Video: Switzerland's Most Downloaded GPX Route

Jul 21, 2018
by FilipZuan  
Views: 6,715    Faves: 18    Comments: 0


It’s not a ride – it’s a journey, an unforgettable experience.

Glaciers, alpine lakes, big mountains, deep forests, traditional mountain taste, Italian dolce vita, gelato, cappuccino and so much more to find on the world famous Bernina Express!


Videography: Fabian Gattlen – fourthvisuals.com



A total distance of just under 35km, 400m uphill and some 2,100m downhill: these are the key figures related to the main Bernina route for mountain bikers, Switzerland’s GPX route that gets the highest number of downloads and has been a classic for many a mountain biker for years. However, there is much more to the trip across the Bernina mountain pass, from Pontresina to Poschiavo, than a mere ride on a mountain bike. It is a great way to experience a variety of landscapes, culinary delights, languages, and trails. Imagine a variety of climates, different cultures, breathtaking scenery and the world’s largest and most reliable shuttle service, and you will be thinking of only some of the highlights the Bernina Express holds in store for you. There are various ways of discovering and experiencing all of the above, but there is special appeal to doing it on a mountain bike.




It is an experience engaging all the senses of a mountain biker. Variety is the be-all and end-all. It is more than just a bike ride, it is a journey through landscapes transforming by the hour if not by the minute. You will stop at regular intervals, stunned by the beauty of new vistas. Upon arrival in Poschiavo, it will feel like an entirely different world although you will have covered “no more” than 1,400m going downhill from the mountain pass. And yet, the contrast with Pontresina, where you set out in the morning, could not be more tremendous.




Here is what you will experience in more detail:
 Pontresina is the perfect place to start the trip. The village in Upper Engadin has everything it takes to satisfy a mountain biker’s needs. Great hotels, utterly beautiful nature, local charm and 300 days of sunshine a year. In the early hours, take a Rhaetian Railway train heading for Ospizio Bernina. This line is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a highlight in its own right. It will take you past the world-famous Morteratsch glacier, with giants Piz Palü and Piz Bernina towering in the background, across a plateau towards Diavolezza, affording you a glimpse of the trails that are going to lead you back to Pontresina in the afternoon.

On arrival at the highest train station in Rhaetian Railway’s network, you will need to make a decision: Shall I choose the classic route via Alp Grüm or the more recent one via La Rösa? The descent via La Rösa is 21km long, climbs 235m and descends an incredible 1,480m of finest downhill trails. Route 673 leads via Alp Grüm, beginning with either an easy ride across the gravel road to the end of Lago Bianco or a warm-up tour on single trails around the lake. Early in the morning, the atmosphere tends to be unique with the lake’s surface as smooth as glass. Then, there is an opportunity for very powerful mountain bikers to catch a first cup of coffee by taking a “detour” via Sassal Masson and a fairly challenging descent with brilliant views across Val Poschiavo and the surrounding glaciers. No matter which way you go for, you will end up at Alp Grüm. Insiders will choose the plateau behind Alp Grüm, where the trail gets you right into the blue sky, as it were, surrounded by a majestic backdrop. Alp Grüm is well-known not only for its train station and the views on Lej Palü and the Palü glacier but also for the fresh cakes and perfect cups of cappuccino served at Restaurant Belvédère. It is highly recommended to enjoy all of it at the same time.


The Alp Grüm train station is where the real trails only begin to take off with fast-flow stretches on the main route and highly demanding trails off it. You will get a first whiff of the Italian way of life arriving at Cavaglia, where rustic stone buildings and a well with spring water invite you to take a break. Your journey continues across the plateau beyond which you will reach a place that turns the clock back several centuries quite impressively. Here, nature created a few phenomena that have been uncovered meticulously as pieces of heritage now on display in the glacier garden. Take a quick break to get a close-up glimpse of the famous moulins (or glacier mills). It will be worth it.






Continuing on towards Poschiavo you will rapidly notice that the trail surface changes as you are taking bends on a variety of forest ground and cobblestones. Having been refurbished in 2017, these former pack-animal paths will no longer flatten your tyres and make your teeth chatter. Fast and flowy is more like it when it comes to describing these stretches today. In the midst of mossy forest, temperatures are starting to rise. You will have shed your windbreaker quite a while ago, and the downhill ride is taking its toll in terms of concentration to find the right line and cover more metres going down than most guys are accustomed to. You will literally be earning the culinary highlights awaiting you.

Following a steep descent, crossing the railway track five times, and upon a long and final bumpy ride, the trail will disgorge you above the village and reward you with a splendid view of Poschiavo and its landmark church tower. Enjoying the last bit going down on a gravel path in the company of your travel mates, and cruising through the narrow alleys leading to the piazza, you will definitely be looking forward to lunch coming up next. After all the peaks, glaciers, 1,400 metres going down, variety of trails and any number of stones, the time will be just right for a bit of Mediterranean-style relaxation over a lunch you will not forget all too easily. Poschiavo with its Italian appeal, wonderful culinary delights and Mediterranean hospitality is one of the prime highlights of the Bernina Express. Many of the excellent restaurants are committed to the ambition of being ‘Cento per cento Valposchiavo’. In other words, all ingredients of the meals served are from the region and, whenever possible, produced locally. Every bite of food feels like Slow Food the Poschiavo way. At Hosteria Dal Borgo, you are recommended to have a meat platter and then try the capunet, a kind of spinach dumplings with sage, butter and a special condiment. There is simply no better food than this. And, of course, you cannot miss the home-made gelato, which is as much part of the experience as Ferrari belongs with Italy.




A full stomach is bad for mountain biking and all the more reason to enjoy the trip back from Poschiavo to the mountain pass. You will have enough time to enjoy the views, to review the experience so far and to digest your unforgettable lunch. On arrival on the mountain pass, several flow trails are waiting to be picked by you. It will take some effort to get to Lej Nair, which is fair enough to bring you back to operating temperature. Past the lake, it will be smooth sailing provided there is no northerly wind. On trails devoted to mountain bikers, you will rush past Alp Bondo towards the Diavolezza lower station and further on to another outstanding trail in the forest approaching Morteratsch. Here, the municipality of Pontresina built a flow-trail section featuring berms and small jumps, easily navigated by anyone. Continue on back to Pontresina either riding leisurely through the valley along the river or via the Montebello bend. Once you have made it, celebrate your experience with a glass of local beer with fitting names such as Palü or Bernina.

You will have set out on a journey full of excitement including the ascent to Ospizio Bernina with its view of the Bernina mountain range, the first descent in the upper reaches of the Alps, the trails through woods formerly used as pack-animal paths, a challenging variety of trails, the Mediterranean world at Poschiavo, with excellent food and hospitality, the trip on the UNESCO World Heritage line, the ultimate flow experience on long trail stretches past cows, glaciers and the Engadin’s most beautiful mountains, trails built for everyone and a lot more still. The Bernina Express is not to be missed as a highlight full of options and variations.



Riders: Susi Huth, Oli Dorn & Dave Spielmann
Photography: Filip Zuan
Videography: Fabian Gattlen – fourthvisuals.com
Text: Dave Spielmann


38 Comments

  • + 17
 Believe me.. it is overrated..
  • + 4
 Exactly
  • + 4
 What about it is overrated? I mean, all of the PB adverts are meant to hype a place, but help us from across the pond know what’s up.
  • + 9
 @norcal101: there is a metric ton of doubletrack and many hikers on the trail especially around Alp Grum and the Morteratsch viewpoints.

I'm not agreeing it's overrated. I'm just explaining my POV
  • + 5
 @leelau: most of the doubletrack can be avoided, though I am onlt 97% sure the "altetnative" route we took was 98% legal! That being said, I believe the real highlight of the whole thing is the train ride. There are way "better" trails to be ridden in CH.
  • + 3
 @santoman: agreed that there is gray area singletrack but I respect Filipand the team for not putting it in a tourosm video.

That's part of why I could not say it's overrated. The totality of the experience is the train ride etc. Sure to me and perhaps to you its just another train. But to first timers its quite the experience and who am I to judge or diminish that
  • + 3
 @leelau: you are right that including the gray stuff in the video would not have been the best choice...about thr train ride, perhaps I did not express mysrlf correctly. I loved it and, in fact, it was for me the highlight. I just wanted to say that, although IMO the whole experience is 100% worth it, from a purely riding POV there are better options
  • + 4
 Hi, the 'bernina express' more about the journey and the experience! This area has so many different trails to offer for all levels. But the alternatives are more for experienced and advanced riders, that's for sure.

The two main trails down to Poschiavo are:

- BERNINA EXPRESS
tourist info: maps.graubuenden.ch/en/tour/mountainbiking/673-bernina-express/6074387

trailforks: www.trailforks.com/trails/bernina-pass-to-poschiavo

- POSCHIAVINO:
tourist info: maps.graubuenden.ch/en/tour/mountainbiking/bernina-poschiavo-la-roesa-/26747259

no trailfork available!

But there are so many options which are not covered on the ordinary GPX files.

The special is the travel by bike and train through the different areas. From glacier's to palm's - from high alpin terrain to Italien hospitality. Of course the trails have to be good and they are! More than 6'000 feet to descend on all kind of terrain and the uphill by a train!

We locals have a lot of fun there every year and always find new possibilities where we can go downhill! Get on your bike and explore and if you can't find the way that suits you just ask us, the locals!

Have fun out there and happy trails!
  • + 3
 For everyone looking for the GPX Data: Here's a link:
www.gps-tracks.com/bernina-express-673-mountain-bike-tour-000146.html
However, two comments about the track. At the "top" at Lago Bianco - take the other side of the lake and don't pass at the train station Bernina Hospiz.
Second: After Cavaglia at "Altitude-Point 1687" near the Glacier Garden (which is impressive - even just the one near the trail) don't take the pink track. That follows the street/gravel road and is no fun. Follow the red track. There is once a sign "No Bikes" as that track is reserved for hikers. The other one left of that sign is the correct trail one and that's indeed nice.
  • + 2
 This is the route, it's a good ride, with beautiful scenery. Can't argue that, depends on what you like. There are trails of everyone in the local area from tech downhill to flowy single track

www.schweizmobil.ch/en/mountainbiking-in-switzerland/routes/route-0673.html
  • + 4
 This is written like an info-mmercial, what’s going on? Feels like whoever wrote it isn’t even into biking.....what are the trails like etc?
  • + 14
 Obligatory fist bumps and high fives - check.
Fancy food - check.
Taking in the breathtaking scenery - check
Smiling and stoked people - check
Dynamic shots of riders in a train - check
Shots of riders destroying trail - check
Complete travel itenary - check
Compulsory end of day beer shot - check

It’s definitely a commercial / sponsored content.
  • + 5
 But missing important things like gpx file link, map, how-to. Maybe the Rhaetische Bahn schedule, the info linking to maps like swissinfo.ch etc etc. Even a simple trailforks link like someone pointed out below. The pics and video are nice but where is the meat?
  • + 4
 @leelau: as someone who even lives in Switzerland I’d need more info! (Ps. Loved your Swiss-articles Lee!)
  • + 1
 I should also mention about the ticks. I've never been bitten by a tick in all of my life growing up in California or the 6 years I lived in Spain but in the first 6 months living in Switzerland I have been bitten a few times. My neighbor who mountain bikes with me got bitten and contracted one the diseases that they carry, got sick, and had to be put on antibiotics for 2 weeks. So if you go you should consider bringing repellent, some tweezers, and dress to protect yourself. Now when I go out I tuck in my shirt and wear knee long lycra under my baggy shorts and knee pads. Make sure to check your body (underneath your clothing) including your underarms and groin for ticks after you have been outdoors and if you've been bitten look for symptoms. Happy travels! Smile
  • + 1
 I'm planning a trip to Southern Switzerland. Would you recommend this route ?
Any other recommendation ? (Advanced level, All mountain/Enduro, ok with hike-biking )
Thank you Pinkbike !
  • + 1
 If you're in the south east then check out the Brazilian and Argentinian trails. Lots of pushing uphill on steep hiking trails but miles of single track downhill (on hiking trails, so please stop and be polite to hikers) as a reward. Sorry I don't have any web links but if you Google a bit you'll find GPX links I'm sure. The trails used to be a local secret but now everybody knows about them.
  • + 1
 If you make it to Ticino hit up Patric at Ticino Freeride! We were there filming a project last fall and the region has been putting in a lot of work on the trails. Awesome area beyond biking as well. www.pinkbike.com/news/explore-southern-switzerland-in-discovering-ticino-video.html
  • + 1
 Southern Switzerland is big. How far can you go? How much time?
  • + 2
 @leelau:
We have two weeks of holidays, so something like twelve days of riding !
We're aiming to Ticino as we don't really know this part of the Country.

and we are planning to ride the n°66 route above Lugano. Does it worth it ? we could not find much info about the biking interest of the route...

Thank you for your help !
  • + 1
 Sérieux avec tous les suisses sur VV, tu crois pas que ça serait plus efficace/pertinent que de demander à des touristes les traces qui valent la peine en suisse :-))))) ou j'ai louper ton post ?
  • + 1
 @Marmot-fr: CaptureShareRepeats article is worth reading. Patrik Kaslin ticinofreeride.ch and info@ticinofreeride.ch.

I've not been myself so cannot give recommendations to trails but it is high quality.

12 days is a nice bit of time. Given that you live in Grenoble I would skip western Valais as you can be there pretty quickly from Fr and make it a long weekend.

I would say you can easily also be entertained at Aletsch area. Lots of camping but also good hotels in Riederalp Bettmeralp towns + insanely fun tracks there too with uplifts via gondola and luftseilbahn.

m.pinkbike.com/news/Switzerland-Mountain-Biking-2012-part-2.html

(and keep clicking for part 3)

There is also good riding too in Goms and OberGoms but I haven't checked that yet myself.

Then there is also fantastic riding around the Visp/Brig area. One example

m.pinkbike.com/news/switzerland-mountain-biking-part-one-simplon-pass-2015.html

For the Wallis areas above if you need transport/guides get hold of Adrian Greiner www.alpine-trails.ch

I mention these regions as they are nice and logical to go from Grenoble to Ticino/Lugano and back to maximize time and minimize driving/trains

traildevils.ch/Trails this is very useful too. In many situations better than tourism maps
  • + 1
 @Minerve :
Heu, oui, je pourrais, t'as bien raison... Mais maintenant, que tu es là, t'aurais des conseils ? ;o)
En fait, c'est surtout que je voyais des Suisse répondre que celui-ci n'était pas très intéressant, donc mon message s’adressait plutôt aux éventuels locaux !

(bon, je vais aller faire un tour sur VV pour suivre tes conseils aussi, merci !!)
  • + 1
 @leelau:
Thank you for your suggestions !
  • + 1
 @Minerve: C’est quoi VV? Ça pourrait m’être utile pour des bonnes traces en Suisse Smile )
  • + 1
 @Marmot-fr: Forum des Helvêtes bikers dans la section Forum des régions. En fonction de là où tu veux rouler, on répondra aisément à tes questions... si on a la réponse ;-)
  • - 1
 I'm living in Switzerland now and my experience so far is that the bike parks are cool but Switzerland severely lacks cool technical single track trails for mountain biking. The ones that exist are probably off limits to bikes. In Switzerland if the landscape is not vertical than it is probably developed for agriculture or livestock pastures and most of it is private. I've done quite a bit of riding with locals in our local mountains and have also done organized rides in other parts. There is a total lack of places to ride bikes for families with young kids and total lack of infrastructure for bike touring and commuters. I cannot take my kids to town or to school without having to ride on roads with cars. There seems to be an ant-bicycle attitude there according to some of the locals I speak to. My wife has to be there for work for the moment but I have taken my kids to spend the summer in Spain where by contrast in the cities there are loads of dedicated bike lanes, parks, natural public areas and the trails for mountain biking are killer. Unfortunately the Swiss fantasy is just that.
  • + 3
 So, where is that GPX file?
  • + 3
 Swiss cheese.
  • + 2
 The train ride is really beautiful.
  • + 1
 So many great photos that for me just embody the spirit of cycling with friends. Beautiful work.
  • + 2
 I totally agree!
  • + 1
 Very interesting article. Thank's
  • + 1
 No map. Some parts of the text are confusing and hard to follow.
  • + 1
 now I know what to do next weekend.
  • + 1
 No Trailforks link?
  • + 0
 Geili arbet fabian. Gruess markus ruchti
  • + 1
 Thaaanks!Smile

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