The VIP way to visit Verbier
Gets active and discovers that there’s more to the Swiss resort than a skiing playground for the rich and famous
CHARGING downhill along a twisty, stony track, stealing furtive glances at the snow-capped peaks which appear almost at eye level in the distance, I can’t help thinking we must be the world’s slowest mountain bikers.
As a fan of cycling on slightly less steep terrain, like Norfolk for instance, I’m apprehensive at first about getting in the saddle in Verbier, the world-famous Swiss Alpine ski resort.
But our bicycles are all electric, which makes them a great way to explore at high altitude with minimal effort. Beyond the snow season, Verbier is a green oasis accessible to all, as it emerges from the white blanket of powder which has transformed this once remote rural farming region into one of the most renowned winter playgrounds of the rich and famous.
And now activities are even easier to reach thanks to a new pass called Verbier Infinite Playground (or VIP for short, in keeping with the resort’s glitzy winter image) – a tourist card giving visitors free travel on cable cars and local buses and discounts on pursuits like mountain biking.
Numerous ski and snowboarding runs, access paths for farmers and highaltitude restaurants criss-cross the meadows, providing more than 500 miles of cycling trails, with a mix of gradients from seriously steep to totally flat.
After a cautious start on our first venture downwards, at around 6,500ft, the gradient and rough stones smooth out and I relax to drink in the spectacular scenery.
We pass a herd of glossy black Hérens cows, their bells clanging unmistakably as they graze the lush alpine meadows. They produce milk for the area’s globally renowned cheeses, which are delicious as I discover on a visit to a factory shop back down in the town at award-winning cheesemaker Laiterie de Verbier.
It is open when we drop in but we still can’t resist the chance to try the cheese vending machine outside the factory, loaded solely with tasty half or quarter wheels of raclette and bags of “DIY” fondue to which you just add white wine.
During a factory tour we are served samples of cheese and see the cellar where maturing wheels of raclette, each about the size of a car tyre, are stacked from floor to ceiling on shelves.
The next day we’re up early and back on our bikes from our base at the Hotel Bristol.
Luckily they are dual-powered so I switch off the juice and pedal under my own steam to the Verbier 3D Sculpture Park, where works by international artists are exhibited outside over a wide path between Les Ruinettes and La Chaux.
Highlights include a 12ft high red, white-and-black bird dubbed the
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