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Backcountry

The Faction Collective's 'Zermatt to Verbier'

Four skiers explore the highest traverse in the Swiss Alps.

In 1942, the first Patrouille des Glaciers race took place in the Swiss Alps. Intended to test soldiers’ ability to travel through high alpine terrain from Zermatt to Verbier, civilian alpinists of the region were inspired. In 1984, the race opened to the public and allowed female competitors two years later. Today, the popular route’s valleys, glaciers, and snowy peaks are admired by skiers and mountaineers. 

Zermatt to Verbier: Sam Anthamatten, Elisabeth Gerritzen, Yann Rausis, and Anna Smoothy skiing
High on a glacier between Zermatt and VerbierPhoto Courtesy of Faction

“Zermatt to Verbier”, featuring Sam Anthamatten, Elisabeth Gerritzen, Yann Rausis, and Anna Smoothy, displays how skiers utilized the Patrouille route to discover inspiring lines off surrounding peaks. Although skiers of the past were focused on racing from point A to point B, this group was more focused on what lines they could find off the beaten path. 

Zermatt to Verbier, skiers hiking through Switzerland to the mountains; Sam Anthamatten, Elisabeth Gerritzen, Yann Rausis, and Anna Smoothy
Skiers make their way to the mountains. Photo Courtesy of Faction

As you can imagine, the race looked very different in the 1940s than it does now. Throughout the film, it is noticeable that gear in the early days of mountaineering was not ideal. The pictures and short clips of equipment will make any skier appreciate the highly engineered and lightweight gear we enjoy on long ski tours today. The race is still organized by the Swiss Army, and civilian and military teams compete every two years. Hopefully, the Patrouille des Glaciers tradition will continue in 2022. 

Ironically, the second military race in 1943 started from a different location due to an epidemic causing Zermatt to be under quarantine. 77 years later, the 2020 race was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Faction athletes took advantage of this time and went out to explore the mountains while they could not travel. They were inspired by the new locations they were able to ski off the Patrouille des Glaciers route and were motivated to venture out of resorts more often. 

Watch: ‘Zermatt to Verbier’

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