VERBIER ROAD CYCLING WITH HAUT VELO

 Mountain biking is not the only activity that is increasing in popularity in and around Verbier. In recent years, lycra-clad road cyclists have been increasing in their numbers to, taking advantage of the numerous stunning routes on offer in the Valais region. Adam Sedgwick and Jonas Sundstedt recently set up Haut Vélo, a holiday and guiding service, to show visitors what’s on offer throughout the region.

Verbier draws cycling enthusiasts from around the world – having previously hosted the Tour de France and the Tour de Suisse, the likes of Chris Froome, Peter Sagan, Fabian Cancellara, Cadel Evans and Lance Armstrong have pedaled their way up the winding roads of the area. Within cycling distance of Verbier there is also the UCI global headquarters in Aigle, with its world class facilities including its Velodrome and BMX track. The Val de Bagnes has access to some spectacular cycling, from mountain passes climbing to France and Italy, to flat rides along the banks of the river Rhône through orchards and vineyards. Historic routes meandering through traditional alpine villages or adrenaline fuelled sweeping descents – there’s something for everyone. Passionate about cycling, Adam and Jonas decided to set up a road cycling travel company to share their experiences and the beautiful area with other cycling enthusiasts.

VL: When did you start road cycling?
JS: About 25 years ago. I had quite a few friends who did it and that was how we solved the world.
AS: In the summer of 2005, between my summer season and winter season, I thought it would be a great way to get fit for skiing. I used to head out on my old mountain bike on the local roads but I would regularly be overtaken by people many years older than me on road bikes. I thought I need one of those bikes… and I’ve never looked back!!

VL: Do you mountain bike too?
JS: Yes I used to be a mountain bike guide here in Verbier.
AS: Yes - I love the journey aspect of cross country and the challenge of technical climbs.

VL: You both work up in Verbier during the winter months, did you manage to bike at all earlier in the year?
AS: Yes absolutely, I try and ride all year. The mild winter last winter certainly helped. I also purposefully sign up to a long sportive in the early spring to give myself a target. This year it was the 275km Liege Bastogne Liege, Ardennes spring classic in Belgium.
JS: Yes, thankfully! It was a comfort during this winter, the warmest I have experienced in more than 15 years here in Verbier.

VL: Do you need all the gear to get started?
JS: No, not at all. I get the feeling people think it’s a complicated and expensive sport but it really doesn’t need to be. Just get out on a bike and ride! I recommend getting yourself a helmet, padded shorts, gloves and a puncture repair kit. Take it easy for the first month until you build confidence, but just get out and enjoy the experience.
AS: This is a question we get asked a lot by people who want to give cycling a go. So much so we are in the process of developing a course for beginners to gain experience and confidence in the basics of cycling. We’ll run sessions on how to complete simple road side repairs, what to carry when you’re out, how to set up your bike, how to ride the bike efficiently and most importantly what cakes are the best source of mid-ride nutrition…

VL: Where’s your favourite route to take beginners?
AS: That’s easy – through the stunning Swiss villages, vineyards and orchards along the banks of the river Rhône. You can also ride from Martigny along the cycle path to Lake Geneva passing the UCI headquarters and velodrome.

VL: And more experienced cyclists?
JS: When the snow clears, you can ride the big cols and passes in the area, for example the Col de Forclaz and if you have the energy, head up to Emosson dam. Other favourites are the St Bernard pass, Col de Lein, bike up to Champex Lac, Fouly or head out and take on as many of the local hills as your legs will allow!

For more information on holidays, cycle guiding and Haut Velo, go to www.hautvelo.com


OLAF BREUNING: SAVE THE CLIMATE!

The New York-based Swiss artist Olaf Breuning is presenting new photographic work in Verbier this summer. The Verbier 3-D Foundation invited him to reside in Verbier and develop new material responding to the social and glacial environment. The work, SAVE THE CLIMATE!, creates a platform for visitors to consider the role human migration plays as a contributing factor to climate change…

Text: Anneliek Sijbrandij

Photos: Olaf Breuning

In 2017, many art lovers will embark on ‘the Grand Tour’, a year in which to visit the quinquennial Documenta in Kassel, Germany (and this time also in Athens, Greece), the Venice Biennale, and the decennial Skulptur Projekte Münster, Germany, all in a matter of weeks. A visit to Art Basel can also be squeezed in, and then it’s time to retreat to Verbier for the summer. In Valais, Cezanne will be on view at the Fondation Pierre Gianadda from mid-June, and the Triennale d’art contemporain Valais 2017 will start at the end of August. Even closer to home, you can be inspired by the Verbier 3-D Foundation, that unites artists, locals and scientists to chronicle the impact of the surrounding glacial environment as part of a 4-year initiative that launched in 2016. Here, Olaf Breuning (1970) discusses his Verbier-developed work with Anneliek Sijbrandij, the founder of the Verbier Art Summit.

 

Anneliek Sijbrandij: First of all, Olaf, you live in New York, do you come back to Switzerland often?

Olaf Breuning: I have lived in Manhattan for eighteen years, and since 2 years I’ve lived in upstate New York, in the green… and it’s nice, I have a little more quiet time. I visit Switzerland around 3 times a year. I love it and it’s beautiful, I grew up there, but I’m not a nostalgic person. My father still lives there, but otherwise I don’t miss it so much.

AS: Your work ranges from photography, to sculpture, installation and performance, films and drawings. How do you decide which medium to use?

OB: I get bored quickly, so when I get bored with things, I’m happy to change… it’s a different approach, I make a lot of drawings, I’m happy to do something in ceramics, happy to do a photograph… when I made a movie, I was so sick of making a movie, I needed a few years to make another movie. I like that about my art, that I have the possibility to change.

AS: ‘Home 3’, a film commissioned by the Dutch art collectors Allard and Natascha Jakobs, who frequently visit Verbier and are Strategic Members of the Verbier Art Summit, addresses contemporary communication culture. It’s a document of early twenty-first-century New York: there is humour, but the work is also deeply melancholic. Are these common denominators in your work?

OB: The idea is I always think about my life and my work and this world I live in and I transfer it into an easy, understandable language. That could be sometimes with a lot of humour, but there is also a more serious side, and sometimes a highly philosophical side. In the Verbier photo I did, you can read “SAVE THE CLIMATE” on their butts, and you see them sticking the ski things up, and they have their pants down, but then you don’t know what it really means. Do they party? Do they protest? And there is, in my language, in general, the moment where it gets interesting, because it’s a simple language, but it oscillates in a meaning where it’s never really clear what it means. I think all my works mostly do that.

AS: The clear language here deals with our contemporary understanding of climate and glacier awareness. What would you like the Verbier visitors to consider when looking at the work?

OB: It reflects more or less a conundrum we are all in. We all want to do something against it, in our hearts, we want to make that planet a good place, but then at the same time we realise in many, many, ways, we don’t – like, I still drive a car and all these things, but it takes time to change, not only in your mind, but in your daily life as well.

 

SAVE THE CLIMATE! will be on view until 17 June 2018 in the Verbier 3-D

Sculpture Park on the path between La Chaux and Ruinettes, at an altitude of

2300 metres. A making of the work will also be exhibited on the path from

Ruinettes to Croix-de-Coeur documented by Verbier photographer Melody Sky.

www.3-dfoundation.com

www.olafbreuning.com

 


DAVID ZINCKE AND THE SONS OF GUNS

When you think of an Alpine après-ski band, you might expect an average band that plays in the background while enjoying a drink – you don’t expect to hear talented, world-class musicians. Welcome to Après-Ski at the Farinet in Verbier, with David Zincke and The Sons of Guns.

David Zincke and The Sons of Guns are not new to the Verbier après-ski scene. A giveaway sign to their familiarity here is the line of Jägerbombs waiting for them on the bar. They’ve just arrived in town, Faye is playing her warm up set on stage, so why not start the week off with a shot! Medi prefers a cup of tea, maybe he’s pacing himself – he knows what to expect from the week ahead…

The Farinet Après-Ski is a Verbier institution, the place you just ‘pop’ into for one drink, and then before you know it, you could be downing toffee vodka from the shot ski and dancing in your ski boots on the bar. Aymeric Ardimanni, (the one with the beard) is well known in Verbier and has been coming to play at the Farinet in various bands for over six years. Based in the South of France, this is where he met other band members Jack Daniel, Tim Parisot and Scott Richman to create ‘The Sons of Guns’. The talented group then became the permanent backing band for songwriter David Zincke. Add the multi-disciplined musician and producer Medi, and you have the après-ski ‘super band’. (Medi is producing David Zincke’s upcoming album ‘Soul and Bones’ coming out later this year.)

One of the first questions I ask is, “don’t you get bored covering songs when you all write and perform your own music?” The response is a quick and easy “no” from all of them. Coming to Verbier is an opportunity for them to all hang out with each other and have fun away from the distractions of every day life in France. On stage they actually look like they are enjoying the experience rather than just going through the motions to make a living. Their love of music oozes through the ski thermals of the coldest punters fresh off the mountain. They don’t just ‘cover’ a song, they play it their way. You end up enjoying songs you didn’t even know you liked.

Any band coming to play on the Après-Ski stage can’t be shy of the Verbier crowd and the party, or ‘heave’, that can often occur at the Farinet. With jugs of beer flying all over the place and people stage-diving in ski boots, or girls dancing in just their bras on the bar – it’s all part of the attraction. Luckily they enjoy the mad atmosphere, or the challenge to create one. The Sons of Guns embrace the après sprit or ‘spirits’ – literally, sometimes knocking back vodka straight from the bottle between songs. And this is a quiet night. It’s easy to see why they aren’t up for the first lifts each morning.

Another reason you won’t see them waiting at Médran is due to the fact no one in the band skis or snowboards. The main reason they avoid the slopes is the risk of breaking an arm or some other injury. Aymeric, however, hurt his arm when he slipped walking through the Place Centrale (he’s not the first or last to have a late-night injury…) A musician’s boots from the South of France aren’t designed for snowy roads.

As with most bands, everyone has their role – the singer, the drummer – egos fighting for space on the stage. With this band, David Zincke might have his name highlighted on the poster, but you turn around to order your drink and when you turn back, the whole configuration has changed. The drummer becomes the singer, the keyboard player is playing the guitar and one of them might be standing behind the bar. No wonder they don’t get bored.

I asked them if they had any favourite stories about their time in Verbier. There was a lot of mumbling and basically there was no point in telling me as I wouldn’t be able to print it. Fair enough. No doubt they’ll add more stories to their collection when they are back in Verbier this month on March 14th and 15th.

If you like live music, an evening watching David Zincke and The Sons of Guns is a must – and if you think you don’t like live music, you will when you watch this crew.

 


Get ready, the Boss des Bosses is back!

The legendary Boss des Bosses, Europe’s biggest inter-resort mogul competition, will be back in Verbier on March 15th. Founder Tom Banfield organised the first Boss des Bosses in Chamonix back in 1990, challenging a friend from Val d’Isère to settle their dispute over which resort had the best skiers. Last year, teams and supporters from Zermatt, Chamonix and Portes du Soleil came to Verbier for the head-to-head mogul competition. Teams made up of skiers, snowboarders, telemarkers and mono-skiers navigate a steep section of snowy bumps (‘bosses’ in French) scoring points for speed, style and jumps.

VL: How was last year’s event after the 5-year break?

TB: The legendary Phoenix rose from the ashes and shook off its dust. Teams from Zermatt, Chamonix and Portes du Soleil arrived with bus loads of supporters to enjoy a fabulous display of fun and games. A dramatic final saw Zermatt beat Verbier on the final race.

NdR: Last year’s event was a real experiment, especially with the location of the course. Back in the 90’s, the Mogul Mania events were staged on the sunny slopes of Fontanet, however we decided to create our own purpose-built course in the trees. It provides better visibility in case of a white out, and spectators can access the site on foot, avoiding the safety issues that curtailed the event’s continuation in Chamonix. Luckily for us, the idea was a great success, especially as it was only a short roll down the hill to Le Rouge’s L’After Party and prize-giving.

VL: What can we expect at this year’s event?

TB: Amazing skiing, great tunes and, hopefully, plenty of warm sunshine. This year’s sponsors include Faction Skis, Sinner Clothing, Mountain Air, Le Rouge Restaurant, Winslow Breweries, Pharmacie de La Croix de Coeur, Sungod Goggles, Verbier Tourism and Téléverbier.

NdR: We learned a lot of lessons from last year’s inaugural event. Amongst other things, how to make better bumps and better jumps.

VL: The first Boss des Bosses was 27 years ago, so it’s older than most of the competitors – what do you think makes the event still so popular with the younger crew today?

TB: It’s only Niko and I that have grown old! The event itself is still fresh. Mogul skiing is still great to watch and the crowd is still made up of a never- ending stream of young seasonaires living their dreams.

NdR: 1990 seems like only yesterday, but the spirit is the same. Chasing the lifestyle of a ski fanatic is a choice that only a few people have the pleasure of realising, but we that do have two things in common: we love to ride and we love to party. So, any event celebrating both is bound to succeed.

VL: How has the event changed over the years?

TB: We started with a ghetto blaster, a bag of cassettes and a megaphone, so to have DJs and a proper sound system is a great improvement. On the skiing front, the quality of jumps and tricks has gone stratospheric!

NdR: Stratospheric jumps indeed! This year, French National Champion Ben Cavet will be setting the standard, skiing for Portes du Soleil. Regarded as one of the best aerialists in the business, Ben recently won a silver medal at the FIS World Cup in Deer Valley, USA.

VL: Your favourite memory so far?

  1. There have been so many hilarious moments and tense finals, it’s too hard to choose one.

NdR: One of my many favourites was watching one of my team mates destroy a very competent skier from Zermatt while dressed as a giant banana.

VL: Who would you put your money on this year?

NdR: Zermatt have managed most wins over the years, winning last year’s final against Verbier on the very last run. So with the incentive of revenge, my money is on Verbier.

VL: How did the Boss des Bosses end up in Verbier?

TB: I’ve known Niko since the very first edition of Boss des Bosses, when he skied for Chamonix. We started reminiscing about how he had skied for three different resorts in the first three editions and after a few more beers we discussed the possibility of hosting the competition in Verbier.

In September 2015, Niko called me to say that his friends, Raph and Tash from Le Rouge, were also keen to bring the event to Verbier, so, thanks to their collaboration, the dream became a reality.

The course is above Bar 1936, with easy pedestrian access from Carrefour.

11h Course inspection

12h Racing begins

15h Grand finals

17h Prize giving and LAfter Party at Le Rouge

22h After LAfter party at Le Crock

 


Flying with Yael Margelisch

Local paragliding sensation Yael Margelisch invited Verbier Life’s Maev Cox on board her glider for a chance to understand what drives this young woman to such giddy heights.

Our feet begin to pound the ground but for a few seconds only. I’m diligently following the pre-take off instructions to press forwards, resisting the pull back, trying to keep traction with the earth, but before I know it we’re in the air and Yael tells me to sit back and as I do, a weird wave of emotion sweeps over me as I’m engulfed by the breathtaking tranquillity that exists up there.

“For me, flying is freedom”, Yael Margelisch tells me in an interview preceding our flight, “There is greater freedom in progression. I love it because you can always get better, you’re always learning”. It’s obvious that this 25-year-old who was born and raised in Verbier has a maturity beyond her years. Yael got her paragliding licence when she was 19, after a small problem with her eyes forced her to abandon her dream of becoming a helicopter pilot. “My parents didn’t want me to do it, I was always hurting myself as a kid,” she explains, but her dogged determination saw her progress from a first jump in 2009 to acquiring her licence just a year later. Since then, she has worked for local paragliding school Gravité 0 teaching and operating tandem flights and for the past two years, Yael has been competing seriously in distance flying. This has taken her to incredible locations around the world such as Mexico, Brazil and India where various stages of the World Cup have been held.

Yael describes the competitions as being like a sailing race with the difference being that the paragliding pilot flies a virtual course using GPS-enabled flight instruments to plot their route. At the outset, pilots are given a number of “turnpoints” (invisible vertical cylinders stretching from the ground up to the sky for an unlimited distance) which they need to enter into in a specified order before arriving at the end point, in the fastest possible time. Yael has improved her position each year achieving a second place in the female category this year. “Next year I will be seeking first” she tells me, “my goal is to be the best pilot in the world… not only in distance but in acrobatics”. This discipline, often referred to as ‘acro’, requires the pilot to perform an array of aerial tricks and is judged in a similar way to freeride competitions, with difficulty and realisation of manoeuvres as top criteria. Currently, Yael trains mostly by herself and has not taken to competing. She’s excited to tell me that recently she carried out her first Infinity Tumble, the holy grail of acro manoeuvres, so I figure it won’t be long before this determined lady is turning heads in competitions.

While she may sound like an adrenalin junkie, Yael’s persona is very measured and balanced. She’s had no serious accidents to date and can count a handful of tree landings which she assures me are “all part of the game”. The game, currently, is dominated by men. Out of roughly 120 pilots competing in the last World Cup, only ten were women. “For a woman to get really good, it takes more time, generally men do not have the same fear of risk that we do” Yael explains. “I am more cautious. When you force things, that’s when you make stupid mistakes. I believe that a woman who takes her time can one day compete in the top ten”. Having had an early entry to the sport, Yael has the huge advantage of youth on her side and the time to hone her skills and patiently work her way to the top.

Sponsorship is a big element and key to Yael’s ongoing involvement at a professional level. Sponsorship money is predominantly used to fund equipment and flights to competitions. In exchange, the sponsoring company’s logo is emblazoned on the glider which travels across the world. Additional incentives are tandem jumps for co-workers and business partners and the option to use paragliding images in corporate advertising material. Anyone interested in discussing this with Yael can contact her on margelischyael@hotmail.com.

Yael and I spend a good time soaring above the forests and cliff bands stretching down from Ruinettes, the mountains around us brought to life in all their stunning detail, clouds and their shadows dancing lazily, and the valley floor stretching out like a miniature model of idyllic rural life beneath us. Our landing is gentle and before I know it, we’re mere humans again, bound to the ground and limited. I have been mesmerised by the serenity of this whole experience and now I begin to understand how this whole paragliding gig might become addictive.