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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Mountain Biking the Swiss Alps - The Trails

With MTBVerbier taking care of logistics, what was left was mountain biking and more mountain biking, on one of the most beautiful trails I have ever been fortunate to ride on!

The first day we started with a short 6km warm-up route to the lifts in Le Chable that took us from about 200m to about 830m where we caught our first glimpse of the magnificent mountain range. Verbier is a ski-resort and that means it is equipped with ski lifts that take skiers to the top of the mountain in winter. The lifts are designed to carry skis on the side and it so happens, mountain bikes must also fit the same hooks. But as a non-skier, it took me a bit of time to get the hang of how to quickly hook the bike and enter the lift safely! A few lifts we used throughout the three days were big enough to accommodate us and our bikes.

My bike fitting comfortably next to the door of the lift

The first 5km of the trail was flat and this was an opportunity to have a proper view on the mountain before getting into single tracks. This was followed by a fairly long downhill past the La Tzoumas (another ski resort) and lunch before hitting the only serious climb of the day, a long 5km climb on gravel, averaging 7% gradient over the distance. The trail took us into and out of villages where we were able to sit down for refreshments, and in total, it was a 60km ride that took us 7 hours (moving time 4 hours) to complete. It was really fantastic riding and breadth-taking views – sheer mountain biking pleasure.

Going up the lifts from Le Chable

Day 2 was just as fantastic, with great single tracks and wonderful views from the top. On the ride towards Siviez we came across a calm herd of cattle that seem to not mind our presence, some donning their signature Swiss bells, and so we had great fun riding amongst them. The highlight of the day, which easily I could call the highlight of the 3-day trip, was the Descente Col Des Gentianes (on Tour De Mont Fort) along what looked like a glacier. The views were absolutely amazing but the downhill was long and exhilarating. The downhill ended on the most amazing single tracks amongst really beautiful vegetation – all shades of green with blooming flowers of different colours. The distance covered on this day was 55km and similar to the day before, it took most of the day (about 7 hours) including all the pit stops and rides in the lifts.

We started Day 3 at Lac du Champex, about 30 min drive from the guesthouse, and as expected, there were great views and the rides through the villages were interesting. This ride had a fairly steep 1.5km climb which, thankfully, ended at a beautiful restaurant up the woods and this meant a well-deserved rest at the perfect time. This is the day we spent a lot of time riding on forest single tracks and this type of terrain is one of my favourite.

Riding the Swiss Alps is an experience that mountain bikers should really consider. If you have time, a self-guided trip is possible and I have come across a few sites that offer the basic information that you may need. I found that riding with a knowledgeable guide contributed significantly to the great experience and beautiful memories. I joined three other riders on the trip and to this day I still have contact with them and will hopefully ride with them again at some point in the future.

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