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Mountain Biking

A Guide To Mountain Biking In Valais

We went to Valais to see why it's considered one of Europe's best mountain biking destinations

When it comes to Switzerland, and regions like Valais, it’s s easy to forget that the mountains here don’t just disappear at winter’s end. When the snow stops, the temperatures warm up, and the skiing and snowboarding equipment gets put back in the cupboard, those big alpine beauties are still present and correct – primed and ready to be enjoyed on the back of a full-suspension mountain bike.

With iconic downhill world cup venues, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, fantastically flowing single tracks, e-biking, and some of the most spectacular scenery imaginable ; we think you could easily make the case that this canton in south-west Switzerland is Europe’s finest mountain biking destination.

We headed to three of the gems in the Valais crown – Région Dents Du Midi, Nendaz and Aletsch Arena – to see if what we’d been told about the place could live up to the hype (it did). While visiting, we met up with three talented local mountain bikers who were kind enough to show us some of the area’s best bits.   

Région Dents Du Midi

Credit: Ryan Van Kesteren

First up in our epic mountain biking tour of Valais was Région Dents Du Midi. Home to the world famous Champéry downhill track, where Britain’s Danny Hart blew the competition away in 2011 with a history making ride in the Downhill World Championships, this spot should be a bucket list pilgrimage destination for any mountain biker worth their salt.

While here, we met up with Kristoff Lenssens. Kristoff rides for Scott bikes and was, unsurprisingly, a far superior mountain biker to anyone in our group. While trying to keep up with him, he explained to us that the Région Dents Du Midi has terrain to suit all levels of riders. Not sure if he was making a personal dig or not, but it was nice to know that the mind-melting 600km-plus of marked trails accessible from here catered for everyone.

“Home to the world famous Champéry downhill track, where Britain’s Danny Hart blew the competition away in 2011”

With 21 chairlifts open in summer, there’s plenty of easy access to those scenic single tracks which cut through majestic alpine meadows. Or, alternatively, if you’d like a helping hand why not hop on an electric mountain bike (aka an e-bike). Some might say it’s cheating but with so much stuff to ride here it’ll give you a much better chance of eating up the miles, and making the most of your time in the region.

The Portes du Soleil tour is accessible between the end of June and the beginning of September. It serves up to 1,000 metres of positive altitude difference and 6,000 metres of negative altitude difference. What’s great about it is that you can start from any resort in the area and can, if you want, use the lifts to cross the steepest passages of it. Take it easy or challenge yourself, the choice is up to you.

During our ride-a-long with Kristoff we weren’t able to see all 400 of the picturesque alpine chalets, all 10 of the region’s breathtakingly beautiful mountain lakes, and all of the countless panoramic vistas that can be found around every other corner here. However, we definitely saw enough to know that Région Dents Du Midi is a world-class mountain biking spot and one we’ll be very keen to come back to.

For more on mountain biking in Région Dents Du Midi, head here.

Nendaz

Credit: Ryan Van Kesteren

Next up on the ‘mountain biking in Valais’ itinerary was a visit to Nendaz. A winter wonderland for skiers and snowboarders, in the summer months this place morphs into ‘heaven on earth’ for mountain bikers. That same ski access that makes Nendaz fantastic for freeride when the snow’s good, transfers superbly during the year’s warmer season – providing visitors with easily accessible downhill trails, that cater for all skill levels.

While here, we met up with all-round good lad and talented local mountain biker Loïc Strebelle.

We started things off by sampling some of the unbelievably good single track around Nendaz, before taking our e-bikes up to the epic blue lake formed by the Barrage de Cleuson. You might think a big hydroelectricity dam would detract from the alpine scenery but its placement and sheer scale here actually does the opposite.

“We started things off by sampling some of the unbelievably good single track around Nendaz”

After filling ourselves up on the feast for the eyes scenery, we made the long, incredibly enjoyable, descent back down the valley.

Whether you’re in it for the adrenaline rush of ripping around or the simple, more laidback, joy of cruising slowly around picture-perfect mountains, Nendaz will give you what you’re after and then some. There’s 200km of marked tracks available, with family suitable sections knocking around if you’re here with the kids.

For more on mountain biking in Nendaz, head here.

Aletsch Arena

Home to the otherworldly Aletsch Glacier, a UNESCO World Heritage Site no less, you’d be hard pushed to find a mountain biking destination anywhere in the world with a more spectacular backdrop than Aletsch Arena.

Our third, and final, stop-off on the ‘mountain biking in Valais’ itinerary, Aletsch Arena is a car-free zone – something which unsurprisingly enhances the intimacy between you and nature when you’re out on the wheels.

“You’d be hard pushed to find a mountain biking destination anywhere in the world with a more spectacular backdrop”

While here, we met up with Martial Minnig – local mountain bike guide, ski instructor, and all-round good bloke. He informed us that the whole valley here is scattered with pristine single track that offers 1,000 metres of descent for the intrepid riders that seek it out. It’s clearly the kind of place where doing laps could get addictive fast, a place where you could ride and ride until your legs completely give up.

Martial took us on a really long, really fun, descent down from Bettmeralp all the way to Mörel. The experience was made all the more special by that unforgettable glacier backdrop and we enjoyed ourselves so much that we decided to fetch the cable car back up for another lap.

For more on mountain biking in the Aletsch Arena, head here.

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