Switzerland Mountain Biking: Part One - Simplon Pass

Feb 11, 2015 at 17:37
by Lee Lau  
Day One - Simplon Pass | Day Two - Planetenweg - Zinal | Day Three - Illsee-Parilet | Day Four & Five - Becs de Besson/Val d'Herens | Day Six & Seven - Crans Montana

Off to Switzerland again for Sharon and I. Our last trips to Switzerland in 2010 (Graubunden) and 2012 (Grindelwald and the eastern Valais) had shown us the complexity and diversity of this amazing country and its wonderfully welcoming people. This time we elected to use the same tried and true technique of focusing on a small region (Central and western Valais) and trying to find the good stuff in that region.

Our Sunday flight from Vancouver BC via Edelweiss Air means we arrive on a Monday afternoon and are efficiently transported via SBB from Zurich Airport and then to Brig 125kms south where we meet Martin of Alpine Trails and check into the Hotel Victoria. We were travelling with just luggage as we were provided with bikes/helmets by Alpine-Trails. For more on the logistics of getting around in Switzerland via its amazing public transportation system and the lack of need of a car rental see this other Pinkbike article

After a bit of time settling in and having a good nights sleep to get over jetlag we meet Martin at our hotel and we start our trip by getting on the Post-bus to Simplon Pass. For those who aren't familiar with Switzerland, their transportation system is beyond description. It's entirely possible to take a bus or train to many hiking or biking trailheads. Moreover transportation is exceptionally bike friendly and you can take your bikes on many modes of public transport although be aware that in busy summer months sometimes you must make arrangements in advance (informative post by Swiss Alpine Adventure about the logistics here). Fall months are not so busy so we never had issues getting a spot for us or our bikes. While it's possible to get around on your own particularly on a relatively uncomplicated trip like today's it's never a bad idea to have a local show you around. Alpine-trails is the consummate local and it was always a pleasure to have him not just show us the right directions but also the right time and the right combination of trails.

Postbus to Simplon Pass
Postbus to Simplon Pass
Climbing up from Simplon Pass
Climbing up from Simplon Pass

A bit of background here;Simplon was an old trail from Brig to Italy apparently used as early as the Stone Age and since the 1700's by smugglers and mercenaries (the Swiss had a reputation as superbly disciplined soldiers for the rest of Europe). The first road through the pass was built in Napoleon's time when Canada was still a young country. The first railway was punched through in the 1900's and the railway tunnel here is still (at 19km) the longest tunnel in the world taking users from Switzerland to Italy safely.

The Post Auto bus takes us from Brig at 670m to Simplon Pass 2005m.  We then climb to Bischtinupass which is another 350m or so.up from Simplon Pass. We are fortunate with weather and the views are stunning. Hikers join us on the trails and we co-exist splendidly as they cheer us on the climb.

Descending from Bischtinu Pass
Descending from Bischtinu Pass
Senggchuppa view
Senggchuppa glacier views

It was nice to get the Postbus assist as our jet-lagged legs protested a bit getting in to the rhythm of trail riding. Although the first few climbing bits were tough especially at altitude, Martin proved to be patient and in no time we were on an alpine trail which basically held its elevation contouring this historic valley. We ride along the Nanztal valley towards the view of the Senggchuppa glacial moraine then back along multi-hundred year irrigation ditches/Suone/bisse.

The valley is a farming valley with benches built mainly to service the irrigation ditches. Place names are hardcore Swiss (Nidäralpa, Chluismatta, Sirvoltusattul, Visperterminen, Wyssboduhooru, Rossbodu, Egga - your challenge is to memorize the names then pronounce all of them!). Once you descend from the alpine there are many ways to get down through a healthy larch forest, some steep trails and some more gentle meanders. We passed up one alternative that allows you to drop down one side of the valley towards Visp and instead elected to descend quicker on trails and roads directly to Brig via a purpose built bike-trail by the side of the highway. Some trail options are at the Simplon Tourism website.

There is a trail along the Suone on the other side of the valley
There is a trail along the Suone on the other side of the valley
Another Senggchuppa view
Another Senggchuppa view
Trails along the Suone with some exposure
Trail along the Suone with some exposure
One techy section with a bit of left over snow
One techy section with a bit of left over snow
Trails along the Suone
The Suone was built for the town water supply centuries ago. They are still used for water and irrigation purposes and also have an added tourism attraction aspect.
Lower trails have these elaborate covers to protect from rock and rainfall
Lower trails have these elaborate covers to protect from rock and rainfall
Map of our route
Map of the route that we took

Where to Stay

We stayed at the Hotel Victoria in Brig. This hotel is right across from the train station which makes for exceptional convenience. With the windows closed it was quiet at night despite the central location. We had the half board which included food which was very good and varied (ignore older TripAdvisor Reviews which are now obsolete). It was nice to be able to wander around Brig's small but interesting down town by foot, hang around the town square drinking beer and eating Wernli. Also all the buses and trains one might want to use for biking-assist leave from this location. We found the staff to be helpful and the food to be also good.

We had the half board which included food which was very good and varied
Hotel Victoria food
Victoria Hotel in downtown Brig
Hotel Victoria and our rooms.

33km, 6hrs, 790m climbing, 2090m

powered by Trailforks.com

We wish to thank Tourism SwitzerlandValais Tourism, Brig Simplon TourismSierre Anniviers, and Crans Montana for their support.

Useful Links

Mountain Biking Switzerland - Graubunden and Zermatt (5 parts on pinkbike)
Mountain Biking Switzerland - Grindlewald/Jungfrau and the Eastern Valais (4 parts on Pinkbike)
SBB - Swiss Transit System
Alpine-Trails - Recommended guides
Swiss topo maps
General tips and tricks
Tourism Switzerland
Tourism Valais
Edelweiss Air - (direct from Vancouver and many other west coast cities to Zurich)

Keep a look out for part two, coming next Sunday.

MENTIONS: @leelau @Alpine-Trails-Switzerland


  • 10 0
 The overview map was especially helpful. Theres just something about an informative map that adds so much depth to an article. Maps are cool.
  • 8 0
 Uplift by Extrafart bus lol
not read the article yet but it looks pretty rad
  • 4 0
 A REALLY WONDERFOL TRIP . Qinghai-Tibet plateau of China is also a good place to ride but it is more difficult , the average height above sea level is 3000 meters and the weather there is changeable .
  • 6 0
 Looks like a wonderful trip!
  • 4 2
 Moved to Switzerland a few months ago, looking forward to doing this kind of riding. Realized that I wasn't a millionaire. Have not done this kind of riding.

1-week riding packages range from 1600CHF to 2200CHF (1700USD to 2400USD) and upwards. I spent less on my 2015 Commencal Meta AM.
  • 11 1
 Hi @Jubbylinseed I understand that this might look like a high price. Being in Switzerland for a while, you must have realized that the price level here is quite high. When you consider that the package includes airport transfer, all cable cars (some cost up to 95 CHF/day), hotels, uplifts by van to remote valleys, guiding, etc this might put it into perspective.
  • 5 1
 Switzerland is waaayyy too expensive - in every aspect. I would really like to go there for a MTB holiday, but I would have to sleep in my car and bring all food and beer with me. Sad, but thats like it is.
  • 3 0
 I was in Germany from 5Jan-13Feb and wanted to go to Switzerland but couldn't make it. But, then again, snow in mountains doesn't appeal to me too much being a MTBer. @cxfahrer, for what it's worth, even though I didn't touch a MTB for those forty days, I had a blast in your homeland. Made some life friends German and American during my stay.
  • 3 0
 Jubblyinseed - if guided riding packages aren't your thing why don't you just take a train to the mountains and bring a map? (When the snow melts, obvs)
  • 3 1
 Gotta win the lottery these days for riding, eating, staying in Switzerland..
  • 2 0
 @wingguy - that's exactly what I do. It's the only way to go. That and ride to the top of my local hill under my own steam. I never said it stopped me riding...
  • 4 0
 You can ride the Swiss Alps on a budget if you research some of the smaller places. Some have very reasonable hotel + gondola packages. And theres Migros.
  • 2 0
 Switzerland is very expensive but definitely worth doing at least once. Such a clean, friendly and beautiful country.
  • 2 0
 @Jubbylinseed where are you in CH? If you're in ZRH it's not so hard to do many of the trips into Graubunden yourself. Can even do it as weekend trip. Buy your food at Coop and Migros like Bryce said and it's not so bad. Get your Postauto and train pass annually and it's even less expensive.
  • 1 0
 Switzerland is expensive thats true...... i was in canada (bc) the last year, and in my view, the prices aren`t that different.....
  • 5 0
 BC - Bring Cash. I should really write something about how do Vancouver, Whistler, Squamish on the cheap. It's the most popular asked question on the forums
  • 1 0
 Leelau - please do! BC is on the trip radar in the next year or two
  • 1 0
 It's true, CH isn't the only expensive place to ride - but it's up there. I'm in Basel, any bright ideas?
  • 2 0
 May I add that SBB -the trains- cover up almost everything, every path as an alternative. Also, another alternative to the excellent Alpine Trails is Swiss Trails, which manages the hotels and travel bags transportation. Everybody in Switzerland collaborates with the tourist and tourism related, you will know places you wouldn't even dream and everyone is happy to have you at their place.
  • 2 0
 Switzerland can be done on a budget if needed but it IS a holiday right? So who wants to scrimp on a holiday? best to have some fun and enjoy what you came for...And the Swiss Alps are truly spectacular! Work to live, not live to work eh?
  • 2 0
 Everything depends what you want, for sleep you have a lot of camping places or Jugend Hostel for a good price an also you can rent the cable car ticket and pay just a little part of the normal fare, you can eat for les a 20 sfr. at Migros or Coop restaurants, and every trail or path have a signal you just need a map from the Turist Office, for free.And Ride
  • 6 1
  • 3 0
 This article just makes me want to go to Switzerland even more!! It's great how informative it is too.
  • 3 0
 The absence of shred...:-) Alps look like a great place to ride. Bring on August and the Trans Savoie.
  • 2 0
 By the way editors revisions took out my habit of putting in one cool Swiss German word per story. The word that should have been put in: Schläckstängu
  • 4 0
 Welcome back Lee...
  • 1 0
 A bit of Swiss is good for the soul H
  • 2 0
 Good video, but not nearly enough slow-mo footage. Please bring a drone with you on your next adventure. Thanks!
  • 3 0
 badass song
  • 2 1
 Ride Austria instead. Same mountains and much less expensive.
  • 2 0
 Had so much fun riding in Austria last year. Kick-ass food, super friendly people and fun trails. Should be a must for every one visiting the Alps.
  • 1 0
 haha - now it'll be my turn to pick your brain @caribooyj
  • 1 0
 That water.... Evian.
  • 3 6
 Good for the trip, but not for the food!
  • 1 0
 Guide Michelin Suisse? Plenty of great restos. Diy...the organic local foods are awesome. Are you sure you mean France? Sofar I only had great food in Paris only. The province only has greasethroughs..
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