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Verbier is a very mixed place.  There is great piste skiing & free-riding and access to world class ski touring, but more often its known for it's decadence.  Huge picture perfect chalets with wealthy families and their beaufituful/handsome ski instructors fill the resort. And if not that, the seedier side of ski resorts, the bankers with their paid for woman. . .

Talking of horrible, those exposed switchbacks half way down from the Chateau were bloody horrible, lucky the rest of the trail was very good fun.

Well of course, its Swiss Valais, the footpaths are "tip top" and the lift companies are bike friendly.  There were still a lot of pistes open for skiing, but after 11am you can use the lower lift from Le Chable to Verbier to access the snow free trails that lead back into the valley floor.  Time to explore:

Many thanks to Lorne for some of the cracking photos :
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Riding every month of the year

Since April last year (2016) through to now in 2017 I have ridden my bike every month of the year.  This is something that I have not done in about 6 or 7 years since moving out to the Alps on a more full time basis.  It shouldn't actually happen. In previous "winter" periods I have packed away the bike and got the ski's out for at least a 4 month period.  This theme seems to be changing, once the domain of southern French alps, even in the Northern Alps you can ride year round.  Up here a huge emphasis is put on communities & businesses to make a big income during the winter.  How will this change.

Yes, there will be big snowy winters, but the frequency of them will decline.  The Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Switzerland have written many reports, here are links to two:
Less snow and a shorter ski season in the Alps Climate change is shortening the snow season due to earlier spring snowmelt
It might sound nice to ride dry dusty trails in April wearing…

That time in February when I forgot my gloves and didn't get cold hands...

Seasons are changing in the mountains.Its been the shortest "off season" that I have known.  It's been growing shorter over the last few years but riding into the the new year was something I have not done since I lived in the UK.  The skiing season is getting shorter and more temperamental.  We shouldn't have been riding dry trails in Aosta Valley on the fitth day of the new year.  We did, and we had a blast thanks to the generous hospitality of the locals.  Read more about inter season on Lorner's blog here:
With skiing stoke low I went for a ride in Servoz.  Now picture the scene, its the twenty something of February 2017, at 1000 metre altitude and I can't find my gloves in my riding pack.  I suffer from cold hands at the slight hint of mild air.  In winter you will find several pairs of thick gloves in my backpack, even in spring or autumn there could well be two pairs in my riding pack.  However on thi…

Not quite the end of the Alpine season

Snow in the Lake District of England got me ready for winter in France, but then...
Me, and the Beaufort Bitches enjoyed a great weekend up in the lakes with the our brothers up there.  It really is like a mini alps up there.  Some mega tech trails and some great fast flow accompanied with top notch banter and a poorly executed, but highly amusing Kendal Mountain Film Festival Bike Night 2016.
BUT THEN I returned to Chamoinx, the good snow had all but gone and the trail riding conditions were, and still are, top notch.  There is still snow out there for the keen, i.e those willing to hike in trainers with all their ski gear on their backs, or those wishing to drive a long way into Aosta Valley.

Local conditions in the Haute Savoie and neighbouring Valais have been top notch below 1800 metres.  This means there is still a good few options, and with winter driving work not having kicked in to full time, lots of time to ride, keep fit and wait for the impending arrival of winter. Lorne of t…

End of the alpine season

A bivouac trip, a Valais loam fest and a Loriaz descent in one go...During my last week in the Chamonix valley the weather was really good, so between airport runs I ticked off some really fast and dry trail rides.
Starting with an overnight mission to a Bivouac hut on a remote old farm in the Passy Parc Regional on the boarder of the Aiguilles Rouges.  It felt so far from civilisation, despite the chaos of Chamonix being just one valley away.  The most incredible part of the trip, bar Ben nailing some mega tech sections, was the location of the farm being where the sun first hits the valley in the morning.

I had been wanting to re-visit this descent for a long time and never quite got round to it.  With a new and keen riding buddy we got even higher than before for some extremely steep footpath riding before hitting the loamiest descent in the area.  A trail only ridden by highly skilled Martigny riders, and us...  The lines are superb.  One of the most grin inducing trails of the year…

2000 rewards closer to home

"My Swiss friends are riding in the dry today", said Mael as we stood outside a cafe in Chamonix underneath his umbrella.
A plan was made in my head. Let's use the Dorenaz lift to gain some height and hopefully find the driest trails in the area.  Aosta Valley was full of snow, and the Haute Savoie was soaked through.

3 hours after leaving the carpark we made it to the top of our climb, 100 metres or so above Col du Demecre.  However there was snow.  Maybe there had been some preciptiation in Valais after all?

The snow needed some serious care due to the exposure of the slope that the trail traversed across.  Luckily it was that grippy type of snow and below you could see glorious Swiss high alpine singletrack disappearing off into the larch tree's and joining the trail me, Bas & Jarno had done in spring.  The one with a horrendous scree field down climb section that rendered the entrance to the descent pointless. New entrance found:

Lower down the grass was damp whi…

Southern Road trip Autumn 2016

Ups and downs...of trail snobbery

Meeting Wouter at Nice airport was always going to cause issues.  First off it's a long way from Chamonix, even going through Italy fuelled by cappuccino's, and secondly, Rob's van was already had three bikes and us two people.  Somehow we managed and when Jamie arrived the following day we made as much use of his rental Fiat 500C as possible.
Sospel. Home of Trans Provence.  When you drive into town and see the head of the Enduro World Series pulling up to a bar after a days riding you feel like you've hit gold already.
With high hopes we set off the following morning up a long fire-road, Bever Rally came down with their shuttle vehicle.  Wow, what have we got instore up here?  VTT internet site has loads of routes on this hillside, as does Trailforks, this should be Provence gold.
I excitedly dropped in first, when was this trail last ridden?  There's old enduro lines, but now it's full of debris.  And that's how it continued…