XAVIER ROSSET / FLY THE WORLD

After an intense 300 days surviving alone on a deserted island, it didn’t take long for Xavier Rosset to dream up his next big adventure. The local ex-professional snowboarder is now taking on his biggest challenge to date - to fly around the world in an ultralight aircraft…

Xavier Rosset exudes adventure. Growing up in Verbier, Xavier naturally excelled at snowboarding. During his professional career, he spent six years hurtling himself down the steep face of the Bec des Rosses in the Verbier Extreme earning second place in 2005. For most people this would be adventure enough, but for Xavier it was only the start of his journey. With the ability to make his wildest dreams into reality, Xavier took himself out of his comfort zone in the mountains to spend 300 days alone on an island on with only a Swiss army knife and a machete. After 14 months of preparation he travelled 22,000km from Verbier to set up home on a deserted Pacific island. He completed the challenge after enduring months of mental and physical challenges, only to come home and dream up an even bigger expedition – to fly around the world aboard a 230kg pendular microlight. With his flying machine, he is en route to cross five continents, 50 countries covering a distance of 80,000 kilometres around the world, traversing over Central America’s tropical forest and across the Himalayas and Greenland.

VL: How did you adapt to life back in Verbier after your time on the island?

Xavier: My return from the island in 2009 went really well. I came back to a familiar world which I really appreciated. I had left Verbier temporarily to live a human adventure and  to escape the consumer driven society, which, I must admit, gives me great liberties as a freeride instructor.

One of the richest feelings I had upon my return after 300 days on an island was to have been able to give my family a hug and to be able to converse with people other than myself.

VL: What inspired you to undertake this challenge?

Xavier: The ‘FlyTheWorld’ (FTW) expedition holds many values in common with my own previous island expedition. During my 300 days, I explored a semi-tropical jungle on foot as well as myself. With FTW, I am merely broadening my horizons. I am leaving on a pendular microlight to discover our planet, from a geological as well as a human perspectives. The idea is to show a positive side of the best things about our planet through two minute videos, photos and a documentary, which will be distributed at the end of the expedition, in three years from now. Optimists like pessimists, are contagious. I prefer to be part of the former category and to share my completed life adventures in order to showcase our planet’s beauty.

VL: You left Switzerland in July after months of preparation – how has the trip been to date?

Xavier :The expedition is progressing at its own rhythm, it has already travelled 15,000km flying over 13 countries in 120 days. This has entailed an enormous number of unforeseen events: weather, technical (flight authorizations/stays for which solutions always have to be found.) The huge obstacle of obtaining a visa for Saudi Arabia meant that we had to plan a new itinerary, which would take us to South Africa, initially. The countries I flew over provided the FTW with absolutely incredible landscapes. It’s crazy how perception of our planet changes when we observe it from above.

VL: A few weeks into your stay on the Island you questioned if you’d be able to stay for the whole 300 days, how are you feeling about this trip so far?

Xavier: The biggest challenge of my 300-day adventure was the solitude and the voluntary isolation. The Fly The World expedition has enabled me to meet people from all walks of life and I am constantly encountering fascinating cultures This has enabled me to learn a lot about others as well as about myself. A little disappointing maybe is to not really be free to fly over certain countries as I please. I have to follow regulated itineraries which strongly limit my discoveries by air.

VL: Which part of the trip are you looking forward to most?

Xavier : The expedition is flying over so many countries, it is difficult to predict what I’m going to discover and get excited about in advance, which is good because this gives me room for manoeuvre. The American continent – north and south – promises wonderful encounters and breathtaking scenery; Asia also…. Flying over Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe at 3500 metres, will remain engraved in my memory. I flew over it on an August Saturday morning at dawn, when the winds were calmest. I took my machine up to 3'950 metres for more than an hour, flying over the six craters of this ambassador of the depths of the earth.

VL: When you stayed on the Island for 300 days, loneliness was one of the biggest challenges - what has been your biggest obstacle so far?

Xavier: Probably at the end of September, when I was flying over South Sudan, I had to change course due to weather conditions. From the moment I landed in this war-torn country, an avalanche of problems arose, which became more and more important, up until the moment I was investigated by the country’s armed forces. I am obliged to keep secret the days following my arrest, but I wish to thank the Swiss Embassy which immediately put procedures into place in order to clarify and resolve the problem as soon as possible. On October 7, just as I was about to leave south Sudan, another major problem came about: a storm damaged the wing and blades of my aircraft which meant it was not in flying condition. I had to get it out of the country in order for it to undergo repairs. This was done via a cargo airplane flying to Uganda. I also had to buy all my video material again which had mysteriously vanished during my stay.

VL: How do you motivate yourself when your determination waivers?

Xavier: I am a naturally positive person, so I always find a positive point in everything that happens to me. It’s all about perception. I find it much more enrichening to see the positive – solutions - rather than focusing on a problem and complaining about it. Everything that happens, planned or unforeseen, is part of the expedition and it is important to be open to everything and ready…

VL: Where do you plan to spend Christmas this year?

Xavier: The expedition is divided into three seasons. This will allow me to come back to Verbier during the winter to work as a freeride instructor and thereby earn some money which will be re-invested into the expedition from next spring. This will also enable me to find new partners for the FTW. The microlight will spend four months in a hangar somewhere in the world awaiting my return for the next FlyTheWorld chapter. I will therefore spend Christmas surrounded by my family, sharing stories of my adventures and listening to theirs.

VL: How can people follow your adventure?

Xavier: The expedition is as interactive as possible. Everyone can follow its progress online via a tracker which is on the microlight. Videos and photos are posted regularly on social media.

www.FlyTheWorld.ch

www.facebook.com/xavier.rosset.5

www.facebook.com/flytheworld.ch

Instagram : fly_the_world

Before the departure of this expedition discovering the world, few people thought that this Bagnard ‘mountain man’ would be taking off to discover our planet on his aircraft. Now is the time to join this adventure as partners and as supporters in order to give him the necessary wings so he is able to continue this positive exploration.


VERBIER LIFE ART

Over the 12 years running the magazine, we have featured many talented photographers and artists. This winter, we have created an online platform to promote and sell their work to Verbier Life readers. Fine Art Photography graduate, Charlotte Percle, has been collecting the work of local talents including Jane Coe, Rosiland Monks Yves Garneau, Sébastien Albert, Janet Johnson and Melody Sky for the new online gallery.

“As someone who loves art, I really appreciate the talent which lives in the community here,” comments Charlotte. “The idea is to collect some of the local artists’ and photographers’ work on one platform and make it easy for people to see what is available, either for their own chalet or for original gifts. We’re in the early stages of setting up the site, but we hope to add more artists and work over the coming months.”
For the larger purchases, there will the opportunity to contact the artist to discuss the piece, and in some cases for people living locally, the option to see the art before a final decision is made.

For more information on Verbier Life, or for artists and photographers interested in featuring their work on the site, email Charlotte at charlottepercle@gmail.com

www.verbierlife.com


Max Chapuis, from ‘Downhill’ to ‘Endurance’

Max Chapuis, from ‘Downhill’ to Endurance

Text and photos: Anthony Brown (www.anthonybrown.ch)

The earth is dry, the air is fresh and the Bagnard trails have many happy days ahead of them. Among the faithful mountain bike regulars, there is one who continuously returns to Verbier’s single trails. Despite being a Geneva resident, he knows the mountains and their steep slopes very well. Favouring those with generous turns and those without snow and where nature has regained control, the Verbier Bikepark ambassador rides fast, really fast even, in spite of his calm, restrained nature.

Maxime Chapuis, a young sportsman, is under the spotlight as he takes a chance in ‘Enduro’, a new mountain bike discipline:

It didn’t take long for Max to become interested in mountain biking. Even in the city, where a bike is perceived more as a way to avoid traffic, he caught the mountain bike virus.

Dominated by the Salève mountain, Geneva is on the end of the Jura mountain range, which, despite not being as high as Mont-Fort’s 3328m, still offers many possibilities.

From the Salève to Verbier via Dovenaz, Maxime honed his mountain bike skills and found himself, at 12 years old, on top of the Croix-des-Ruinettes for the start of his first ever downhill competition. Ten years and many competitions later, he is lining himself up at the start of the Downhill World Cup stages. 2015 Swiss champion and vice-champion the following year, Maxime has been reaping impressive results at a national level, bringing him added confidence during international events.

However the level is extremely high in the World Cup and even though he often comes out at the top of the Swiss delegation, he hasn’t won any medals so far. Being a bit tired, he is setting his sights on the invariable downhill runs and he is now veering towards this new discipline, cousin of the downhill, the ‘Enduro’. A seasoned downhiller, Max is first and foremost a fan of road biking and the climbs he has to accomplish are for him part of the game. From 2015, he has tested himself in the Enduro Helvetic Cup races and managed to win it in 2016.

For passing visitors, it’s sometimes difficult to follow the development of all the ‘’new school’’ sports found in Verbier. Let’s give it a go: from outside, these youngsters ride the cable car up and all hit the bike park runs as quickly as possible on big bikes. However, some take off to go straight down whilst others prefer to take detours, their legs doing the work in further uphills, to then take advantage of a great technical downhill trail to go down.

In terms of the mechanics, the ‘Enduro’ bikes are completely suspended and have smaller cogs (and therefore slower speeds). This allows ‘Endurists’ to cycle up climbs, whilst simultaneously comfortably go down the single trails. The ‘Enduro’ trails are therefore really different to Downhill. The riders go up by cycling up (contrary to downhill) and they are only timed when they go downhill.

‘Enduro’ athletes’ days are much longer. They spend between six and eight hours on their bike, compared with downhillers who do two to three descents per day. In short, ‘Enduro’ biking is longer and more physical (whilst still maintaining a high technical level) and downhill is faster and more difficult.

These are strategic times for Maxime. The ‘Enduro’ founded its own federation (EMBA) in 2012 and launched an appealing international race circuit: the ‘Enduro World Series’. It’s all new and there is a lot to be done. He participated in the last stage of the 2016 event and obtained a wildcard, inviting him to participate this year. In 2017, Max has been taking part in all the series and has already achieved 14th place in the Rotorua event in New Zealand.

At the first stage, he declares his ambitious personal challenge to make the top 15 in one of the stages. There remains one challenge, just as risky: staying in the top 30 of the overall ranking – he currently holds 29th place.

By training in Verbier, Max has some of the most technical terrain available to him for him to improve his ‘Enduro’ skills. He also benefits from welcome support, where the competition is stiff, sometimes organized in a team and also has technical support also. Essentials which Max currently has on his own, from his own bike saddle.

Taking advantage of a shorter winter at 850m altitude, mountain bikers can use the cable cars over a longer period than skiers can.

Its gastronomic specialties, location in the heart of the Alps, many natural Valaisans trails and installations in Le Châble all make Verbier a prime choice for the ‘Enduro’ scene. If tourists use the lifts sometimes, sometimes, cycling to new trails is also a luxury.

Follow Max on:

www.instagram.com/maxchapuis

www.facebook.com/ChapuisMax

www.maxime-chapuis.ch

Follow Anthony on:

www.anthonybrown.ch

https://www.instagram.com/brown_anthony/

https://www.facebook.com/anthonybrownswissmadephoto/

 


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

 


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