Riding high! Tom Lüthi has made it into the premier class of motor sports: as in 2018, he will be racing in the MotoGP class. He pursues his love of heights in his leisure time too – especially on the 3330m Mont Fort above Verbier. Originally from Berne, he has found a second home and made many friends there. And now he spends a lot of his free time in the 4 Vallées holiday region.
It’s always something of a homecoming. When Tom Lüthi goes to Verbier, he stays with his friends Véronique and Patrick Fellay. They’ve known each other for years. The Fellays, who own a real estate agency, wanted to become sponsors of Tom Lüthi years ago. “But then that was a bit too expensive,” Patrick recalls and laughs out loud. Tom Lüthi, now 30, has a gift of winning over people around him with his modest, serious and polite manner. Playing the prima donna is not his style. He still has a boyish air about him, even though since winning the 125cc class World Championship title in 2005 he has had to fight hard and overcome injuries and setbacks. But now he has reached the top: he has been promoted to the premier class of motor sports and will compete in the MotoGP class starting in 2018. “It hasn’t always been easy, but if you really want something, you have to stick at it and work hard on yourself,” he says.
“When Tom’s having a race, the whole village is abuzz with excitement,” says Fellay. “We see Tom as one of us – up here we’ve simply adopted him.” Such praise is met with a grin. “Yes, it’s true. I have a lot of friends here, and the whole village really does appear to suffer and celebrate with me.” So it was that he and his current team CarXpert Interwetten Moto2 rang in the latest season at the on-piste restaurant Le Dahu in La Chaux, Verbier. “He’s one of us,” says owner Claude-Alain Besse, landlord at the Le Dahu. Besse also knows that Tom likes to eat a salad first and then the house pizza, and wash it down with bottled spring water. “And a glass of wine, too, when he’s not working.”
Tom Lüthi evidently visits Verbier a lot in his free time. No wonder, really: “Back when I was a kid, my parents brought us to the 4 Vallées region on holiday. We often went to Siviez – that was absolutely ideal for us kids. The 4 Vallées ski area is one of the most beautiful, and it has pistes for absolutely every skill level.”
As calm and thoughtful as he may seem in conversation, when he’s got his skis on, he loves taking it right to the limit as much as he does on the racetrack: “My favourite place to ski is on the Gentianes-Tortin freeride slope at Mont Fort.” There’s a good reason why the piste is not groomed: no snow groomer can cope with gradients this steep. Mont Gelé, also a mecca for very good freeriders, is another favourite spot. Mont Gelé is the ideal peak in the region for looking out over the whole 4 Vallées region and seeing how the valleys are connected by lifts and cable cars. The panorama from Mont Fort is no less impressive: where else can you take in the Matterhorn and Montblanc at the same time?
And so that even less skilled skiers can feel a bit like Tom Lüthi, the new La Chaux 2 lift was named after him. That puts him up there with James Blunt, who has also lent his name to a lift. The English music star is often in Verbier too, even owns a chalet and appreciates the seclusion that allows him to spend a large part of the year undisturbed.
Texte: Monique Ryser
Photos: Sedrik Nemeth