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Valais: a feeling of freedom

Dear journalists,

Meet Julien, Steve, Ludo, Yann and Kurt, all Valaisans who have chosen the mountains as their home terrain. We’ll start with Julien Voeffray, a keen trail runner and founder of the Swisspeaks Trail, a competition launched in summer 2017 with various courses of between 15 and 170 kilometres. This booming sport is growing especially quickly in Valais – for example in the Val d’Anniviers and the Dents du Midi region, which have both created their own trail running programmes.

Valais has also boosted its reputation as a cycling/mountain biking destination, thanks to the region’s infinite possibilities and also ambassadors including Steve Morabito and Ludo May – charismatic sportsmen in a class of their own. We offer a summit meeting with the young mountain guide Yann Décaillet, who loves sharing his passion and is ready to take you on some unforgettable hikes. Plus there’s a stop at the Hörnli mountain refuge: discover the extraordinary world of the mountain huts and their guardians, such as Kurt Lauber, who has led a life unlike any other. Enjoy an insight into the daily life of these adventure enthusiasts and get to know their playground, Valais.

Like to find out more? Don’t hesitate to contact us, we would be delighted to organise an interview for you with Julien, Steve, Ludo, Yann or Kurt.

Overcome your limits

Trail Running | «Nature has given us absolutely everything, and we’ve made the most of it with these courses.» That’s how Julien Voeffray defines trail running in Valais. A keen trail runner himself, he is also founder of the Swisspeaks Trail, a competition launched in summer 2017 with a variety of courses of between 15 and 170 kilometres, between Lake Geneva and the iconic peaks of Valais. But an idea has been growing in his head for much longer, an idea that will become reality in September 2018: a race that crosses the whole of Valais. As he says, «It’s a product that is there, which exists, and which is shaped by Valais.» The completely new course of 360 kilometres will run from the Furka Pass in the east to Le Bouveret on Lake Geneva, incorporating the existing Swisspeaks Trail. «It involves crossing the whole of Valais by all the most iconic passes and valleys,» says Julien Voeffray, who ran the route himself in 2015. It seems that the 360 is already set to become one of the world’s legendary ultra trails...

On your bike!

Cycling | Steve Morabito needs no introduction: one of Switzerland’s top racers, he has competed in 13 Grand Tours (Giro, Tour, Vuelta). He is used to impressive climbs as he lives and trains in Valais. Aware of the extraordinary potential of the canton, the «Valais climber» has set up the Valais Cycling Tour, a circuit that passes through the most beautiful regions of Valais.

The «Tour des Stations» | On 11 August 2018, the very first «Tour des Stations” for road cyclists will link several of the Valais’ mountain resorts (known in French as «stations»). Three courses of different lengths and degrees of difficulty will lead from the vineyards up to the high mountains, via open meadows, traditional villages and internationally famous resorts. The “Tour des Stations» aims to become the benchmark Gran Fondo race in Switzerland, akin to the Marmottes Alpes in France and the Dolomites Marathon in Italy.

Steve Morabito, road cycling professional, Valais

Fun and games with Ludo

Mountain biking | Ludo May is a professional enduro mountain bike racer, Swiss Cycling guide and a real character: the embodiment of ideals of passion and freedom. The only Valaisan to compete in the World Cup circuit, Ludo is never short of ideas. He makes thrilling videos, for example, full of humour – which simply take your breath away. Just the thing for showcasing the glorious scenery and making everyone want to come and experience for themselves the endless possibilities that Valais offers. So, ready to follow the guide?

Reach for the summits

Hiking | When the call of the mountains is sufficiently loud, you just have to listen – and maybe even change your life to answer it. That’s what happened with Yann Décaillet, a young mountain guide, 27 years old, who swapped his banker’s suit for hiking boots and an ice axe. He decided to make a career out of his passion. Better still, he shares it with us – with you. From the Monte Rosa to the Matterhorn, the mountains of Valais hold no secrets for him. Find out what makes hiking here so special – and discover your own paths to happiness!

Mountain guide Yann Décaillet, Valais

Perched on the peaks

Mountain refuges | Already 20 years spent at an altitude of 3,260 metres! Kurt Lauber is the guardian of the famous Hörnli refuge in Zermatt, located on a route taken by the majority of mountaineers as they climb the Matterhorn. Kurt knows them as well as he knows the local summits. He is on first-name terms with the most seasoned climbers but has also come across plenty of less-experienced mountaineers, often in memorable or funny situations… he has thousands of stories to tell. This mountain enthusiast – who is also a ski instructor, helicopter pilot and rescue specialist – has even written a book about his life in a mountain cabin, a life unlike any other

Kurt Lauber in front of the Hörnlihütte in Zermatt, Valais

Top tips

  • Insider tip 1

    Hiking tour to the world’s longest suspension footbridge, near Zermatt

    In July 2017, the “Charles Kuonen” suspension footbridge opened, the longest in the world at 494 metres; from summer 2018, visitors can enjoy a new hike to experience it. The route, accessible for all the family, starts at Randa railway station and climbs through forests and past panoramic mountain viewpoints to reach the famous bridge – with the option of a stop at the Europa mountain refuge before heading back down to the starting point.

    Suspension footbridge
  • Insider tip 2

    Stoneman Glaciara

    The Stoneman Glaciara is a spectacular mountain bike ride between the Aletsch Arena and the Goms (upper Rhône) valley, created by the legendary rider Roland Stauder. 127 kilometres, 4,700 vertical metres, a landscape of glaciers, 4,000-metre peaks and ancient mountain villages: this ride is in a class of its own.

    Stoneman Glaciara
  • Insider tip 3

    Multi-day hikes with accommodation in mountain cabins

    To experience the glorious natural landscapes of Valais to the full, nothing beats an extended hike with mountain accommodation en route. Options include the Tour des Dents du Midi, Tour du Mont Rose and Tour des Combins, among many others: each adds a new dimension to hiking. Stops at mountain cabins contribute to a unique experience, thanks to their warm welcome and long, authentic tradition. Breathtaking scenery, pure mountain air and a convivial atmosphere all add to the charm.

    Multi-day hikes
  • Insider tip 4

    Trail Love Bike Festival

    Zermatt launches Trail Love, a bike festival that combines the Swiss Epic race, the European Continental Enduro Series and the Trail Summit – as well as forthcoming Enduro World Series (2019 and 2020).

    Trail Love Bike Festival
  • Insider tip 5

    50 years of Air Zermatt

    Helicopter company Air Zermatt is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018. The company is a key player providing emergency services and tourist flights – and is also renowned for carrying out some of the most difficult mountain rescues in the world. For its birthday, the company will be opening its doors to the public on 18 and 20 May and also holding several special events beforehand.

    50 years of Air Zermatt (german)

The magic of summer in Valais – in figures

  • 45 peaks higher than 4,000 metres
  • 40,000 hectares of natural parks
  • 1 UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • 8,000 km of hiking trails
  • 100 working “bisses” (irrigation channels)
  • 1,600 km of official cycle/mountain bike routes
  • More than 50 Swiss Alpine Club refuges
  • 8 family resorts with the quality label «Family Destination» 
  • 6 thermal spa resorts
  • 50 grape varieties
  • 8 AOP/IGP products
  • 75 gourmet restaurants