The Valaisans who came in from the North

The pink sky signals the end of a sun-drenched winter’s day. Outside, there is a chill in the air in the Vallée du Trient. But at the Bekkers, in Finhaut, a fire in the hearth warms the guests seated at the surrounding tables before dishes of dried meat. “We have become Valaisan. We are proud of our region and want to help people discover all of it” explain Ilse and Edward Bekker, two Dutch nationals whose passion for the mountains brought them together more than ten years ago in Chamonix. Today, with their seven year-old daughter, Lynn, they have chosen the little village of Finhaut to manage a guesthouse and share the beauty of the mountains with their visitors. Every winter, between December and May, they welcome their northern clientele by transforming themselves into true ambassadors of Valais.

Out of love… for the mountains

Edward Bekker is a mountain guide – an unusual profession in Holland. He is indeed the first Dutch national to earn this title.  Perhaps he was predestined for this profession, having grown up in the village of Klimmen, which means to climb in Dutch. His first memories of the Valais go back to the age of five and a holiday in Zermatt with his family. Following this, came summer weeks in Champex, hikes in Trient and later, big climbing excursions in Chamonix. For her part, Ilse worked in Neuchâtel and met up with her friends every weekend in winter in a chalet above Orsières. Moving to the mountains of Valais was therefore the logical next step. “Moving to Valais was one of my dreams! We feel privileged to live in a setting like this. From the beginning, we felt at home in Finhaut and we integrated easily. Maybe thanks to the dams which bring loads of foreign workers that the village has learnt to accept over the decades.” says Ilse.

Powder snow on the doorstep

For these lovers of winter sports, choosing Finhaut was no accident. “People from the Valais tend to believe that this village is far from everything, but in fact it’s very central. We have the best snow right here!” says Edward. Throughout the winter, he moves between his valley, the resorts in the central Valais, and neighbouring France and Italy in order to offer our guests the best back country skiing and off-piste downhill skiing. “On the best winter days, we put on our skis in front of the house in order to go up Bel Oiseau. It’s just fantastic!”

Lynn was already in love with the snow at the age of seven. After an introduction to snow sports on a sled around thee chalet, she started skiing on the baby lift at Trient. “We made the most of quiet resorts such as Les Marécottes, Grimentz, La Fouly, Nax and Vichères-Bavon etc. to break her in gently” says the mother of the family. “And when we ski among adults, we go back to play on the powder on the side of the runs. These little regions are the pearls one finds in Valais.” And Edward adds: “After spending years in Chamonix, we were attracted to the peace of these resorts. In addition, the proximity to Verbier is also an advantage. We were already able to get our skis on in November.”

Family on a terrace in winter, Valais
The Bekkers from the Netherlands felt in love with the mountains of Valais.

Taste the Valais

During the five winter months, the Bekker chalet is full from morning to night. For the past four years, by serving as tourist guides, they have become shrewd connoisseurs of the canton. “For backcountry and downhill skiing, freeride and snowshoe excursions, the Valais is a fantastic playground. But that isn’t everything – we like to bring a little extra something that the clients love. For example, a good steak d’Hérens after a da’sy skiing always goes down a treat – even with the Dutch,” says Edward Bekker with a laugh. Because in addition to offering a very wide range of winter activities, the Bekkers in no way neglect the art of hospitality. When guests arrive, the fire is already crackling in the hearth and the smell of mulled wine infuses the room. And in keeping with tradition, the final evening of the week sees everyone brought together around a raclette. “We are so happy to live here that we want to show our visitors the wonders that Valais has to offer – from the peaks to the gourmet delights on the table” concludes Ilse.

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