James Clark ventures into the mountains on an E-bike.
Verbier is one of the Swiss Alps premium ski destinations. Attracting a young and vibrant crowd for winter sports, good food, delicious Swiss wine that you won’t find anywhere else in the world (they won’t share it) and lively atmosphere at night.
It’s also a great destination for celebrity spotting. Jude Law, Leonardo Di Caprio, David and Victoria Beckham, Jamie Oliver and James Blunt are all regulars. Pixie Lott rented the top floor apartment at the W Hotel Verbier for £9000 a night (I sat on the bed - my apologies if that comes across as creepy, but at that price I couldn’t resist), Prince Andrew and ex-wife Sarah Ferguson have a chalet together worth a cool £13 million and Richard Branson’s chalet can be yours for a little over £100,000 a week.
Verbier clearly has it all for the winter sports enthusiast, but what about the summer months? I decided to investigate and discovered that cycling was one of the best ways to explore the area.
After a few teething problems (mainly not enough bikes), I was ready to hang out with my host for the day, Eric den Oudendammer from MTB Verbier. What followed was a bit of downhill wobbling and trying to figure out how to not to fall off. I soon found myself getting into the swing of things, eagerly looking from left to right, trying my best to absorb one beautiful view after another. My number one aim was not to slip off the side of a mountain and fall hundreds of metres to my death. I’d forgotten travel insurance yet again. I kept that to myself as others in the group spoke of the excellent cover they had.
The brakes are a God send on an e-bike. It’s imperative to use both while descending, if not it’s over the handlebars you go. Take my word for it!
I was surrounded by lakes, flowers, bell ringing cows, mountains, trees and snow. It snowed later that day and it was June, apparently it snowed last year in July.
Before I knew it, I was at the bottom of the valley and making my way up another mountain. The descent had been easy, I loved every second of it, but climbing up mountains on a bike – even a battery powered one - was a challenge, but I managed it. The e-bike seemed to push me up the mountain and the view below became more remarkable with every battery-powered peddle.
I’m not so sure that I’d be able to climb mountains on a standard mountain bike, but who the hell would want to? Maybe Rohan Dennis and Simon Gerrans, but they were both front runners at the Tour de France. Me on the other hand…. well don’t get me started.
I felt alive as the cool summer breeze swept across my face and did my best to avoid huge clouds of tree pollen rising from below. I’m an allergy sufferer. Either way the air felt pure, the sites were amazing and I found myself loving every minute of it, even up hill.
Finally, as I arrived at Bonatchiesse and joined the group. I felt more than ready for lunch, a gigantic steak from one of the former bell ringing cows and even larger glass of wine. It was a great way to spend a couple of hours before the 21 kilometres cycle back, (which took two hours of almost nonstop cycling).
Not quite sure how, but morning number two arrived fast and the alarm was ringing in my ear. Rule number one is no red wine before e-biking. What did I do last night? Yes, you guessed it, I drank red wine and I was paying for it.
My aim of the day was to cycle a different route and further than the day before.
I felt myself fading fast as I opened the patio doors on to my balcony, it was raining. Never mind all that, I’m British and can cope with rain.
Ten peddles on the e-bike in the cold rain and I was back in the game and raring to go. They should bottle this fresh air and sell it to wealthy lushes. I’m not going to say it was easy, but the cool breeze kept me motivated throughout the second route from Verbier to Croix de Coeur, onto Mayens de Saxon and then Col du Lein. Yes, you guessed it, more mountains, trees, cows and copious amounts of fresh air.
A word of warning, don’t use the turbo setting on the e-bike all the way around. It won’t last all day and once the battery is flat you’ll be faced with a really heavy bike to pedal and very steep mountains ahead of you.
So what did I do on the rest of the trip? Silly question really, I cycled different routes, enjoyed the beauty of Verbier, ate raclette cheese and drank more wine (white this time).
The wine in Switzerland is the best I’ve encountered on recent travels and I was surprised to learn it is virtually impossible to buy anywhere else. I’ve hunted high and low and can’t find a bottle anywhere. The Swiss are greedy when it comes to their wine, but can’t say I blame them.
The hotel, the W Verbier Hotel is located at the top of the village. The exterior was as you’d imagine, a giant log chalet, but the interior was modern. The giant penguins in reception and a life-sized bear in one of the conference rooms made a nice touch. There’s a red tunnel leading towards what was once a nightclub, it’s now a sushi bar and stairs filled with people sipping cocktails running from reception down to the bar area. The barman makes excellent cocktails, be sure to ask him for a pina colada.
The hotel comes with excellent spa facilities and a swimming pool and outside the front of it is the beach, outside bar and barbecue. And no Switzerland isn’t renowned for it's beaches, this one is manmade and brilliant fun.
So as always the question has to be would I go back? Hell yeah. Verbier is a wonderful place to spend time in the summer, but next time I think I’ll check it out in winter to see what winter here is all about.