Category Archives: Lifestyle

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.

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.

Spring has arrived!

luxury property Verbier

Late afternoon sun over Verbier from the balcony of Amadouvier

Spring skiing is fantastic. And in Verbier spring is here.

The days are warm and long. And the high pressure system of the past week has brought splendid blue skies.

There are so many good things about a family skiing holiday in the spring. Here are three:

1) Not having to fuss with layer upon layer of clothing for the little ones.

2) Not having to feel like you have to rush out in the morning. The best time for skiing is when the snow has softened up after the night freeze. Sit back and enjoy that cup of coffee!

3) Sitting out on your balcony at the end of a great day in the mountains with a G’n'T.

To top that off, as we saw from the Verbier Xtreme held last weekend, there is no shortage of truly phenomenal skiing to be had if you want to go find it.

Its not too late to plan your last (or first) winter holiday of the season. Its been a fantastic winter in all, and its sure to be an amazing spring!

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.

Summer by Lac Leman, winter in Verbier

Lake-side living.

Switzerland today is famous for its banking sector. In recent  years an increasing number of private banks, hedge funds and brokerage firms have established themselves in and around Geneva and Lausanne, in the Lac Leman area. Switzerland’s favourable corporate and personal tax regime, as well as an outstanding quality of life, has encouraged many institutions, and the wealthy private clients they rely upon, to move here.

For these new inhabitants of the lake-side, one of the big lifestyle draws is the proximity to some of the worlds best skiing with a handful of world class ski resorts within a 1- to 2-hour drive. Due to its accessability and the availability of luxury property both for sale and to rent, Verbier has benefitted hugely from this expanding market.

While the lake-side is a huge draw in summer, in winter it is often shrowded in fog or low lying cloud and can be a little dull and depressing. In contrast Verbier is well known as a sun-trap and its solar-drenched winter slopes are a major attraction! It is, however, notoriously difficult to rent properties or a hotel room in Verbier just for the weekend - most hotels and chalet companies only accept week-long bookings. In addition high season holiday weeks can be very expensive. Couple these facts with the hastle of having to pack and unpack ski gear at the start and end of every stay, and the motivation for more and more people from the lake-side renting chalets and apartments for the season, or annually, is no surprise.

It has become quite normal to move the family to Verbier for the entire winter season while the bread-winner either commutes on a daily basis or stays in the lake-side residence and comes to the village at the weekend and during holidays. With the new St Georges private school in Verbier and the continuing trend for home-based work, many families are deciding to make the move entirely and are living here on an annual basis.

The trend of acquiring properties in Verbier for seasonal or annual rent is not restricted just to those based on Lac Leman. Over the past few years we have see an increasing number of families from London, Monte Carlo and other high wealth areas moving their families to Verbier for the season.

At a time when weekly client visits have been in decline due to the strength of the Swiss Franc, this additional market source has hugely benefited Verbier’s economy. As a business we have also benefited through an increased number of seasonal and annual clients.

With this burdgeoning market in mind, we have just taken on a new 3-bedroom property which is available on a seasonal or annual basis. Val Fleuri is centrally located just behind the Fer à Cheval, only three minutes stroll from Médran and the centre of the village. The property was recently converted and has been finished to the highest standards. With one master double en-suite bedroom and two further bunk rooms sharing a shower room this is the perfect family property.

Photographs by Yves Garneau.