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.

 


LADIES OF THE LODGE

You never know who might be coming to stay at Sir Richard Branson’s Alpine home. One of nine destinations in the Virgin Limited Edition, the property offers an indoor pool, two jacuzzis, fully-equipped spa treatment room and four chefs – the perfect mountain retreat. The team working at The Lodge need to be prepared for anyone and everything…

“My job is varied. One week you might have a quiet family of four, the next could be a busy corporate group of 42. Generally I start the day doing breakfast service, then help the guests get prepared for the mountain, before organising everything for the rest of the day. My favourite part of the job is hosting the corporate party groups. After a day up on the mountain, the first place they head to is après-ski, where they are ready to do some serious partying. We normally head to the front by the stage, then our job is to make sure they have all the drinks they need – often it’s jugs of beer which get liberally shared around. The group will then come back for dinner, before heading back out. Sometimes they’ll be dancing until the early morning at Etoile Rouge, then coming back to The Lodge to continue the party – they certainly have the stamina! The last hangers-on might go to bed at 6am, then I might be making Bloody Marys at 7am. The contrast is when we have a family group coming to stay; then you might have a live band coming to play with an audience of dancing kids. I love every second of this job…” Abigail Climpson-Stewart, Guest Services Manager“I was meant to go to New York, but I couldn’t get a visa, so one of my friends called me and said he had work for me in Verbier. I didn’t even know where it was. I then heard about the job at The Lodge when I was rock climbing in the summer with Hugh, one of the chalet’s chefs. A normal day for me is starting at 7am on a breakfast shift, prepping the buffet and sending out hot breakfast orders that the guests place with our front of house team as they come down for breakfast. then prep for the rest of the day, for example, making bread and afternoon tea. On today’s menu we have beetroot salad, roast chicken and lemon tart. The menu varies hugely as we use local, seasonal produce. The next chef will come in and take over at 2pm and continue prepping for dinner service. Last week we cooked for 42 people from Thailand – they came into the kitchen to cook for themselves as well a lot of the time, which was a lot of fun.” Linda Söderlund, Chef

“I used to work on Necker Island for Virgin Limited Edition but decided to swap my flip flops for ski boots and began working at The Lodge as the Front of House Manager six years ago. I took over as General Manager in October 2015 and have loved every minute of it. Most days I arrive around 7:30am and do a quick walk around the property and brief the team on the guest activities for the day before spending a few minutes at my desk. During this time I work on pre-arrival guest correspondence, ensuring that guest requests are looked after and that each stay is truly unique to each group. I’ll then run around helping with breakfast, which is a great part of my job as I’m not just sat at a desk all day. I get involved with the guests’ experience from start to finish. I manage a team of 15 so that is an interesting challenge and one where no day is the same! One of my favourite experiences and enjoyments working at The Lodge is organising weddings. We had three during my first summer in Verbier and have another two coming up this summer. It’s great to add all the finishing touches that make it extra special for the guests. Another perk working at The Lodge is that we are open during both winter and summer seasons which is a rare find in Verbier. I love the contrast of the seasons here. We have the skiing in the winter, which is equally as amazing as summer when you can bike, hike or paraglide – it’s a really active and fantastic place to live and work.”  Ashley Crook, General Manager

My job here is a bit like being Mary Poppins, I have quite a diverse role. I’ll start off the day working alongside the front of house team where I might help empty the dishwasher, then I might make coffee and tea, and then run around stocking up firewood before the guests return in the afternoon. Then I go down to the spa around midday and get everything ready for my afternoon treatments. I then do some admin, emails and boring things like that before submerging myself in lavender around 3.30pm where I normally do up to four hours of treatments. Then I become Mary Poppins again and prepare the bedrooms for the evening by carrying out our turndown service – I adore this part of the day because I love being meticulous making sure the room is perfect for the guest. Adjusting the lighting, putting a chocolate on the pillow, and ensuring the room is nice and tidy – everything has to be perfect! I like to make sure people feel special and that people are being looked after really well. After turndown, I sometimes help the front of house team a bit more before heading home for the day. Some of our guests have stayed at The Lodge up to 9 times, so I work hard to ensure their experience is a good as their last one! All of the guests I have met so far have been amazing and I remind myself often of just how lucky I am to be here.” Georgie Nicholls, Spa Therapist



LANGUAGE LESSONS ON THE PISTE

Verbier Language School invited Verbier Life for a French lesson up on the sunny pistes of Verbier.

It’s not uncommon to hear people complaining there are never enough hours in the day. This is certainly the case for me, especially when I desperately grasp at reasons to explain why my French is still terrible after living in Verbier for so many years. It’s too easy for us to say we don’t have time, when the reality is, we could find the time. The truth of the matter is, my attention span in a classroom is limited – the inner child in me comes out and I start looking out of the window waiting for the lesson to be over.

The clever ladies at Verbier Language School have come up with the perfect solution for people who prefer to avoid classrooms by taking the lessons out onto the slopes. Eléonore Ribordy and Rosi Pickard started Verbier Language School 10 years ago, and have since been responsible for hundreds of happy students improving their linguistic skills.

“Combining a ski and language lesson is the perfect way for those who are on holiday and who want to make the most of their time or for people who don’t like being confined to learning at a desk” comments Eléonore.

When VLS invited me along to try one of the classes, I was keen to give it a go. A French lesson out on the sunny slopes, why not? I met up with their teacher Céline, a fully qualified Swiss brevet instructor and also an experienced language teacher who works for VLS throughout the year. Her warm happy smile immediately put me at ease. The class was about having fun, enjoying the slopes, and hopefully, improving my French along the way.

One of the main problems when learning a language is having the confidence to just talk and not feel embarrassed at making mistakes. Céline helped and corrected me when a phrase wasn’t quite right by suggesting different words or phrases as we chatted on the lifts and during pauses.

“This is a great way for children to learn a language”, smiles Céline. “They can just learn as they go along, what colour their skis are, pointing objects out. Then if we stop for a drink, they can order their own hot chocolate. It’s a fun way for them to learn a language. The same goes for adults; for some people, actually ‘doing’ is the best way to learn.”

After an hour cruising around the slopes it was time to head back down the mountain. I can certainly see how combining skiing and language lessons is a great way to make the most of your time and learn in a fun environment. For children and adults alike, it’s a fantastic way to introduce a language or improve conversational skills without even realising you’re learning. For once, the time flew by and I wasn’t looking at the clock. Now if only there was a microchip I could imbed into my brain so that I can remember all the grammar…

 

www.verbierlanguageschool.com