Icy Sun and Stunning Sights
Think Verbier and expensive skiing is the first thing that comes to mind. But this stunning part of Switzerland offers visitors – and cyclists – so much more throughout the year
Article by Andrew Threlfall
Looking out through the icy air across the mountain tops, still snow-capped in June, from Le Marmotte restaurant in Savoleyres below the blue Planards that run into Verbier, you understand why people adore this part of Switzerland.
This traditional mountain restaurant with a warm open fire and fantastic sun terrace in the summer serves mostly Raclettes and some knockout Savoyard dishes – so that’s what we order – as the 30-minute walk to get there from the last stop on the free bus line is quite the magical forest workout.
It’s not cheap here – invariably nothing in Verbier is – and you almost get the feeling that it’s some form of karmic payback from the cows who graze on the adjoining fields wearing cow bells around their necks that at best will leave you hearing bells and seeing the stars on perfect dark sky nights. If the Hérens breed are not suffering from tinnitus they will happily engage in cow fights; think Mike Olfield performing the last two-minute segment of Tubular Bells to scores of phone waving tourists getting a little too close to the action. At least the bulls are ringed off by a flimsy electric cord, which you encounter all over the mountainside, generally where a substantial road barrier might, in its place, provide at least a slim chance of surviving death. It is one of the greatest quirks in Switzerland’s ascent to the top of the rich list that they have overlooked – completely – protective barriers on some of most vertiginous mountain sides in the world.
My friend Antoinette and I stay at Hotel A Larze at, pretty much, ground level below Verbier in the more affordable Le Châble. Emilie runs the place and her local yoghurt is a highlight. So good in fact it could squeeze on to the Greek menu at the nearby Cantaloupe.
But food can wait when you have that e-bike climb to the top of Verbier with British guide Jack, fluent in all levels of novice riding skills especially as both of us fell off a couple of times. The views were sunlit, spectacular and completely worth the effort. And when they aren’t sunlit, Nadja – ask the tourism board by first name for her, will take you on the greatest mountain tours even in the pouring rain.
We drove to the local hydro spectacular- the Mattmark Dam, as well as the Sioux reservation – dream a little and you’re in the Wild West – where waking up in a tepee in the Swiss forests surrounded by zip lines is very, very disorientating. Just in the best possible way imaginable.
For those keen cyclists amongst you, there are a Valais road cycling offers/packages that are bookable from summer 2018:
Bike offer/package 1: Discover Valais on the Valais Cycling Tour.
Bike offer/package 2: Treasures of the Upper Valais by road bike.