Verbier, along with other ski resorts, is keen to attract visitors in the summer as well as the winter, and they’ve devised a special offer for every guest staying overnight in one of their hotels. They call it the Verbier Infinite Playground (VIP) Pass and you can travel for free on cable cars and postal buses plus there’s reduced or free entry to many activities.
Early Morning Yoga
Spending the night at Cabane Brunet, a mountain hut at 2103m, I eat oodles of cheese fondue. The morning dawns bright and the rain has stopped so I get a one-hour yoga session on the grass outside provided by Wholeycow Studio. I can’t quite make the stretches of Svetlana Negashova, the brilliant teacher, but nobody is paying too much attention and it’s an idyllic situation. Relaxation, at the end of the session, when the only sound is the rushing of the stream, is the highlight.
Tour of the Alpine Pasture
Above the Cabane is the alpine pasture of Sery and Marc Maret, my mountain guide, takes me up among the cows. These hardy Herens cattle are one of the smallest breeds in Europe and are well adapted to altitude. They’re black with a muscular body and relatively short legs and very quickly establish their place in the herd’s hierarchy by fighting each other. This has led to a tradition of organised cow fights throughout the canton, with the winner being crowned Queen.
As it’s late summer, the herd’s hierarchy has already been established and there’s no sign of combat. Instead, we eat lunch alfresco at 2200m with cheeses made from their milk. As well as Tomme and Raclette, there’s also a fresh variety called Serac, a type of ricotta. Homemade apricot preserves and rye bread complement the cheese and it’s all washed down with local wine.
Sunrise at Mont-Fort
Later that afternoon I hire an Ebike in Verbier and take it up in the cable car to Les Ruinettes at 2200m. From here I follow a track through the outdoor sculpture park to Cabane Mont-Fort, perched precariously above the valley. There’s a tremendous sunset and it’s an early night as I have to be up at 4 am. Next morning it’s dark as I ride the bike down to La Chaux, a slightly perilous descent with only my head torch to guide the way.
It’s also very cold, but the cable car takes me up to Mont-Fort at 3300m, then I climb to the summit on a roped path and wait. Of course, I’m not alone, as there are quite a few people with the same idea of seeing the sunrise. As the light comes up there’s a 360° view of some of the most beautiful peaks of the Alps, including the Matterhorn, and Mont-Blanc. Unfortunately, there’s some cloud so the sunrise is a bit of a let-down. The consolation is an excellent breakfast at the Igloo des Gentianes.
Wild Plant Foraging
Picking up my E-bike back at La Chaux I cycle across the side of the mountain before descending to La Tzoumaz. There I meet Cherries von Maur who tells me that we’re going to forage for our lunch. She steers me past plants that might have been watered by dogs, before pointing out wild spinach, also known as Good King Henry. Apparently it needs cooking three times, otherwise, you risk kidney stones. Dandelion leaves are also edible but it’s late in the season so they’re too bitter to eat.
Instead, we collect nettles, braving their sting by pinching the tops with our fingers, and various edible flowers including fireweed and clover. Berries are out in force including wild strawberries and raspberries, but the surprise is the clumps of red Lingham berries, lying close to the ground. Add some wild rhubarb and we have our dessert.
At the Maison de la Forêt we chop the nettles into the couscous she’s prepared earlier. There’s also the Serac cheese to spread on local rye bread which we top with the flowers. The fruits go into a pot to make a delicious compote. Local wine completes a tasty lunch.
Cheese Making Workshop
In the mountains, the weather is always unpredictable and the rain often comes in the afternoon. The clouds are descending so I retreat to the indoor workshop at La Laiterie de Verbier. Marc Dubosson is going to show me how to make traditional Tomme cheese so I put on my apron and take my place at my copper cooking pot. He fills it with that morning’s milk and I light the flame underneath and start heating it up to 35C. When it reaches temperature, I add a small glass of bacterial milk culture and then some rennet and stir. I then let it cool whilst Marc shows me the cellar.
As well as Tomme, it’s crammed full of wheels of Raclette, all maturing. He makes 18-2000 wheels a year, each costing around CHF100, and a quick calculation shows that there’s more than half a million francs worth stored here. Back upstairs, the cheese has formed a skin which I’m told to cut it small squares. I then heat it up again, stirring as I go, then drain off the whey and put the curds into a mould and press. I leave Marc to wash it in salt overnight and the next day I pick it up to take home as a unique souvenir.
Tell Me More About Verbier in summer
Verbier has information about the destination.
The Verbier Infinite Playground (VIP) Pass offers free entry or discounts to more than 25 of Verbier’s top activities and attractions and is available to every guest staying a minimum of one night in the region and paying the tourist tax. Available 1 June – 27 October 2019.
HB at Cabane de Mont Fort and Cabane Brunet is available from June to September for £62 pp per night.
After a couple of nights on the mountains the 4* Hotel La Cordée des Alpes offers real luxury and has an excellent restaurant. Rooms from £175 including breakfast.
Wholeycow Studio runs mountain yoga sessions.
A cheese-making session at La Laiterie de Verbier needs to be booked in advance.
Cherries Walks offers guided mountain excursions and foraging.
E-Bikes rental from Backside costs from £45 per day adult and £20 for kids,
SWISS operates up to 180 weekly flights to Switzerland from London Heathrow, London City, Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh (seasonal during summer) and Dublin from as little as £52 one-way* (Economy Light fare only includes hand luggage).
The Swiss Transfer Ticket covers a round-trip between the airport/Swiss border and destination. Prices are £112 in second class and £182 in first class.
The Swiss Travel Pass offers unlimited travel on consecutive days throughout the rail, bus and boat Swiss Travel System network. This pass also covers scenic routes and local trams and buses in around 90 towns and cities and also includes the Swiss Museum Pass, allowing you free entrance to 500 museums and exhibitions. Prices from £185 in second class.
My Switzerland has information about the country.