Category Archives: Events

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!

Big mountain riding in full glory

 

Xavier de la Rue, freeride snowboarder

Le Châble local, Xavier de le Rue, leaving the shadows of The Bec behind him.

This weekend the world’s best freeride skiers and snowboarders hiked up, and then descended, the jaw-dropping 3223m Bec de Rosses in Verbier to decide who would be crowned champion of the Freeride World Tour.

The event drew about 8000 people to the slopes around Col de Gentianes to witness the best in the game throw down big, bold lines. In conditions that provided variable snow conditions, the commitment to some serious exposure was astounding. Although the World Tour title was open for grabs in each of the events (men’s skiing, men’s snowboarding, women’s skiing and women’s snowboarding), in every instance the person who won the Verbier Xtreme also walked away with the Tour title.

The women’s start zone was on the lookers right of the Bec de Rosses shoulder, with the athletes charging some beautifuly aesthetic lines on an aspect that showed a good balance of sun and shade. The women’s skiing was won by Swede Christine Hargin while the snowboarding title was taken by American Maria DeBari.

The men had a selection of start zones, but the bulk of their descent ultimately took place in the terribly rock-scarred, shadowed north face. It is hard enough to identify a route down the face, so watching riders tackle it at mach-1 was hugely entertaining, and, at moments, a little terrifying! The men’s skiing was won by another Swede, Reine Barkered, who executed a smooth and fast descent that took in multiple big cliff drops.  The men’s boarding title was claimed by Frenchman Jonathan Charlet.

The Verbier Xtreme is a fantastic spectator event and a highlight on Verbier’s annual calendar. Few other places can allow you a front-row seat to what big-mountain freeriding is all about.

Here are a selection of images from the day.

Photographs by Barry Cox.

Xtreme, the Freeride World Tour Finals in Verbier next week

Bec de Rosses, Verbier

The enigmatic shoulder of Bec de Rosses

Next weekend, in Verbier, the finals of the Freeride World Tour once again take place on the intimidating north face of the 3,223 metre Bec de Rosses.

Now in its 17th year, the Verbier ‘Xtreme’ is the freeride event on the calendar, last year drawing nearly 10,000 live spectators to watch the world’s best charge this big wild mountain!

The competition runs over three days.  Next Friday, March 23, the competition draw takes place alongside various bits of live entertainment. The main event takes place on Saturday March 24, with the elite women riders kicking off at 9.30am. At 11.15am the elite men begin their assualt. If you are going to be in Verbier and intend to watch the competition, head to Col de Gentianes via the Jumbo gondola from La Chaux.

On the final day of the event, Sunday March 25, the Juniors have their event along with various freestyle and demo events at the competition village.

Prepare to be amazed!

Below are a couple of shots from a day out after the snow fell  last week with Gene, one of Bramble Ski’s drivers. We’re devoted to providing the ultimate luxury ski holidays, but outside of that we love to freeride. We’re looking forward to watching the world’s best next weekend.

Photographs by Barry Cox.

Skiing-in the New Year

The busiest week of the year in most ski resorts around the world is New Year. In Verbier and St Anton, the New Year’s eve street bash in the village centres gather thousands of people ready to celebrate the year gone, and all the promise of a fresh year ahead.

Revellers in St Anton never need a reason for a party, but when there is one they don’t hold back. Arguably Europe’s most legendary apres locale, St Anton is party capital over new year. At 11pm the town descends on the traffic-free centre for fireworks and the countdown. Champagne flowing freely, DJs and fireworks ensure the crowd are pumped for the arrival of the new year. After the new year has been seen in people disperse to the numerous bars, clubs and private parties all over the town. All events are by ticket only, which sell out, so advance booking is highly recomended. As details of events surface we’ll share them here …

In Verbier, a similar format to the evening unfolds. In addition to all the tourists who saturate the resort’s available accomodation, locals from all around the valley descend on Verbier’s Place Central for the village’s largest and most exuberant party of the year. Private fireworks displays are set off all over the town throughout the evening, with the largest display funded by the commune at Place Central at midnight. It is the mixed crowd of teenage seasonaire party-goers rubbing shoulders with wealthy socialites that gives the evening in Verbier its character. There are parties all over town and once again as details of these come to light we’ll share them here. Book early!

With the combination of fresh air, exercise and the festivity of apres ski, it is no wonder New Year is a favourite time to go skiing. Probably one of the most common new year’s resolutions is a promise to exercise more. And can there be a better way to kick off that resolution than soothing your hangover blues on Januray 1st, 2012 than a day on the slopes. I think not.

Christmas is a splendid time for a family ski holiday

Christmas is a fantastic time to retreat to the mountains for a ski holiday. By Christmas both St Anton and Verbier are usually reliably snow-safe and both are much quieter than the frantic New Year week that follows. And what better way to celebrate the festive season with your family than with Bramble Ski, experiencing a luxury holiday in one of our splendid chalets?

Both Verbier and St Anton hold their own personal Yuletide charm. St Anton`s pedestrianised high street is lavishly decorated and traditional Christmas markets and stalls selling Glühwein line the road. There is a real feel of Austrian tradition and family values here over this period. In Verbier, Place Central and the road heading up to Médran glisten with Christmas lights. Boutique stores provide ample last-minute present shopping. And there is the quaint `Little English Church` that provides midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Both resorts have a festive aprés scene and bars are busy into the early hours of the morning.

Then there is the skiing on Christmas day: a true white Christmas amplifying your senses and imagination for the season. Fresh air and some exercise are the perfect antidote to a Christmas feast.

With a cosmopolitan mix of clientele, we at Bramble Ski have become accustomed to numerous traditional expectations over Christmas. Our executive chef prepares a five course menu suggestion, but often menu requests vary greatly according to individual custom. For many western Europeans, Christmas Eve is the main celebration event while Christmas dinner for the British and Irish will typically be an afternoon or an evening affair on the 25th. The French sum up the occassion with what they call a réveillon, a long meal that often continues through until midnight.

Whether it is a roast chicken, duck, goose or a suckling pig, staying in a lavish Bramble Ski chalet is a far cry from spending Christmas at a hotel. Chalets provide the homeliness, comfort and communal space of a home-setting while our staff cater to all the specifics of your stay.

There is still limited availability in Verbier and St Anton so email us now with your request at info@brambleski.com.

If you’re after raclette in Verbier, then get to Le Châble in September!

This past weekend Le Chable hosted its annual Raclette Festival, a celebration timed to co-incide with the descent of the local cows from their summer-time pastures up in the alpine, to settle, for the oncoming winter, in the lower meadows of the valley. For a small town, Le Chable sure knows how to throw a party!

Raclette, derived from the French word racler meaning “to scrape”, is both a type of cow’s milk cheese and a dish, indigenous to Valais. It’s a deliciously simple concept: a wheel of raclette is cut in half and the open cheese held over a wood fire or grill for a few minutes allowing it to begin melting. This delectable layer of raclette is then scraped off on to a plate and served alongside baby potatoes, pickled onions and gherkins, and is best accompanied by a glass of locally produced fendant.

Le Chable was bursting at the seams for the weekend and it seems that no one was prepared to miss out on this eating and drinking fiesta. With rivalling dairies set up for raclette production in numerous stalls around the town square, benches and tables lining the road, and an enormous marquee erected for live entertainment and further seating, the town was ready for the onslaught. Old and young, local and foreigner, immersed themselves in the merry-making that continued well in to Saturday and Sunday evenings.

A variety of Swiss musicians kept the atmosphere charged, in particular a talented yodeller from Bern whose tiny frame defied the odds as she belted out songs that won the affection of the crowd. For the children, a display of farm animals, a bouncy castle and a trampoline were on hand. But for most, it was clearly the mouth-watering raclette and local wines that were the reason for staying… and staying some more.

Photographs by Barry Cox.

La Désalpe, return of the mountain cows

The month of September marks the official transition from summer to autumn in the northern hemisphere. Around the world ski movies premier and ski-bums begin to dream of copious face-shots for the season ahead. In the Alps, increasingly ‘wintry’ weather conditions prevail and snow begins to fall and settle in the alpine. Swiss mountain lore dictates  that the time has come for shepherds to drive their cows, who have spent the summer grazing lush highland meadows, toward the sanctuary of the plains and valley bottoms.

The tradition of this procession of shepherds and cows is celebrated with a festival called Désalpe across Switzerland. La Fouly,  a tiny settlement at the dead-end of Val Ferret (a valley on Switzerland’s southern border with France and Italy) is a 45-minute drive south-east from Verbier, and is the local centre for these festivities. It’s a  typically picturesque village surrounded by gothic-looking mountains and imposing glaciers. And, as if on cue for Désalpe, the weather turned overnight from weeks of glorious sunshine and high temperatures to a wet, misty and decidedly cooler day.

After four amazing years in Canada’s western interior it was fantastic to return to Switzerland and, within a week, experience a mountain festival that exudes the culture and history of Europe. Below are a selection of images from the day. Next weekend: the Raclette festival in Le Châble. Just part of the joyous induction back into Swiss life … cheese, and more cheese … wine, and more wine … cows, and more cows!

Photographs by Barry Cox.