Some 25 years ago,Swiss skiers and filmmakers Nico and Loris Falquet created innovative ski movies with a playful rock ‘n’ roll attitude, featuring massive backflips and steep lines. The Falquet brothers were ahead of their time, and their films were well-received. But a mystique grew among skiers in the Alps — the Falquets refused to name the extraordinary resort featured in their movies. Speculation was rampant for years, but the brothers kept their powder stashes and lines to themselves. Eventually, the truth came out — the resort was Les Marécottes — the Falquet’s home village and, literally, their backyard.
The three-lift resort is located in the Trient Valley, tucked into the mountains between Martigny and Chamonix. It caters primarily to intermediate skiers, but the surrounding terrain is big. Above the only chair lift are steep spines, cliffs, and couloirs, which have been stepping stones and training grounds for local skiers for decades.
Inspired by the Falquet brothers’ movies, Jérémie Heitz appeared on the local ski scene in the early 2000s. After making a name for himself on the Freeride World Tour, the superhumanly strong Heitz pushed all the boundaries in a niche between freeride and steep skiing. In 2016, ski history was dramatically rewritten by the then-26-year-old Heitz in the film “La Liste.” With powerful and progressive skiing in ultra-steep terrain, Heitz redefined what is possible on a pair of skis and became known as one of the best skiers globally.
Heitz was born and raised in Les Marécottes and still lives at the foot of the mountain. The Falquet brothers are his close friends, mentors, and ski partners. Even the most prominent legend in steep skiing, Sylvain Saudan, used to ski at Les Marécottes, sharing turns with Heitz’s grandfather at the small resort in the 70s.
A combination of factors converges to make Les Marécottes trip-worthy, starting with a microclimate that brings loads of snow. There are a lot of complex meteorological factors behind any local weather. Still, here, storms usually come from the west, bringing lousy weather from Chamonix, but then wind coming from the Rhône Valley causes them to stall just above Les Marécottes … and dump on the slopes below. When this is the result, who cares about the science?
Compared to most ski resorts in the Alps, the ski area of Les Marécottes is tiny. Three lifts serve two intermediate runs, two advanced groomers, and one expert run. It may not sound fascinating, but a magical landscape unfolds when riding the chairlift to Golettaz, the resort’s highest point at 2,220 meters (7,218 feet) above sea level. Mighty, jagged mountains march away as far as the eye can see, including the many 4,000-meter peaks of the area: Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, Grand Combin, and Aiguille Verte.
The terrain around Les Marécottes is one of a kind — for the Alps. It features a large amphitheatre divided by several ridges — there’s a massive bowl to the right and another to the left. Miniature Alaska-like formations separate the two major bowls. If you’re willing to hike, these steep spines are thrillingly skiable. The possibilities for a resort with just three lifts suddenly become almost endless.
Only a fraction of the vast terrain is groomed, but the lonely right-hand-side groomer is exposed to the steep mountainsides above. In addition, it’s south-facing and warms up quickly. To get the goods, be early and go fast so you don’t add to the workload of the local ski patrol.
On a seriously snowy day, we throw ourselves straight down under the chair lift and are greeted by beautiful, forested terrain with well-spaced larch, pine, and fir. Apart from a few happy enthusiasts struggling down the untouched snow and the occasional skier with wide planks and backpacks, there is virtually no one in the trees. All morning, we track ride after ride under the chair lift, blissfully charging down playful terrain and steep rollers with mighty mountains looming in the background.
Les Marécottes is even more enjoyable if you’re willing to earn a few turns. When the south side gets too sun-baked, you can skin and hike 250 meters vertically straight from the top of the chair lift to the Col de la Golette (2,470 meters/8,104 feet). On the other side, another world of fantastic views and opportunities unfolds — endless north-facing lines towards Lac de Salanfe and further down to Van d’en Haut. Eventually, having reached the mountain’s other side, catch a bus back to Les Marécottes.
For the modern freerider, Les Marécottes is almost too good to be true. Its remoteness has protected it from pollution, roads, significant developments, and hordes of tourists. The result is a charming, walkable village with traditional chalet-style buildings and friendly locals. Above is plenty of off-piste terrain, even inbounds. Small but sweet spines right above the lifts. Easily accessible, steep chutes everywhere. And unique for the Alps, there is no artificial snowmaking. It all feels so real … and so right. And if you’re lucky, you might even bump into Jérémie Heitz and the Falquet brothers.