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.
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.