Destination Showcase: Verbier, Switzerland

Aug 6, 2021
by Ben Winder  
Verbier Destination showcase

VERBIER, SWITZERLAND
Without a doubt, one of the best bike parks in the Alps and host to the world's largest E-Bike festival.
Words: James McKnight
Photography: Ben Winder
Riders: Morgane Charre, Emilie Siegenthaler, Camille Balanche, James McKnight and Trifon
Presented by Verbier 4 Vallees

Verbier is, without a doubt, one of the best bike parks in the Alps. Anyone who’s ridden the sculpted and wild tracks and trails in and around the Swiss resort will agree.

Nestled high up above a stunning valley in the aptly named Valais region of Switzerland, Verbier is notorious in wintertime for its official off-piste skiing areas and as a home to the Freeride World Tour. The town’s summer activities reflect the progressive nature of its snow season: a constantly evolving mountain bike offering caters to riders of all abilities and tastes.

There really is something for everyone, from its classic downhill tracks to its perfectly shaped jumps and its flow trail to its shared-use hiking-biking singletrack. And if one thing is clear, it’s that Verbier takes mountain biking seriously – recently opened trails, entire new zones launched for backcountry adventures, and substantial investment in e-biking puts the town at the forefront of resort-based riding in Europe.

But hang on, isn’t Verbier too swish for mountain bikers? While it is true the town is popular with mountain sports-loving highflyers (we spotted Richard “Rocket” Branson once when we were riding there – not on a bike, unfortunately), it’s a relaxed and welcoming place. There’s a range of options for differing budgets.

Stay a night in town and you are entitled to the Verbier Infinite Playground (VIP, baby) pass, which gives you free or discounted access to a great number of activities. This includes skills sessions and guided rides (by reservation) with local instructors and ambassadors (such as Ludo “Ludicrous Switchbacks” May – but don’t worry, you won’t be required to ride 180º turns feet-up). With the VIP, mountain bike lift passes are reduced by about 50% to 25CHF per day for an adult. So, Switzerland is still pricey for foreign visitors, but there are plenty of ways to get the most out of a visit.

One of the biggest draws to Verbier Bikepark is its long season. As with many Swiss destinations, there isn’t really an off-season; the lift from Le Châble in the valley up to Verbier even welcomes bikes throughout winter. The main bike park lifts (there are six covered by the lift pass) are open from early summer (snow-dependent) right until late October (some of the lifts close earlier).

We recently headed over to Verbier for a few days shredding the bike park and exploring the newly opened Bruson lift area. The verdict? Yep, it isn’t cheap, but it definitely is a playground in the Alps. A visit is highly recommended.

Verbier Destination showcase
Verbier sits in amongst the stunning Swiss Alps.

Verbier Destination showcase
Verbier Destination showcase
Fast cars and muddy mountain bikers. What a mix.

Destination Showcase Verbier

Hitting the bike park

Verbier’s lifts have been running for mountain biking for decades; the time has been used well to create dozens of official downhill, freeride, and enduro runs.

You can jump on a lift straight from town (or from down in Châble if you’re staying in the valley) for direct access to eight purpose-built tracks (soon to be nine with a new DH addition set for 2022). These include a full-on downhill racetrack, lines of sculpted jumps (tables, hips, doubles – all well-built), rooty and rocky tech in the woods, and plenty of typical Alpine features like massive, high-speed berms.

A rider’s favorite trail is “Wouaiy” (pronounced “wooheyyyy” – like, think of a celebratory chant in semi-drunken-sports-fan English). This one’s marked as a red-graded line (advanced), and it’s great fun no matter whether you’re on a downhill or enduro bike. Natural and man-made gaps, fun line choices into countless turns, and a just-right gradient make it a memorable ride.

From the high point of the bike park at nearly two-and-a-half-thousand meters, Rôdze is another red-graded blast with jump after jump, a bonkers view over the surrounding mountains and glaciers, and some highly shred-able corners. There are also two blue runs that pretty much anyone could have fun riding and other black-, red-, and yellow-graded trails to dive into.

Destination Showcase Verbier
Destination Showcase Verbier
Going up to the top of the bike park, gaining about 1000m of elevation.

Destination showcase Verbier
There are well-built jumps of all sizes. Here Morgane Charre hits Rôdze.

Destination showcase Verbier
The top provides classic bike park trails.

Destination Showcase Verbier
Destination Showcase Verbier
As we descend further towards Verbier, the trails enter the woods with many natural features.

Destination showcase Verbier

Destination Showcase Verbier
Back up to the top, we were joined by Emile Siegenthaler...

Destination Showcase Verbier
And none other than Camille Balanche.

Destination Showcase Verbier
There is plenty of terrain well worthy of a downhill bike.

Destination Showcase Verbier

Destination Showcase Verbier
Downhill for days for the reigning World Champion.

Destination Showcase Verbier
Emilie Steezenthaler.

Destination Showcase Verbier

Heading out into the mountains

One day we hooked up with local legend Trifon, the man-with-a-plan who is literally shaping mountain biking in Verbier and the surrounding Val de Bagnes as he fronts the trail building and mountain bike development for the area. This was a chance to tap into Trifon’s expert knowledge and learn a bit more about riding outside the main lift area.

New for 2021, the Bruson lift on the hill opposite Verbier is open for bikes. This gives access to a swathe of fantastic singletrack riding that was previously only accessible by jumping on a once-daily bus ride or through pure grunt power (it’s a long way up).

As Verbier has recently been lauded for the annual Verbier E-Bike Festival, which attracts brands, pros, and public from all over the world, we thought it was only fitting to get out for a spin on assisted bikes – not-so-grunt-powered, then. The festival is the largest E-bike festival in the world, hosting more than 30 of the biggest brands & more than 500 e-bikes to test. There are three stops as part of the E-Bike World Tour - Tignes Val D'Isere in France, Flachau, Austria and Verbier, Switzerland which takes place this week from 12th-15th August.

Starting from the top of the Bruson lift, Trifon took us up a series of fire roads and trails towards a distant high point somewhere in the clouds. The mist swirled around us as various pointy peaks briefly came into view before disappearing back into the weather. We rode through meadows of flowers and heard only the occasional ding of a cowbell in an otherwise silent mountain scene. What a place to be riding bikes!

Somewhere near the Col de Mille, we bumped into Trifon’s trail team as they worked on a shared hiking-and-biking trail (here, you can legally ride any path that isn’t categorically out of bounds to mountain bikes – just remember to be polite to other trail users). If you ask us, the fact there are people dedicated to the upkeep of wild trails so that we can have fun riding our bikes is one of Verbier’s most genius aspects.

Anyone who has ridden the descent from Col de Mille will tell you how awful it is – don’t bother, it’s rubbish, you might as well stay at home. That’s right, if you hate the idea of thousands of meters of descending, flowing through the woods with loam and roots under your tires, and some of the most impressive scenery in Europe, well, please leave all the fun to us.

The Col de Mille ride is just one part of the “Val de Bagnes Challenge,” an epic 100km loop for e-bikers (or beast-level humanoids) rideable in one day. The Challenge and several other rides (gourmet tour, anyone?) are spin-offs of the Verbier E-Bike Festival events, and the routes remain marked throughout the season.

There are dozens of similarly excellent “enduro” itineraries mapped out – some you’ll need to pedal to, others you can access via lifts or buses. If never-ending technical singletrack sounds exciting, you aren’t going to get bored soon.

Destination Showcase Verbier
Descending from Verbier to Le Châble, via “Branson”. (Trailforks alerted us this trail, the namesake of Richard Rocket Branson, who can occasionally be spotted in town.)

Destination Showcase Verbier

Destination Showcase Verbier
Destination Showcase Verbier
From Le Chable, we took the newly opened Bruson lift and then began a 45-minute climb.

Destination Showcase Verbier
James dropping into some beautifully cultivated singletrack.

Destination Showcase Verbier
Destination Showcase Verbier

Destination Showcase Verbier
45-minute descent coming up...

Destination Showcase Verbier
VERY SOUR POWER
Destination Showcase Verbier
Our guide and the brains behind the trails, Trifon.

Destination Showcase Verbier

Destination Showcase Verbier
Epic singletrack and scenery.

Destination Showcase Verbier

Destination Showcase Verbier
A nice quick stop at a stunning alpine lake.

Destination Showcase Verbier
Snaking singletrack for miles and miles.

Destination Showcase Verbier
Finishing off with flowy foresty fun.

Destination Showcase Verbier

Getting the stoke flowing

It’s worth mentioning the flow trail that drops over the back of the mountain from Verbier down to Tzoumaz. As is the case with flow trails, this track, called “Chotatai,” is built to be fun for all levels. The difference here being that Verbier has really got it right.

Turns on turns on turns link together with pretty much zero pedaling required. We had a lot of fun hitting a couple of laps here and, judging by their smiles and shouts of joy, so did the countless families having a blast and perhaps discovering mountain biking for the first time.

Experienced riders won’t spend all day on it, but who wouldn’t enjoy several hundred proper corners and the fact that more people are getting to experience the best side of the sport?

Destination Showcase Verbier
Destination Showcase Verbier

Destination Showcase Verbier
Endless berms and floaty features.

Destination Showcase Verbier

Destination Showcase Verbier

Destination Showcase Verbier
A well-kept flow trail is exactly what is needed for beginners. This one’s great fun for any rider.

Destination Showcase Verbier

James and Morgane dropping into Verbier on one of the many singletracks.


Around town

Back in Verbier, there are numerous bike shops for rentals and repairs, a supermarket, bakeries, and plenty of places to eat out.

Head to one of the spots around the main lift station for a decent pre-ride coffee, roll two minutes into the center to grab a wrap or burger at lunchtime, and celebrate the great ride on a sunny terrace at the end of the day.

We’d recommend Verbier to pretty much any mountain biker. Beginner or full-blown pro, bike park ripper or singletrack fiend, you’ll have a great time. If you want to stay up to date with the E-Bike World Tour you can give them a follow @Ebikeworldtour on instagram!


Verbier Bike Park mountain biking trails

Destination showcase Verbier
That's all from us in Verbier.

VERBIER E-BIKE FESTIVAL
AUGUST 12 TO 15 2021

The Verbier E-Bike Festival will open its doors in the heart of Verbier for the third time this summer. During 4 days, Verbier and the Val the Bagnes will live to the rhythm of E-Bikes with a rich programme that offers you 6 different experiences to test E-Bikes.


On top of this, a number of animations will take place in the centre of Verbier, such as concerts and a kids’ races.

Register now here.

E-TOUR DU MONT BLANC - NEW: Now part of UCI Calendar!
The E-Tour du Mont-Blanc is the flagship event of the Verbier E-bike Festival. The Grande Finale of the E-Bike World Tour will bring together elite e-bike riders and the teams who have proven themselves at the previous stops of Tignes-Val d'Isère (FRA) and Flachau (AUT). A 3 day long, 300km race, (including 260km of single tracks) around Mont Blanc; through Switzerland, Italy, and France. The E-Tour du Mont-Blanc is the only event in the festival reserved for experienced e-bikers, and is an exceptional e-race. Follow the race highlight on @ebikeworldtour social media channels.

E-BIKE TEST
E-Bike Test: The 100% E-Bike Expo village will offer you the exclusivity to test all the new models on the market. It’s the perfect occasion to try and compare different types of E-Bikes and discuss with the pros of the market.
Learn more.

RANDO GOURMANDE
Rando Gourmande: A great loop accessible to everyone with the perfect compromise to discover the Val de Bagne’s culinary specialties and the region's charm.
Learn more.

DISCOVERY TRAILS
Discovery trails - full day: A selection of loops for all levels on extraordinary paths, to enjoy independently or guided, the best way to experience e-bikes.

Discovery trails - 2 days: From Verbier or Le Châble, an extraordinary adventure over 2 days including a night in a mountain refuge awaits you. Accessible to experienced E-Bikers, with or without a guide, come and discover the most beautiful trails in the region!
Learn more.

DÉFI DU VAL DE BAGNES BY ALTIS
Défi du Val de Bagnes by Altis: Forget the stopwatch, instead take on a unique challenge over 100km or 60km giving you the opportunity to ride a 100km electric powered trail taking you through the most iconic spots in the Val de Bagnes.
Learn More.

BOSCH E-MTB CHALLENGE BY TREK
A challenge for everyone! 35km through which technicality, orientation and battery management will be key ! Timed fun race to push yourself and your friends.
Learn more.






Regions in Article
Verbier, Verbier Bike Park


26 Comments

  • 8 0
 In Verbier now, been riding here for a few days and still a few days to go, agree with all said in this article, amazing riding, having soooo much fun!
  • 6 0
 The sell out starts in 3...2.....1......
  • 3 0
 There isn't one cool place that actually needs more advertising, that's for damn sure. tourism isn't slowing down anytime soon.
  • 9 7
 Verbier, one of the most over hyped alpine destinations. Ridiculous expensive to stay, to eat etc. Drive 1,5 hours to the south and you find Pila, or 3 hours and your in Finale. Which are much better riding destinations.
  • 1 0
 Really? I've found a decent hotel to go to a few times, I've always loved it!
  • 10 0
 Welcome to Switzerland, well, somebody needs to pay our half-million-a-year salaries Smile
  • 2 0
 Yep, riding's great (though only on a par with most other areas around), but otherwise its just Italy, without the amazing food, phone internet and 3 times the price.
  • 2 0
 @pbuser2299: Though I actually agree with the rest, the mobile internet speed and coverage is much better here.
I work in the product dev at the biggest swiss mobile provider, you really can’t compare mobile phone internet between Switzerland and Italy Smile It’s not even close… (our company also owns one of the smaller providers in Italy so we know the situation well Smile )
  • 5 0
 Went here for holidays last week. Wasnt impressed (but the mountains themselves were great)
Trails were decent, but nothing exceptional. But ive come to realize many bike resorts in europe are just not even close to being as developed as stuff in BC Canada.
Prices were to be expected for any resort town. Food was good, but for the cost it should be.

However many of the locals / brits were unbelievably rude. The town life being from 9am-3am isnt for me as well, guess im getting old or something.
Been living here for almost 2 years now and have never experienced such rudeness from these french swiss before. Will definitely not be going back.
Lenzerheide is a far better resort town and not nearly the same pain to get to.
  • 4 0
 @lowekey: Please do not assimilate the rudeness you saw with people from Valais/Wallis. It is very specific to that resort and that's why we have a love/hate relationship with that place (and what it has become).

I agree for the development part, basically the french part of the Valley is stuck in the 2000-2010 and can't develop anything that is modern trail-wise. It might be a mix of elitism and a lack of curiosity but yes, some of the new trails are basically just "meh". The new "flowtrail" mentioned in this article is a good example. Berms feels like 2010 and features are almost non-existent. There is no progression to be had and the trail is getting old very fast. Tourism-wise it's a bad investment.

In my opinion it's where the resort of Graubuenden are years ahead. They are not afraid of building and rebuilding trails that are very tourist oriented (and fun for all levels). There is a bit of change coming with very nice trails being built in the upper part of the Valley (Bellwald, Grächen, etc.), i hope this is a wake-up call for the resort in the lower part of the Valley.

Finally, while i understand the need for sponsored content, this article felt rushed (same for the pictures). As a tourist i'm not sure i would want to go there after reading it.
  • 2 0
 Switzerland is expensive, but it’s really not that crazy (other than restaurants) IMO, so just buy food from supermarkets and you don’t need to spend a fortune. In my opinion you get good value for money regardless. Tons of trails, excellent lift access, huge amount of terrain to explore. Verbier isn’t any more expensive than Whistler - 25chf for a day lift pass is actually pretty cheap. Not saying everything about it is great, but Verbier is worth a visit for sure. Pila is cool too but there’s no resort town there like Verbier, no bike shops when I was there either, in fact it’s a bit of a ghost town unless you head all the way back down to Aosta.
  • 4 1
 Verbier is just too expensive for non Swiss people. Lift, food ans bed. And third world french people have to park far away at the chable.
  • 1 0
 One of my favourite summer holidays as a child (in the late ‘80s) was to Verbier. I have since been back in the winter and also really enjoyed it. I hope to be able to visit again - this article is definitely stoking that fire.
  • 1 0
 Great riding there, but probably not worth a trip there if riding is all you plan to do. Switzerland is expensive in general, but doesn't necessarily have to cost a fortune, I visited for the day whilst staying in a nearby town, drove and parked on a side street for free and rolled down to the main lift.
  • 5 1
 New Pivot Firebird 29 in orange?
  • 2 0
 Finally I get mentioned on pinkbike! Benefit of an expensive resort is that the trails are never crowded. I happily spend some extra cash to avoid queues and brakebumps.
  • 3 0
 I think we need a more adjective viewpoint, this one's to Verbier
  • 2 1
 Can we vote to change the pronunciation from vehr-bee-ay to ver-beer, just sayin'

:Looks awesome..
  • 1 0
 Haven‘t seen such a longtime and well made teasing for a new bike for a while now.
  • 2 2
 "From Le Chable, we took the newly opened Bruson lift and then began a 45-minute climb"
You mean our engines started to push us up?
  • 2 0
 Best place I’ve ever been mtb’ing
  • 2 0
 Best place I’ve skied.
  • 1 0
 Col di miele is legit.. think ill still get the bus though, way cheaper!
  • 1 0
 Too many photos…. Woulda preferred a slideshow of some type… lol
  • 1 0
 Is the gondola on the Moay side now open in summer as well?
  • 1 1
 Yeah the new mantra you can go on 100 km ride only on ebike...

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