A tribute to Stevie

Obituary for Stephen Graham.

Stevie the chef. You'll be missed.

Last week we received the terrible news that one of our chefs, Stephen Graham, had passed away after a tragic bicycle accident. His funeral is today at his home in Northumberland and the whole Bramble Ski and Haute Montagne team – many of whom were very good friends with him – will be there in spirit with his family and friends.

Stevie was one of those people, instantly and infectiously likeable. He came to us as an incredibly talented chef, and has left as an inspirational friend.

He was always smiling or laughing, he loved the mountains, his photography and was constantly planning his next travel adventure. At work Stevie was a man with a plan and had great drive. He carried his joie de vivre with  him always and it showed in the food he prepared and in the complete satisfaction of the guests that he looked after. Our business is built on the back of the exceptional people who provide the service in our properties and Stevie epitomised this.

He will be missed. but his influence and memory will live on. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family.

 

Ross Lemass and Stevie formed a chef/host partnership recently and Ross put together the following Youtube collection of images in memory of Stevie.

Stevie was planning to raise money for Unity Mission Trust, so if anyone feels like doing something in his memory, please feel free to contribute to this charity.

 

Five reasons to have a ski-day in Bruson

1. The new lift is fast.

After that there is a slow three-man chair lift to contemplate reasons 2 -5 below.

2. The tree skiing is unbeatable in Verbier.

On bad-weather days this is a haven of good times.

3. Take in a different view of Verbier.

The perspective back onto the plateau on which Verbier is built, with its big-mountain back-drop, is unbeatable.

4. It is quiet.

There are always less people here – so don’t tell too many people about this particular point.

5. Amazing skiing to the valley floor.

The north aspect of this side of the valley protects the snow better, and longer.  Last week there was amazing powder all the way to Le Châble (and its snowing again to the valley bottom!). Added to this, the terrain is playful all the way down.

 

There’s are many more reasons. So bonus reason number 6) is a quiet après-ski beer or GnT with good friends new and old at Le Couloir in Le Châble.

Staff training underway in St. Anton

Chefs, hosts, concierges and drivers in St. Anton

The Austrian team on day one of their training

Most of the Austrian team arrived in St. Anton this weekend amidst occasional snow flurries. They’re all bringing with them valuable experience from diverse sectors of the hospitality industry, and for the next two weeks they’ll be groomed on the ‘Bramble service‘ and how to use their experience to maximum effect.

Jane Urquhart kicks things off, leading the first two days of sessions. She  brings with her a treasure trove of experience in dealing with private household staff for royalty and the super-rich. She knows and understands the fine nuances that our clientele expect and are used to.

Winter is upon us

It has been a busy year for us here at Bramble Ski. 2013 has been a year of further growth and change. This is what we have been up to:

  • Again our portfolio has grown this year. We now operate a fantastic collection of almost 50 luxury chalets and apartments across four of Europe’s finest resorts.
  • We have expanded our operational portfolio to the resorts of Villars in Switzerland and Lech in Austria.
  • We have re-developed and re-branded our website (we hope you like it) focusing on delivering the information our clients need in the most beautiful and efficient manner possible. Every bit of information on our new website is never more than three clicks away.
  • In anticipation of the above, we set out looking for a sales and marketing manager in the spring, and the response to this search was incredible. In the end, we had two equally strong applicants and as a result our sales and marketing team grew from one person to three! Welcome on board Malcolm and Fiona.
  • We’re upping our service levels again this year and recruitment is always a key driver in this. We pride ourselves in being able to pull together a team of professionals who thrive on the satisfaction of providing impeccable service. We have literally received thousands of applications this year and are excited about the team we have in place.

Now, with the first snow storms past and our teams arriving at the end of the week for staff training, it is game-on. As we embark on another winter providing our guests with unrivaled service in the most beautiful properties located in some of the finest European ski resorts, our vision is clear:  to redefine the luxury chalet experience.

We’re looking for a sales and marketing manager

Bramble Ski is looking for a sales and marketing manager to be based in Verbier. This is an office-based 10-month-a-year position. During the summer and shoulder seasons this position will be five days a week. During the winter season the position will be for six days a week.

Job Responsibilities

Bramble Ski’s team is small and agile. The sales and marketing manager will be expected to show a keen willingness to assist colleagues and in other areas of the business when needed. Specific sales and marketing responsibilities will include:

  • Handling sales phonecalls and emails;
  • Communicating with agents and clients prior to guest arrival to confirm specifics of requirements during their stay with Bramble Ski;
  • Liaising with in-resort partners including the lift company, ski schools, ski hire companies and transfer companies to book client requirements;
  • Communicating with clients post-departure, including settling outstanding security deposits and collecting feedback, to build repeat business;
  • Run weekly sales and operational reports;
  • Assisting with the copywriting of marketing material including for the blog;
  • Developing and implementing ideas for the marketing and sales plan;
  • Utilising social networks to increase brand awareness;
  • Maintaining and developing relationships with a worldwide network of agents;
  • Checking properties listed with agent sites;
  • Maintain the agent and customer database and;
  • General sales office management.

Skills and Experience

Essential

  • Excellent customer service skills;
  • Articulate and good telephone manner;
  • Excellent written skills;
  • Creative;
  • Organised individual with a high level of computer proficiency and good Microsoft Office skills and;
  • Passion for the ski and snowboard industry.

Advantageous

  • French (and other language) proficiency;
  • Prior experience with using social networks in line with a marketing plan and brand awareness (Twitter/Instagram/Youtube/Facebook);
  • Experience in travel industry public relations.
  • Experience with implementing a sustainable business philosophy and practice.

Please send an application letter along with your CV to info@brambleski.com telling us why you are the ideal candidate to become the newest team member of one of the most exciting companies in the Alps.

www.brambleski.com

Our newest luxury property in Verbier

Luxury chalet with swimming pool in Verbier

Corniche has a 10-metre pool with swim jets and a decent gym for bad weather days.

We are excited to launch our latest addition to our portfolio of luxury chalets in Verbier. Just a stone’s throw from the Savoleyres lift this beautifully furnished property with swimming pool, gym, sauna, Hammam and outdoor Jacuzzi will certainly be popular.

Corniche is available from January 3, 2013 for all the remaining high season weeks of the season (Russian Christmas, February half-term and Easter). We can offer it on a serviced basis with daily cleaning and concierge service or with our fully catered service which includes a dedicated driver service, chef and hosts, massage, ski instruction and of course our concierge service.

Thanks to Yves Garneau for once again taking fantastic shots of another fabulous property on our portfolio.

For more information on Corniche and luxury catered ski holidays to Verbier and St Anton call our sales team on +44 207 060 0824 (in the UK), +41 22 534 9774 (international) or email info@brambleski.com.

Photographs by Yves Garneau

Hello snow, goodbye cows

Guest blog by Maev.

Snowfall over the weekend blanketed the Alps in its first winter coat of the season.

The Alps in its winter coat.

Winter has come to our valley.  The flaming autumnal shades of the alpine forests have been quieted by a generous sprinkling of the white stuff, the comforting smell of burning wood fills the air at dusk as home-fires are lit, hands have disappeared into gloves or pockets, and the valley is suddenly extraordinary quiet. For most of the cows are gone. The melodious/incessant clanging of their gigantic brass bells (because you either love this sound or it drives you mad) has ceased as local farmers made the decision this past weekend to put their precious livestock away. I can’t help but feel sorry for these bovine beasts that get the very best of the Swiss spring, summer and autumn grazing their way down the lush mountainside, but are interned in barns for the full length of the winter.

As the snow fell purposefully on Sunday and farmers coerced their cattle off the land, I, and several thousand other runners, braved the elements and battled our way down the course of the Lausanne half-marathon from Vevey to Lausanne, following the footsteps of the marathon runners, who were on their return journey. With the temperature peaking at 1 degree Celsius, gusty winds whipping off Lac Leman, intermittent blocs of snowfall, and the resulting small crowd support, it was a tough and unseasonably cold race. Temperatures at this time of year are usually pegged at 11 degrees. I’m so grateful for merino wool.

As I trudged through small villages and past frosty vineyards, friends back in Valais wasted no time in dusting off their skis and touring boots and took to the pristine hills. While the lower slopes are obviously still pretty thinly spread, one can’t help but get excited that this appears to be the beginning of a base,  at least up high. And weather conditions are staying cold for the foreseeable future. TeleVerbier have announced that the ski lifts will be turning this weekend. There’s no doubting that the ski season is suddenly, excitingly, upon us. It’s time to swop out those running shoes for skis as our winter playground reveals itself. I have to say, I’m glad I’m not a cow.

Bramble Ski only has a handful of properties left for Christmas and New Year. If you’re thinking about a white festive season contact Bramble Ski urgently to secure your luxury holiday.

Photographs by Barry Cox.

If Winter = Patrouille des Glaciers, then Summer = Grand Raid

One of Bramble Ski`s directors, Duncan Robertson, completed the torture-fest Grand Raid mountain bike marathon that was run this weekend (as if the challenge needed to be heightened, this happened to be the hottest weekend of the year). Spanning a distance of 125km and encompassing a total climb in altitude of 5025 meters, this is the 23rd running of the event and makes it one of the oldest single-stage mountain bike races in the world.

Grand Raid mountain bike race

Duncan and Graham completed the Grand Raid in 10 hours and 28 minutes. Pic: Catie Friend.

Originally conceived to recreate the famous Patrouille des Glaciers the full length Race runs in opposite direction, departing Verbier and passing through Nendaz, Veysonnaz, Mandelon, Evolene, an intense climb up the Pad de Lona and finally finishing in Grimentz.

Duncan and Graham, representing Team Exiles on the day, executed their race-plan to perfection and are already looking ahead to next year`s assualt, only this time they intend to ease the pain on the derriere by breaking the 10 hour mark! Go boys.

Below are a selection of images of the Grand Raid shot on the first descent from Croix de Couer above Verbier down to Nendaz.

Photographs by Barry Cox.

Switzerland, the penultimate Alpine state

Today is Swiss Independence Day, this year celebrating 721 years of confederacy. The foundation of modern-day Switzerland initiated back in 1291 with the allegiance of three cantons in central Europe.

The mountains were the natural defence of the local people at the time, but as trading routes were established over the high mountain passes of the Alps (notably over the St. Gotthard Pass) it demanded an allegiance for trade and defence. This makes it arguably one of the oldest republics.

It is a day of celebration across the country and much of the it is much like independence celebrations anywhere … copious fireworks, music and dancing. Of course there are local flavours that stand-out, and here in the Val de Bagnes raclette will feature high!

The magic of mushrooming.

Mushroom-hunting Val de Bagnes

The distinctively beautiful gills of the underside of the chanterelle.

Wild mushrooms are a bit of an enigma. They’re strange looking things and it’s not hard to imagine how they came to be aligned with fairies and magical other-worlds – though I’m certain the psychedelic varieties out there have played due part in this association. But I find the pastime of hunting for them just as intriguing. It is largely a solo activity (prized spots are fiercely guarded secrets) and with the diversity of varieties and the associated danger of making a mistake in identification, it is an activity that I’ve always appreciated demands knowledge.

While winter in the Alps provides us with a playground for hedonistic pleasure, in the summer the forests and pastures around Verbier are ripe for foraging ideal for creating at least a sense of sustainable living. Berries, nuts and mushrooms grow in abundance. While I’ve looked for mushrooms before, as a side-event while out for a walk, I’ve never (until recently) gone for a walk with the intent purpose of mushrooming.

Chanterelles are in their peak season at the moment. I’m informed that they thrive on the humidity. As is typical in the southern Swiss Alps at this time of year, we have had some good weather, high humidity and plenty of late afternoon/evening thunderstorms that finally break the shackles of a hot day. These golden delights love the abundance of moisture and warm climate providing ideal growing conditions!

So when a good friend and avid mushroomer offered to take me, I jumped at the chance. Of course, he didn’t take me to his prized spots, apparently there isn’t anything there at the moment (not surprising given the volume of chanterelles I’ve seen him harvest recently, though I’m not discounting that he is simply protecting his turf – rightly so).

Instead we headed a little further up the Val de Bagnes, the exact location I cannot reveal as I have been ‘sworn to secrecy’, where we struck gold! Coming home with a good harvest is certainly satisfying but there are a couple of other things about the hunt that I thoroughly enjoyed.

1) Wandering through the forest looking for mushrooms is much like ski touring in the winter. You feel that much more atune with the landscape around you. Mountains are so vast that when you scan them from afar you don’t notice the intricacies of the features within them. But when you move through them, on foot or on skis, the pitch of the slope, gulleys and rock bands all become prevalent.

2) The slopes are steep, and the forest thick. It isn’t a bad way to get some exercise!

3) The hunt itself. Spotting that first chantarelle (as a novice the distinctive golden chanterelles are a great first target) makes your heart jump. Stumbling on a patch is truly joyous. And knowing that a good patch of chanterelles is a place that you can come back to time-and-again just accentuates the pleasure of the first discovery.

4) It must be the hippy in me, but I love eating what I’ve grown, and now I can add, foraged for. Inspired by the hunt, at home we pulled out the pasta machine and made our own pasta, and with the chanterelles and some fine bacon from the valley, whipped up an Alfredo to die for.

5) Finally, chanterelles are worth their weight in gold. About half a kilogram of chanterelles for a couple of hours of effort versus the cost of purchasing them from the grocery store. No comparison.

I’ll be out there again. The question is whether to go looking for new patches, or back to the spot where I know there are an abundance of chanterelle patches?

Photographs by Barry Cox.

NOTE: If you are new to wild mushrooms, make sure you seek the advice of someone who has experience, or at the least refer to literature (there are many guide books out there). Many species of mushroom can make you sick, and in the worst case, can kill.