7 Ways to Enjoy the Snow-Free Alps in Switzerland
One of Europe’s most popular ski resorts transforms into a hiking playground during autumn.
12 September 2019
All Credits: PA
Situated in the canton of Valais in southwest Switzerland, mountain resort Verbier is best known as an exclusive winter destination for the super-rich, and a playground for extreme sports enthusiasts.
With its pristine white slopes and wooden chalets adorned with pretty window boxes, it’s a Christmas card-worthy winter wonderland when blanketed in snow. But with picturesque landscapes and diverse terrain, Verbier is also worth visiting in the ‘off season’.
The snow melts to reveal grassy mountains and glistening waterfalls, and ski slopes are transformed into stunning hiking trails. From e-biking to mountain-top yoga, there are multiple options for active pursuits – proving there’s more to Verbier than ski and snow. Here are seven ways to spend an autumn break…
1. Take an e-bike into the hills
An e-bike ride presents a speedy way to experience the landscape. Hire a bike and board a cable car into the mountains. There are paths for cyclists of different capabilities, ranging from level terrain to jumps for the more experienced with a daring spirit.
Cycle from the La Chaux-Express gondola and follow the path towards the Cabane de Mont-Fort guest house in 40 minutes. The route is picturesque and peaceful, with just the occasional biker or hiker crossing your path. Natural streams and trickling waterfalls line the gravel route on a modern art trail, which features bronze sculptures by local artists, leading you through meadows and past grazing cows, into a more rocky, rugged terrain. Bar a few steep inclines, it’s a leisurely ride.
2. Practise heavenly mountain-top yoga
At 2,103m, the Cabane Brunet mountain hut is an ideal base for enjoying the sunrise – especially with an early morning yoga session. WholeyCow (wholeycow.ch) – who have a yoga studio based in Bagnes – can arrange private sessions at the hut.
On a flat spot on the grass outside the Cabane that offers the best views of the mountains, instructor Svetlana Negashova guides us through a sequence of moves, as the fresh mountain air enlivens the skin and the senses. Watching the sun emerge above the dewy slopes is heavenly.
5. Make your own Swiss cheese
Discover the Swiss art of cheese-making at the family-run La Laiterie de Verbier in Verbier village.
Cheesemaker Marc Bubosson guides you through the process of making Bagnes tomme, a raclette cheese made with milk from cows grazing on 610m-high pastures. Matured for at least three months before it can be sold, it’s highly prized.
Learn how to make your own wheel, a simple process that involves stirring the fresh milk in a copper cauldron as it’s gently heated, and adding rennet, which thickens the cheese, ready to be drained and set.
A tour of the cheese factory reveals a vault filled with Bagnes tomme worth £500k/AED2,266.25k. The smell is pungent, but worth it for the tasting session that follows; sampled with crackers and grapes, the milky, matured cheese is silky in texture, strong on the palate with an earthy flavour and endlessly moreish.
7. Fly over Verbier in a cable car
Experience Verbier from a different vantage point with a cable car – the best way to take in the drama and majesty of the mountain range. There are 12 sectors operating in the summer from June 8 to October 26, with the standard cables running from between 8.30 and 5.30pm.
Or wrap up warm and take the extra early morning cable from La Chaux to Mont Fort, which runs at 5.30am. It’s a ten-minute ride, where you can enjoy fondue at 1,000m in the small igloo café at the viewing point, as you watch the sun rise over Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn.