Verbier. Open for business

Riding uphill under the lift. At least it was only for a wee bit.

Miss us?

Winter has been. Maybe not quite gone, but certainly been. Spring is here with her promises of skiing in the morning and biking in the afternoon. Of course it rarely works quite that perfectly, but it’s still been good to get either a good ski and a short ride, or a short ski and a good ride in. Tuesday was the latter, a short ski in the morning followed by loading up the car with Spencer and Nina for the first road trip of the year. To……………

The trails were mostly snow free, it was only when I was allowed to lead the exploration that we found it. Still fun but!

Verbier. But then you probably guessed that, what with the blog title including ‘Verbier’ and all.

Sandy preferring the Merlet trail to skiing out from the Berard valley.

But before that, what of the Chamonix valley? Well, the below average snow year has meant the valley trails have melted out a good bit earlier than usual, so from mid March the Coupeau and Merlet trails have been rideable with only small patches of snow to contend with (well, the cone of avalanche debris at the start of the Merlet trail is a bit more than a small patch, but it’s not hard to pass). Even away from the south facing trails, the routes down from Lavancher can now be ridden cleanly and Servoz is riding well, if muddily, with only a few downed trees to duck under.

That, oh, just my new bike. And snow free trails below Lavancher.

Back to Verbier then, where after 11 in the morning you can now ride the 700m vert from Le Chable to Verbier with your bike. Though only once you’ve found the bike caddy for the gondolas, put it on the bubble yourself, been told off for putting it on the wrong way, on the wrong gondola, then finally put your bike on it. Not the finest of customer service, but repeated with admirable Swiss consistency on each lap.

Even once you were off the gondola the hassle continued. Who installs a compulsory lift in a ski station!

Once up you have a couple of official options open to you, all marked on the handy pdf you can download from the Verbier website here. If the lifties aren’t too cheery, at least the bike park crew are doing their best to encourage riding. You’ll notice that there’s not a huge number of tracks on the official piste card, we also checked out the full summer card here which has more, and took a map, with yet more again.

It's great to be back riding big descents without riding big climbs.

If you’ve ridden Verbier before then you’ll know what to expect from the lower trails, indeed you’ve probably ridden most of them as part of the bigger descents from Ruinettes. If not, then to riders left of the gondola line they’re much like Chamonix but with a different back drop and a few more corners, and to the right they’re more open and fast with bermed corners and old part cobbled roads.

Verbier trails. Tech, rocky and exposed. Much like Chamonix then.

The best two trails of the day were probably the marked red and black “enduro” trail on the map, and the well ridden Patier descent (both of these will no doubt have local names like “nuthouse” or “jackass” or something, but I don’t know what they are. Bof)

It's not all death-tech though, some reet nice stuff through the alpine pastures......that were oftern gettign their first coating of slurry.

The first is a short ride through town then follow signs for ‘Medieres’ down road and firetrack before turning left at a utilities building and riding along some more undulating fireroad for a couple of km to ‘Le Mayentset’ where the trail drops abruptly off and continues down with interest a fair way until a junction gives you the choice of left for some fast flow that’s too short lived and a nice cruise down farm tracks to the lift or up right for some exposed tech followed by very very fast straights. And a nice cruise down farm tracks to the lift.

Nina getting her cornering dialled in.

The second seems to be the trail of choice for the folk on DH bikes that were coming out at about 5pm, probably because there’s not really any uphill involved. Head through town to Perin (the end of the #3 bus line as a local telt us whilst only slightly lost on one of my “we should try this trail, I think it’ll be fine…..” laps) where just as you leave the village you turn left off the road before a crash barrier and continue down with, again, interest. Much faster than the other trails and more heavily ridden too. The use seems to have built up reasonable berms on many of the corners, great for getting the hips working and trying to remember correct technique at the start of season.

Who needs to go to Portugal for winter training when you can over expose your shots here and make it look just the same?

There’s lots of other trails to go at, take a map along and explore, the pictures are here to encourage that, but those 2 were the pick of the day.

Shot possibly used in umpteen bike magazines over the years.....

A major bonus for the Chamonix season pass holders, Spence and me, was that the lifts are included in your annual pass, making the trip to expensive old Switzerland a bargain. At least, it was a bargain until we got back from the last lap to discover some kind soul had panned in my rear window.  A double whammy as it made fitting the boot mounted cycle rack for the drive home somewhat more complicated….

Thanks for that.