Tag Archives: autumn

Skiing in Verbier commences this Friday …

There is about a foot of snow in the north bowl down to Lac de Vaux.

With the lifts opening in Verbier on Friday I decided to hike up to Attelas this weekend to have a look at how much snow is in the Lac de Vaux bowl.

We parked at Le Carrefour and hiked up under the new detachable six-man chair lift that has replaced the old La Combe and Mayentzet chairs. All work on the new lift is now concentrated on the base station. The pylons, the lift cable and the top station are all completed. Linking up with the Funispace, Les Attelas and Chaux-Express, this new high-speed lift called La Combe 1 is going to prove a great alternative to Médran as an access to the mountain. See the full Verbier lift map here. Below are some images of the new lift …

From Ruinettes we decided to pick the direct route up to Attelas and climbed under Les Attelas (commonly called the ‘James Blunt lift’) . The steep, sometimes hair-raising pitch, finally gave way to the somewhat flatter boulder-field gulley and it was here, bathed in sunshine, that we were rewarded for our route selection. Circumambulating the rocky outcrop above us, we spotted a majestic Ibex. As I clambered up another steep pitch to try and get a better angle of him, he gracefully obliged, posed for a few more minutes and then disappeared around the corner.

Alpine Ibex.

With little to no snow on the sun-drenched slopes heading up to Attelas and no snow in the forecast, I began wondering how skiing was going to be possible at Lac de Vaux this coming weekend. But the sheltered and noth-facing bowl, in contrast, has some decent coverage, no doubt aided by hard-working snow canons. There is about a foot of snow in the bowl down toward the lake. Don’t bring your best skis out this weekend, but there is enough to get a few turns in.

From here, we completed the loop around the Attelas peak and hiked to Col de Mines noting a number of small releases into Valon D’Arbi en-route. Emerging at the col in the late afternoon sun, the fiery colours of autumn beckoned us back down to Verbier.

Photographs by Barry Cox.

 

Trout fishing in Lac de Louvie

Verbier is well known for its winter offering of world-class skiing, fantastic resort atmosphere and availability of luxury mountain chalets but over the course of the off-season months we will be revealing in regular blog postings why this is such fantastic place to live, and visit, regardless of the season.

Cabane de Louvie is one of hundreds of Swiss alpine cabanes built to provide sanctuary for mountain travellers. It sits perched on a ledge above Lac de Louvie at 2,213 meters and is accessed from Fionnay in the Val de Bagnes. Yesterday we hiked up to the lake for a spot of trout fishing. What a fantastic day!

Departing Le Châble just after 4am we parked and started our hike up to the lake at about 4.30am, head torches guiding the way. Though the temperature was fresh (I’d guess close to zero) it wasn’t long before the work of the climb had warmed our bodies. The hike gets straight to business and, once we had found the trail, wastes no time gaining altitude, switching back and forth underneath the imposing presence of some large cliff bands.

Hiking in the mountains by torchlight is invigorating. Above our heads a cornucopia of stars and a sliver of a crescent moon lit the sky and, while you can’t see into the darkness below, you constantly sense the steep pitch of land falling away from you. The hike is strenuous but at no point technical and, after an hour-and-a-half of keeping to a steady pace, we had reached the cabane. From here we could see the glaciers of Grand and Petit Combin, glowing in the pre-dawn light, across the valley.

We were rigged up just after first light. After a couple of attempts we found a spot with some action, which conveniently provided the most astounding fishing backdrop I have ever been privy to, looking across the glacial water at the cabane and the Combin glaciers beyond that.

Lac de Louvie is stocked for fishing purposes, by helicopter! Despite catching and releasing significantly more nippers than those we kept, the fishing was still successful, with a final catch of mostly rainbow trout, but also two namaycush. Namaycush are indigenous to North America and, even in their local habitat, are rare. They are commonly known as lake trout, or in French as cristovomer.

By 2pm we had dabbled at various points around the lake and were back at the cabane for a cold beer before descending to the car, drinking in the stunning vistas that weren’t possible in the darkness of the ascent. Thanks to Pit and Duncan for a fantastic day.

We get to live the day over this evening when we get together with our families to feast on the catch. Overnight Pit has soaked half of the trout in his secret brine recipe and will be finishing it off by smoking it. The other half we’re going to barbeque. I’m salivating already…

Bramble Ski operates a selection of the finest luxury mountain chalets in Verbier and St Anton and offers catered and self-catered ski holidays. Contact us to arrange your bespoke spring, summer or autumn holiday to the mountains through Bramble Été, a subsidiary of Bramble Ski.

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.