On your E-bike!

Macclesfield Express - - TRAVEL -

‘LIFE is bet­ter on a bike.” Those were the words panted ex­hil­a­rat­ingly by Erik den Ou­de­nam­mer, my moun­tain bike guide, who led me high upon a hill­side over­look­ing the stun­ning Val de Bagnes, two hours east of Geneva.

It’s a state­ment wor­thy of its own bumper sticker and one which per­fectly sums up my feel­ing hav­ing spent a day tear­ing up and down tracks, paths and roads around this stun­ning part of Switzer­land.

“But eas­ier on an E-bike,” I re­tort, hav­ing al­lowed the elec­tric motor of my bi­cy­cle to help me in the last steep in­cline to that glo­ri­ous view.

Round about now, this place will be cov­ered in snow and this spot – Switzer­land’s largest ski area, called the four val­leys – will be crowded with skiers.

But for the sum­mer months two wheels rule the hills.

E-bik­ing is the lat­est ef­fort by the Ver­bier tourism chiefs to make the area a more ap­peal­ing year-round des­ti­na­tion.

The one I rode was a solid and sturdy moun­tain bike and, in terms of prac­ti­cal­ity, could run be­tween 50 and 100km, de­pend­ing how much you pedal. It could cer­tainly give you ex­tra help.

Hav­ing spent two days rid­ing with a group of men and women of all ages and abil­i­ties, the E-bike was the great lev­eller and al­lowed us all to stay to­gether.

It means for a fam­ily, no one need be left out. Even grandma can come along for the ride.

The summit is no longer just for the su­per­fit.

But am­a­teur E-bik­ers be­ware, the bat­tery power does run out if not man­aged well, and get­ting stuck pow­er­less across the val­ley ped­alling a 30kg bike tests the lim­its of Erik’s pre­vi­ous claim.

With 500km of bike trails to choose from, and ca­ble­ways link­ing routes around La Ch­able, Ver­bier and Fo­nanet, and Ver­bier Bike Park - 6km of se­ri­ous down­hill tracks - I can see why it is a moun­tain­bik­ing mecca. I could spend a week rid­ing here and prob­a­bly never do the same track twice.

One route we took was from Ver­bier to the Mau­voisin Dam - the sec­ond high­est arched dam in Europe - via the pic­turesque vil­lages of Sar­reyer and Bonatchiesse.

As well as the stag­ger­ing beauty of the re­gion, the hos­pi­tal­ity and wel­come ev­ery­where was su­perb.

Chil­dren and adults, strangers all, would wave and say ‘bonjour’.

For those who need a break from the bik­ing there’s plenty more to do.

You can park the bike and hike, and there are ac­tiv­i­ties for adrenalin junkies in­clud­ing paraglid­ing.

Both ac­tiv­i­ties would give you a bet­ter chance of spot­ting some of the elu­sive but won­der­ful wildlife in­clud­ing the ibex, an ex­trav­a­gantly horned goat, and the mar­mot, a very cute beaver-es­que mam­mal which takes real pa­tience to see.

While the real pull of the re­gion is the great out­doors, Ver­bier is also a cos­mopoli­tan refuge for fun with a lively nightlife, great shop­ping and pam­per­ing.

You will find all of the above un­der one roof at the W Ho­tel in Ver­bier.

Spread across four chalet-type build­ings linked by glass cor­ri­dors, the ho­tel is sleek and stylish while re­tain­ing the tra­di­tional Alpine feel.

There is a large open-plan lounge and cock­tail bar which en­cour­ages the guests from the 123 rooms and suites to mix and sip a few drinks be­fore head­ing to the night­club, an amazing un­der­ground space full of glitz and glam­our.

When the par­ty­ing is over, my spa­cious room – with a truly mas­sive bed, plush fab­rics and large wooden bal­cony – is like a lit­tle haven to recharge my bat­ter­ies.

For some ex­tra TLC there’s a lux­u­ri­ous pool and spa area with nine treat­ment rooms.

The food at the ho­tel is top notch.

At break­fast you are spoilt for choice with a buf­fet for ev­ery taste and a menu of firm favourites, in­clud­ing pan­cakes and eggs royale.

At lunch and in the evening the main Arola restau­rant of­fers a de­li­cious se­lec­tion of fine food - in­clud­ing amazing tapas - thanks to a menu cre­ated by dou­ble Miche­lin-starred culi­nary di­rec­tor, Sergi Arola.

Dur­ing my stay I also get to eat at the homely and kitsch Al Capone, which does a fan­tas­tic stonebaked pizza, and I get to ex­pe­ri­ence the Son­alon where I try the tra­di­tional raclette, the Swiss cheese which is melted onto your plate and gob­bled up with pota­toes and pick­les.

Ver­bier is renowned as the play­ground for the rich and fa­mous, but there is plenty for all bud­gets, for all year round.

But when you are free­wheel­ing down a seem­ingly end­less hill with a stun­ning view of the val­ley and the sun­shine on your face, wor­ries just melt away and life cer­tainly feels bet­ter on a bike.

The rid­ers tackle the high trails of Ver­bier

Stuart on his E-bike

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