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

Daily Express - - TRAVEL - Www.ex­

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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