Northbound and Down do Europe – Zermatt, Switzerland

Things were looking down. My downhill bike had been nicked in Morzine and one of my mates was not able to come on the road trip which brought the number of roadtrippers down to 2 in our big 6 person camper. It turned out that most of the French biking resorts shut the ski-lifts at the end of August and we were set to start our trip in the beginning of September. But despite these things I was determined to have an awesome trip and make the most of it.

This positive thinking must have had some sort of effect as the evening before my flight to Amsterdam to pick up the camper, Alex Evans called me up and gave me some amazing news: My bike had been found! I couldn’t believe it, what incredibly good luck and quick thinking from Julien Guiberteau and Vincent Simonin whom had spotted it being ridden around the skatepark in Morzine that day. Additionally I had found that most Swiss and Italian resorts were still open in September. Our holiday was saved, and only just in time.

Rene Kluver from BW Campers picked myself and Thomas up from Amsterdam airport in our rented campervan and gave us the talk on what to think about when driving and showed us how everything worked while driving us to the BW camper depot where we paid for the camper and sorted out the paperwork. A short visit to my dutch family in the Hague and we were off on our great adventure.

Due to the recent reappearance of my Morewood, our first destination was Morzine. We hooned it down there making a quick stop off in Belgium for a couple of beers and continuing the next day down through Germany and Switzerland before arriving in Morzine in the evening and going for some more drinks to celebrate the reunion of myself and my bike. Half a day of chilling in Morzine with a ride up to Avoriaz and then down to lake Montriond for a quick splash gave us time to recuperate from the night before and make the drive to our first riding destination: Zermatt.


Zermatt is in Switzerland and is a small car-free town at the base of the Matterhorn. We found out that it was car-free the hard way and narrowly escaped a 300 euro fine for driving the camper up there at 10 o’clock at night. We quickly dropped a U-turn and headed 5 mins down the road to Tasch, where there was plenty of parking and a taxi or rail service to bring us up to the small town of Zermatt in the morning.

We woke up and poked our heads out the camper window to check out the scenery. Massive snow-capped mountains rose straight up from the valley floor as we watched the rocky tip of the Matterhorn poke up out of the cloud that shrouded it. Making sure we had everything we needed for the day packed, we were driven up to Zermatt in the minibus taxi provided by the car mechanic/parking place we were staying at. It was cheaper than the 7CHF train service but meant that we had to make sure we didn’t forget anything in the campervan.

At the tourist office, we sorted our lift passes and got given the most detailed mountain bike guide map I have ever seen. Each track had its own map complete with trail description and altitude graph and after much deliberation we headed to the main DH track called “Worldcup”. When taking the underground funicular to the top of the track we noticed how few riders there were on the uplift. This worried us slightly as normally good tracks attract lots of riders and we had hardly seen any downhill bikers in Zermatt at all. Our worries were soon put at rest when we found out that Zermatt was a hidden gem. The “Worldcup” track was the only purpose built DH track in the valley (there were plenty of XC and AM tracks as well), but it was far from tame. Super steep with some gnarly rock chutes and ridiculous gaps, this track really was a test and kick-started our trip.

The rest of the tracks consisted of paths and tracks that wound their way down the steep mountain sides back into Zermatt town. The fact that “Worldcup” track was the only purpose built DH track did not matter in the slightest as the walkers tracks were among the most epic I have ever ridden. Apart from the fact that the many of the tracks dropped over 1500m of pure descent from above 3000m altitude, the Matterhorn backdrop and flow of the tracks made for an exhilarating ride.

One of my favourite rides began at the Gornegrat peak where there was a panoramic outlook point from which the Gorner-Glacier and Matterhorn could be seen. From there a technical, rocky trail brought us down to the treeline followed by flowy, bermed singletrack. For the last run of the day we chose to ride all the way down to Tasch from the top of the Rothorn Paradise cable car. This 1700m descent included some uphill pedalling but rewarded us with some more fantastic riding that took us on a sketchy track cut into the side of the mountain with chains to hold onto if the vertigo got too much.

One day just wasn’t enough to explore all that Zermatt had to offer, however I knew I would be back with both my downhill bike and an all mountain bike to fully explore the area. Mental note: remember to take lots of extra brake pads.

Zermatt – Matterhorn
www.zermatt.ch/en/page.cfm/experience/summer_activities/mountainbike

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BW Campers
www.bwcampers.com

 

 

Also, check out the Northbound and Down Blog
www.northboundanddown.com

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