The Swiss alps have always been one of the world’s top mountain biking destinations, ever since people had the bright idea of taking bicycles off road. The trail network currently in place is the heritage of the country’s roots in high alpine farming. For centuries people and livestock moved between lower and higher pastures, creating a gigantic network of single and doubletrack.
Besides the traditional trail network, the Alpine country has an extensive history in skiing. For many years, snow enthusiasts have been sliding down on the alpine pastures in wintertime, while using the gondolas and chair lifts to get back to the top.
With the mountain bike craze kicking off in the late nineties, many of these resorts saw a great opportunity to expand the tourist season. It saw the rise of countless Bikeparks like Champery, Davos, Lenzerheide and many more. There is one valley in particular however, that has been putting in a lot of effort in the past years to attract bike riders from all over the globe.
The high mountain town of Verbier has been on the forefront of developing mountain bike tourism for many years now. Not only do they have a world class bike park with some of the spiciest DH trails in the alps, the Verbier community also made sure there are a plethora of easier more accessible trails available to satisfy all levels of riders.
Various trails link the chairlifts and gondolas to the surrounding villages, and to make the most out of the infrastructure, they have one of the longest seasons in Europe. Running from early June until the end of October. And if that isn’t enough, the Le Chable-Verbier gondola is more than happy to take bike riders up in the winter season, if the weather allows it.
If you’re more adventurous, there is an Enduro Trail map which shows you the age-old hiking trails that are suitable for mountain biking. The local commune even placed signs on all of the shared user trails, urging the hikers and bikers to respect each other.
It is clear all these efforts are paying off. There is a steadily growing bike community in the Val de Bagnes (the name of the valley where you find Verbier). Pro riders like Ludo May and Jerome Caroli are based in the valley, inspiring the local youth to join the local MTB club.
Bike schools and guiding operations like MTB-Verbier, Verbier Gravity and Pure Biking Verbier pop up like mushrooms, providing their services to tourists from close and afar.
Naturally bike shops and rental operations follow suit. Shops like Backside, Mountain Air and HappySport have a number of storefronts, equipped with spares, fashion and an immense line up of rental bikes. When you take a closer look at the available models, You will quickly notice that the majority of these rental bikes are electric.
Of course E-MTB’s have been on the rise massively in the past few years, and with it’s high alpine environment, everyone could use a little help to cover more ground around Verbier.
If you take some time to think about it, lift assisted riding has been a thing for years. E bikes just take you out of the chairlift and onto the trail.
Verbier is one of the first resorts to see the massive potential, and go all in on becoming the world’s best EMTB destination. Where mountain biking has always been a tough sport, the electric assistance brings more balance between effort and reward. For the beginner biker the extra help is a great motivator. Because let’s be honest. Nobody enjoys getting off his bike and pushing it up a hill.
For the more experienced rider, the E bike is a great tool to double the amount of trails she or he can ride in a day. In the pre E-MTB era you had no other option than to accept the sufferfest if there was no chairlift around.
The next level
With mountain biking becoming enjoyable for an even bigger audience, it was time to invest. The best way to get your area known to a wider audience is through an event. Not only does it attract a large number of riders, but also gives the local population an opportunity to see the full potential of this new type of tourist.
And so the annual Verbier E-Bike Festival was born. A four day event with guided rides, self guided tours, tons of test bikes and of course a race. With more than 400 test bikes and thousands of visitors, it quickly became clear that this is the biggest E-Bike festival in the world.
After the success of the event, Verbier decided to continue the festival vibe throughout the entire summer season. Local entrepreneurs gathered and initiated the Verbier E Bike weekends. Multiple signposted routes with various themes to show visitors the best spots in the valley, and an easy to book system for rental bikes provided a big boost for the area.
Even the local energy company, Altis, joined the alliance. Providing electric charging points in key locations. What started out as a trial with only a handful of points, has grown into a vast network of 19 charging stations spread out through the valley.
Not only are these strategically placed at the best mountain huts and high alpine restaurants, they’re also 100% free to use. Pop a fast charger in your backpack and by the time you’re done stuffing your face with some quality local cuisine, your bike is ready for another 1200 vertical .Oh and in case you were wondering, all the electricity in the valley is generated by their hydropower plant. Can it get any better?
What about the state of the trails you might ask? Doesn’t all this extra use cause brake bumps and erosion? Good question. The Swiss wouldn’t be Swiss if they hadn’t employed a maintenance crew to keep everything in prime condition all year round.
It’s hard to improve what’s currently put in place. The trails, the shops, the festival and of course the mountains will continue to act as a magnet to mountain bikers. More riders will mean more and better funding for trails, infrastructure and job opportunities.
This summer will see the return of the E Bike weekends and of course the Verbier E Bike Festival from 12th – 15th of August. Lifts will be running daily until the end of October, and the trails will be waiting.
So whether you ride an acoustic bike, already have an E-MTB or if you’re just keen to try one out. Make sure to put Verbier on the bucket list!
Sun 18th Jul, 2021 @ 4:20 pm
By Jarno HooglandJarno's life has revolved around two wheels ever since he swung a leg over his first BMX at age 4. After a BMX and DH racing career, he moved on to work for bike shops, distributors and brands before ending up in the editors seat at IMB. Based in the ultimate testing ground in the Swiss mountains, he runs his guiding operation and makes sure every IMB issue is filled with top notch content.