A Summer Postcard from Verbier
I have a confession. I’ve been coming to Verbier for more than twenty years, but aside from a handful of all-too-fleeting business trips from the UK, I had never properly experienced it in summertime. For years, friends in resort, our chalet owners and our senior management team who live there year-round, have been telling me how special Verbier is in the summer months. “It’s so beautiful”, they would say enthusiastically, “And there’s so much to do! You need to try it!” But for me, the mountains had always been a place for winter fun in the snow, with summer holidays by the seaside. How naïve I was.
Prompted by an increasing number of summer enquiries from our winter guests, we started running self-catered summer holidays four years ago. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and our summer visitor numbers have been steadily growing. So last July, Mary and I decided to take our three daughters out to Verbier to see what the fuss was all about.
Our amazing year-round resort concierge team, Izzi and Jenny, have been looking after our summer guests in recent years and their knowledge of what’s on offer is second to none. No sooner had we arrived at the beautiful Chalet Milou than Izzi was talking us through the action-packed itinerary that she had put together for our week-long trip, giving us our lift passes (free in summertime), hiking maps and biking guides and telling us where and when we would be meeting our assortment of biking and mountain guides. The fridge had been stocked with all sorts of goodies (including a plentiful supply of Dole Blanche, the mouth-watering local rosé), with restaurants booked for days when we didn’t feel like cooking ourselves.
And what a week we had! We were up the mountain most days – either hiking, biking or e-biking. As the winter snows melt away, a mass of hiking trails, nature walks and biking routes appear. Our favourite walk was the Bisse du Levron, which follows a stream which was built by monks in the fifteenth century to divert the meltwaters of the Mont Fort Glacier to the farmland on the Savoleyres side of the valley. It’s utterly idyllic, with crickets chirping away and marmots sunbathing on the rocks nearby. By the time we arrived at Marlénaz for lunch, we had earned our entrecôte de boeufs!
Sadly, we were a few days too early for the annual world-famous classical music Verbier Festival, but we were offered a tantalising glimpse of the talent on show with the soothing sound of pianists, violinists and flautists and cellists practicing from chalet terraces and gardens.
Under the expert guidance of Jon Wilson from Verbier Gravity, we cycled many of the excellent (and surprisingly gentle!) trails that link the main winter hubs of Dahu, Ruinettes, Croix de Coeur, Carrefour and Chez Dany, back down to Médran. The views across to the Grand Combin, still cloaked in snow and glaciers, are every bit as dramatic as they are in winter. Our kids are still too young to do the steeper descents, but for adrenaline junkies there’s an almost unlimited amount of descents down the blue, red and black runs that we ski in the winter.
Unless your idea of a good time is cycling uphill for 1,000 metres to reach your descent route, you’ll be relieved to hear that Téléverbier keeps the lift system running throughout the summer, with special hooks fitted to the outside of the lifts to attach your bike.
Another way of going uphill is by e-bike, which to the uninitiated is essentially a battery-powered mountain bike. The e-bike craze has taken Verbier by storm, and the resort now hosts the International e-bike Festival, held every August. You can put in as much or as little effort as you want, but if you’re prepared to peddle hard, your e-bike will take you far beyond the confines of the Verbier lift map and on to mouthwash-blue Alpine lakes, surrounded by hanging glaciers and towering peaks.
We did an activity a day, which included the high-ropes course at Medran, picnicking and boating at the impossibly-beautiful Champex Lac and traversing the vertical walls of the Gorge de Mauvoisin with some friends and our trusty mountain guide, Jean-Marc Krattiger. With kids? I hear you ask. Absolutely. And they loved it. The climb is called a via ferrata, which is Latin for “iron way”. It’s essentially a series of metal steps, which have been fixed to the rockface, making it easy to scale what would otherwise be a very technical climbing route. You need a good head for heights, but as you’re permanently clipped into a steel cable running alongside the route, it’s perfectly safe, and a great introduction to proper rock climbing. There’s a second via ferrata course high on the southwest face of Mont Fort which is supposed to be even more dramatic. One for next time!
With its uninterrupted mountain views, lack of neighbours, gorgeous garden and uber comfy furniture and beds, Chalet Milou was the perfect chalet to base ourselves. We ate out some evenings, others we stayed in, enjoying al fresco dinners and barbeques on the terrace watching the sun go down.
We returned home refreshed and re-energised as bona fide Alpine summer converts. But one week simply wasn’t enough. We had barely scratched the surface. Suffice to say, we’ll be staying for a fortnight this year!