Verbier Dream Jobs

People

For many, living and working in Verbier is the dream lifestyle. There are countless people who arrived in Verbier on a week-long holiday or for one season, then decided not to go home, instead building a new life in the Alps. We meet some of the people who have created their own dream jobs in the Alps…

SOFIA M. SOMMER – SNOWBOARD INSTRUCTOR 

I’m originally from Argentina and first came to Verbier in 2003. At first it was all about snowboarding, so I found whatever job paid my rent and gave me the freedom to ride a lot. Soon enough, I realised I wanted to combine my passion for snowboarding while gaining the satisfaction of teaching others.

In those early years I was doing winter seasons in Verbier followed by winters in Argentina. My life was an endless winter for 14 years. I was so happy! I did all my teaching levels, and after five years became a trainer and then did my Swiss qualifications. I went on to work for different schools and ran a snowboard club in Argentina. I was aways prioritising snowboarding and travelling, but mostly POW days! 

After a few years working for another school, my husband, his brother and I decided to set up Independent Snowboard School. We wanted something different, totally snowboard-orientated.  Later we started the Snowboard Club with the idea of bringing snowboarding closer to the local community, especially kids. 

Instructing is such a fun job and always changing. Teaching what you truly love is very fulfilling and is a lifestyle which brings me a lot of happiness. Now, I have kids of my own and my favourite thing is to ride with them. Time flies by, you know, but children of winter never grow old! 

OSKAR  HALL – PHOTOGRAPHER  

I’ve been lucky enough to roam these mountains since the 90’s, witnessing Verbier’s evolution from an Alpine village to a world-renown ski resort. When I was about 12 years old, inspired by countless ski films, my local buddies and I started documenting our exploits; whether it was our first tricks or small couloirs. Growing up in Verbier also meant we would often see pro riders filming here.

In awe, I watched the synchronicity and flow of this crew, from the skiers to the filmers/photographers, making me dream of one day being part of it all. A few years later, after a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art, I started with an internship at Faction – making orders, live chat, etc. I was stoked just to have a foot in the door of one of my favourite brands. Throughout my tenure, I was bugging my good friend and Content Manager, Tim, about my passion for photography and that he should send me on shoots where I’d work for free and gain experience. Eventually at the age of 25, and thankfully for me, Tim gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to go and shoot for the feature film, ‘The Collective’. In Candide’s backyard of Balme, I found myself with all my idols and my camera. We shot for nearly two weeks and it was all pretty surreal – I was seeing all my favourite riders flying around right in front of my lens. Skip to present time – I’m now resident photographer and part of a family at Faction and FW Gear, the dream job.

CLARE PARKER – EVENTS PLANNER 

I first arrived in Verbier fresh out of university in UK ready to embark on a ski season working as a chalet host before heading back home. But I stayed and 2020 marks my 20th year here – how time flies! After a few seasons, I decided if I wanted to stay, so I needed to find a year-round job. I started working for the Kings Group with marketing, communications and events. It was the event planning that I loved so much, so five years ago I set up my own company, RSVP Events Verbier.

We organise weddings in some spectacular locations, parties and bespoke corporate trips. Last week we had just 24 hours’ notice to host a party in Courchevel, our team were taken there and back by helicopter and it was all a bit manic, but we pulled it off.  I love the sense of excitement, the diversity, un-ending challenges and the people I meet.  Having an events business here can also be tough. There is a lot of work behind the scenes, working hours can be very unsocial and it can be stressful. It’s also quite seasonal although, compared to 20 years ago, Verbier is becoming more and more of a year-round resort.  

GUIDO PERRINI – CAMERMAN 

I’m a ski cameraman based around the Verbier area. Originally from Italy and the UK, I’ve been shooting skiing for the for over 20 years. I could have never imagined where this job has taken me, from Antarctica, to Greenland, Alaska, Svalbard, South America, Japan and Georgia to name a few. 

The appeal of riding a lift to the top of Mont Gélé and skiing freely off in any direction without being chased by the ski patrol really appealed to me then. I wanted to stay another season so got a job tuning skis at Ski Service. My skills leading people off the back of Mont Fort have evolved into worldwide adventures, from heliskiing trips each spring from my base in West Greenland, to off-piste skiing in India, and chartering/skippering small yachts in the Mediterranean. Summer guiding e-bike tours is now my off-piste in summer. Spending day after day with other like-minded people, in amazing destinations around the world, is truly rewarding. I’ve been guiding clients for over 30 years now, and the bonds that are created after having so many adventures together, are incredibly deep. I wouldn’t trade my job for the world. 

Victor LiebenguthFreeride Snowboarder / Marketing & Commercial Specialist   

Originally from Chamonix, I was lucky enough to cross paths with great people who helped me discover Verbier and the surrounding mountains. I fell in love with life and people here and I never left. Recently I’ve mixed my passion and career snowboarding with some interesting projects, which allow me to work and enjoy life in Verbier. (I’m sponsored by THE NORTH FACE, Rossignol snowboards, GIRO Optics, Smartwool, Arctic Juice & Café, Backside Verbier shop, Verbier Promotion). 

Snowboarding nowadays represents only half of my activity. After a communication school at IDRAC Business School, I quickly found my interest in the marketing field, more precisely in event planning and coordination, as well as in business development. This has now resulted in two major projects: Gotham Coworking. A startup created in Lausanne, today the company has positioned itself as the leader in Coworking spaces in Switzerland. I was lucky enough to cross paths with Guilhem Sirven, CEO of the company, and Patrick Polli, one of the main investors, who gave me my chance and commissioned me to develop the concept here in Valais. We have just opened a space in Martigny and also here in Verbier. Within the next two years, Brig and Sion will also host Gotham sites – it’s a really motivating project! 

Parallel to all this, I am about to create my own marketing agency, THE EDGE Agency. The major objective of this agency is to be the organising company for an event project that will take place in January 2021 here in the Val de Bagnes – the SUMMIT Festival.  

We felt Verbier lacked a sporting and cultural event that would bring together freeride and freestyle practices, but also out of a desire to pass on my passion for the mountains and its snow sports and showcase the region. Without saying too much yet, this event will host a freestyle competition on an international scale, a series of freeride competitions, concerts with headliners worthy of the most beautiful venues, conferences and workshops on current themes, film previews and of course crazy evenings. 

Verbier is a great year-round resort with lots of opportunities to create your dream job and make the most of living in the mountains.” 

HANS SOLMSSEN – MOUNTAIN GUIDE  

I grew up riding horses on the Big Island of Hawaii. Who could have imagined that I’d one day be a Swiss Mountain Guide in Verbier? As fate would have it, I got hooked on skiing whilst attending Northern University in Vermont, and then came to Verbier to spend a season. That was over 35 years ago! 

I have witnessed first hand the evolution of skiing and snowboarding, getting to work with some of the best in the game including Xavier De Le Rue, Sam Anthamatten, Jérémie Heitz and many more (see Twenty & La Liste). The sport had progressed far beyond what I could have imagined. Cameras have become lighter and better. Now, instead of putting an old 16mm camera with two lenses in my pack, I have a digital camera with six lenses, a stills camera, a drone and gimbal and the pack still weighs the same! I’m not sure what else I want to do in skiing, but every year in Verbier I seem to discover a new line and that puts a smile on my face –  or a stain in my pants!


Les Patrouilleurs de Verbier

People

While most of Verbier is enjoying breakfast and sipping on a nice cup of warm coffee, the piste patrollers are already hard at work checking safety conditions and preparing the mountain for the day ahead. This is only the start of their long dayoften in dangerous and challenging conditions. Gitgo and Faction captured behind-the-scene footage of a day in the life of ‘Les Patrouilleurs De Verbier’… 

“We start work before everyone, finish after all the clients, but it’s really a good job as it’s so varied. Every day out skiing. My father is a patroller also, he knows the work, he knows the risk – he knows the pleasure also. For me, to ski every day during the winter season is really a pleasure. My name is Louis Roggo – I am a patroller at Téléverbier.

Verbier is a very mountainous area. It’s very high, and that involves a high risk of avalanche. The work is very physical. We have a meeting early morning, we check the snow and see if there is new snow. It works like that to see if we need to do avalanche bombing. In the morning we each have a ridgeline. We go down there and check the area near the piste, but if there has been an avalanche on a slope of more than 30 degrees then we must release all excess snow on all aspects. We prepare the explosives early morning, then we go in the ski area and assess if there is a danger of avalanche and if there is, we start to use the explosives.”  

“In the morning we have a little chat, then we hit the piste, to see if we have new snow or wind, then we decide if we need to do a bombing or not. For me, it is the best job in the world. It’s sweet, all day on skis. I mean, that’s what I wanted to do – spend every day skiing. I have a qualification in health care, and first aid always interested me… I work in the Verbier ski area. We have a beautiful landscape, an amazing view every day – my name is Megan and I am a patroller.”  

“Well, we have to be aware of the weather conditions, the temperature and the wind and the depth of fresh snow. Also, if it’s a good bond or not between the layers of snow. The work? Well, it can be dangerous, but we try to make it as safe as possible. Of course we have confidence in our equipment, we have the backpack with airbag – that’s a good thing in fresh snow – also the transceiver, but most of all our colleagues. For me, the work as a pisteur is to be useful on the mountain, to ensure the safety of the clients in the ski area. My name is Jonathan Vandersteen and I’m a patroller in Verbier.” 


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.


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