Bryce, Sharon and Lee find out if there is lift serviced, all-mountain alpine singletrack epics in Switzerland. Follow them in this six part series as they document how a bunch of North Americans find their way around Switzerland.
Lenzerheide was our next destination. Travelling from Flims - Laax was easily accomplished by bus to the regional capital of Chur. Lenzerheide is about 15kms south east of Chur and also easily reached by the Post Bus. Lenzerheide lies in a North-South oriented valley. Several villages are on the bus stops (eg Lenzerheide Post, Lenzerheide Valbella etc), all of which are separated by some distances that are little far to walk, so keep that in mind when you are choosing accommodations, thinking of shops or restaurants or making plans to meet or to travel.
This general overview map of Graubunden shows the rail network serviced by SBB (select the LARGE option of this picture to get a better view of the map). The bus network is also fantastic and is serviced by PostBus. To give an idea of scale the distances are quite close (Flims to Chur is approx 17km).
It can be said that Lenzerheide, Davos (our next destination), and Arosa are all worthy destinations in their own right, but really should be considered together because they are so interconnected. It was entirely possible for us to ride to various places from Lenzerheide and then get transported back by either cable cars, mountain railways (bergbahnen) or by PostBus. As we'll keep annoyingly repeating, Swiss travel is so very civilized. A multi-day ride (the Grischa Trail) has been marketed as a way to link up all three resorts using a network of available trails. However, with some map reading and a lot of help from a friendly locals - thanks Dave of Swiss Alpine Adventures - we figured out loops starting and finishing at the same point.
As an aside, it's worth mentioning that many of these rides in the area finish in Chur. Chur is worth at least a short stop in itself. It has a historic old town, it's an easy city to navigate by bike and the people are friendly. You have the option of taking the PostBus back to Lenzerheide from Chur, or taking the Brambruesch lift up to 2200m then taking trails which traverse back to Lenzerheide. We never did have the time to do this unfortunately.
Lenzerheide's dominant feature is the Parpaner Rothorn; a 2891m mountain. We were still sufficiently Swiss and Alps newbs that we found the idea of a full-service restaurant at an elevation where, in Canada, one normally finds glaciation to be mildly shocking. Having said that, the location and views from the Rothorn gondola are impressive by almost any standards. As you drop off the Rothorn scree trails spread out in various directions quickly transforming to singletrack. Lenzerheide trails are narrow and fast, with rolling corners and just enough technical challenge (from natural wear and tear, use by cows and humans and the very nature of the steep terrain) to keep things interesting. They wind through breathtaking alpine scenery, and we rode under huge cliffs like snakes in tall grass and railed turns past azure lakes. Despite our best attempts to get lost, we always ended up, (in satisfyingly stereotypically fashion) someplace that had beer, coffee, and apple strudel - too perfect. Those kinds of facilities are what hundreds of years of practice and a culture of working and living in mountains will get you.
Signage at the top of the Rothorn.
Some structures at the bottom of the Lenzerheide bike-attack route.
In Vancouver, Canada, all three of us are of the rare species who climb what we descend. Not so in Flims - Laax, and now Lenzerheide, where the ratio of ascent to descent was more like 1:10 and we enjoyed the sheer novelty of lift-served alpine riding. At the end of each day of such riding "adversity", we rolled home to the Hotel Kurhaus.
Kurhaus was one of the first hotels built in the area in 1882 when the Brits discovered the skiing potential of Lenzerheide and is now also a bike-hotel. As stated in our Flims - Laax coverage, these hotels offer bike-specific amenities like secure storage, a cleaning area, basic tools and generally also offer well priced package deals (lift-tickets, meals, bike maps). Kurhaus really distinguished itself with a super chill lounge that we occupied every evening, along with a well stocked beer and pop fridge in the corner. The hotel was also close to the base of the Rothorn gondola, literally a 10 minute flat pedal away, and across the street from a wonderful bike shop where Hayden fixed Sharon's brakes and derailleur cables. Last but by no means least, it served an astounding breakfast every morning. These huge breakfasts were a godsend because there are no cooking facilities at the Kurhaus. Groceries could be purchased, but only a limited selection is available at a local Volg (no larger stores like Migros or Coop nearby).
Comfortable homey accommodations and good food at the Hotel Kurhaus in Lenzerheide Post; one of the resort's many bike hotels.
The Peak bike shop treated us well. We had phenomenal service from Hayden when Sharon's brake lever decided to inopportunely fail and gear cables seize.
Summary: The Panoramaweg traverses the mountain and takes you from Rothorn to Bruggigerberg and up to Joch at 2020m. This is a machine built trail that caters to mountain bikers to offer an easy traverse and climb to Joch and other areas. The Panoramaweg trail is also lined with electrified wire to prevent the cows from destroying it. The singletrack from Churer Joch to Chur itself is a treat, but pay attention to the many intersections or you will find yourself downhillling on paved roads. Overall, it's a nice way to get a handle on the surrounding terrain, but there is entirely too much doubletrack and road to start the Lenzerheide to Joch first section. It's a 25km ride with a 1250m mixed singletrack and road descent to end.
Dropping into Chur singletrack from the Joch Bergrestaurant to start a 1250m descent.
Summary: This ride goes from Lenzerheide over some intimidating mountains (climbing is all lift-served) and drops down E to the sister resort of Arosa. We then return via another lift from Arosa back to Lenzerheide. Take the gondola up the Rothorn then down alpine scree to the start of the Bike Attack race route. Turn off Bike Attack and E after the tunnel on to the Schafalpi trail, which descends to Alplisee and culminates in the village resort of Arosa (1000m descent). Up the Hörnlihütte lift then down, traverse and up across to Urdenfürggli. Finally we went back down the Bike Attack and freeride trails to Lenzerheide, another 900m. The descent to Alplisee and ride to Urdenfürggli was so beautiful and so interesting that it was almost too good to be true. We weren't overly inspired by Bike Attack and should probably have checked out some hiking trails instead to descend, so don't be afraid to modify our track Total numbers are 27.1km ride, 2400m or so of descent.
Our first alpine singletrack in Lenzerheide was certainly aesthetic - descent to Alplisee then on to Arosa from the tunnels.
As Sharon starts her descent the tunnels from the Rothorn bowls are in the background.
Rounding the corner on the trail heading to the Arosa lifts from Schafalpi.
Climbing to Urdenfuerggli from the Hornlihutte in Arosa.
Summary: These are actually two separate rides on either size of the Lenzerheide valleys that we just happened to do in one day. To the South of the Rothorn gondola is Sanaspans, a nice valley bordered by majestic peaks including the 2900m Lenzerhorn. West of us on the opposite side of the Lenzerheide valley up the Tgantieni and Piz Scalotta lifts are even more lift access riding and hiking occurs. Alp Sanaspans is a 15.1km, 1400m descent. Piz Scalottas is a 12.6km, 900m descent. Shockingly (sarcasm intended) the free Lenzerheide resort bus does not take bikes, so we actually pedalled our bikes up 50m to get to the Scalottas lift - yeah for us! Taken as a whole, there can be nothing to be improved on for this day. Weather being outstanding helped but this was everything (and more) that we expected from the Swiss experience. Singletrack on both sides of the valley was outstanding with the Sanaspans tree line descent in particular being unusually cow-free. We could have worked a bit harder to find trails instead of road for the last bit of the Piz Scallotas leg, so do not hesitate to vary our route.
A bit of Swiss ''techgnar'' dropping on to Sanaspans off the Rothorn.
Starting to hit the singletrack on Alp Sanaspans at 2870m.
The Rothorn gondola is already 500m above Sharon as she cruises a Sanaspans microridge at 2500m.
Lenzerheide Valbella and the mountain ranges of Flims Laax form the backdrop as Sharon picks her way through the rock garden.
Descent of the Sanaspans from the Rothorn gondola.
Chilling at 2100m above the town of Lenzerheide Post.
Summary: Starting again from the Rothorn gondola, head down the alpine scree on the front side N bowls towards Bike Attack. Take part of the Bike Attack then hike-a-bike a short distances to Urdenfürggli. Nice technical singletrack through the alpine takes you to Urdensee, then a fireroad descent wastes a ton of elevation before you pick up some singletrack interspersed with doubletrack to Löser. A paved road climb of about 300m takes you up through the lower Tschiertschen ski trails to Berghaus Fürgglis where you then finish off with astoundingly steep and long single track descent to Chur. The descent from Urdenfürggli to Urdensee was superlative. However, the rest of the ride was pretty ordinary and you will end up riding entirely too much doubletrack before finding singletrack again. It's a nice ride, but we can't help feeling we have done better. All said it was a 28.4km ride, with 1400m and a 900m descent.
This trail comes in just S of the Urdenfuerggli pass proper and heads down to Urdensee.