first group in. The north wind had put down some pockets of surprisingly deep slab that were pretty touchy, with numerous small spontaneous avalanches on convex roll-overs in the lee of the north wind.
Val Pintga allows you to avoid most of those, however, and we skied carefully one-at-a-time until we were down into the bushy runout area. Being the first group meant that even the mogul-strewn Labyrinth gully exit was super fun. And so 4,000 vertical feet were eaten up with hardly a thought.
After a late-afternoon snack in the upper hut, it was back into Val Segnas for the day’s closer. We pulled up back in front of Lodge Sax having racked up 22,000 vertical feet without even really trying. That’s equivalent to a huge day of snowcat skiing that could run you $1,000. Just another regular day in Disentis.