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05-06-2024 | Michelle Zacht

The many off-road opportunities of Crans-Montana

We had already been pleasantly surprised by the possibilities of Crans-Montana as a road bike destination. This time, I set out to discover the offroad potential among Switzerland's iconic alpine giants.


Photo: Snow-covered peaks are never far away in Crans-Montana. © Beat Hofmann

A hidden gem

Whether you're seeking adrenaline on enduro descents with 2350 continuous meters of elevation or a leisurely ride along nine picturesque lakes, Crans-Montana continually amazes with its panoramic views of vineyards, snow-capped peaks, forests, lakes, alpine meadows, and even a glacier! It is a hidden gem that stands out from the larger, well-known mountain biking destinations.


Photo: Flow trails galore! © Patrick Güller

Long winter means improvising

Crans-Montana is situated on a sunny plateau above the Rhone Valley, renowned for its breathtaking views and vast vineyards that produce much of Switzerland's wine. While majestic snow-capped peaks dominate the horizon, this location typically offers mountain biking on alpine trails as early as May at 2,500 meters. However, an unusually long winter this year has left the unpaved trails inaccessible above the village, and the ski elevators closed. This unexpected challenge put a different spin on our enduro-oriented mountain bike trip. Initially disappointed, I feared monotonous days ahead. In retrospect, I was very wrong: this situation has only reinforced my belief in the endless possibilities of this area.


© Beat Hofmann

Unknown off-road opportunities

Crans-Montana offers an extensive network of 268 kilometers of off-road trails and paths suitable for various levels of mountain bikers. A notable feature is the harmony between hikers and cyclists on the trails. There is a culture of mutual respect, with mountain bikers encouraged to slow down and greet hikers. This approach creates a positive atmosphere for all users and helps ensure the trails remain accessible in the future.

The area boasts beautiful routes with minimal elevation change along scenic lakes and wide gravel paths, perfect for leisurely rides, novice cyclists, and children. There are also dedicated E-bike routes. More experienced cross-country riders can enjoy climbing to higher elevations, rewarded with delightful trails.


Photo: One of the nine lakes. © Beat Hofmann

For adrenaline junkies, three challenging downhill bike parks, complete with drops and northshore zones, are accessible via elevators. Alternatively, venture further into the valley on countless challenging nature trails. Notably, you can cycle off-road in this region for up to ten months a year, thanks to the sunny valley surrounding Sierre. This even allows the option to choose between skiing or mountain biking during a winter vacation—a true luxury dilemma.

Infrastructure

With the My Explorer Card, visitors can use buses and elevators for free in the low season (at reduced rates in the high season), making it easy to explore the heights at no extra cost. After a day of exploration, the cable car from Sierre provides a convenient return to Crans-Montana. Additionally, Resabike makes transporting bikes through the Rhone Valley a breeze, allowing for even more regional exploration. This combination of accessibility and convenience opens up a world of possibilities.


Photo: Riding among the vines. © Alexis Feuillet

Guide

Our enthusiastic guide Julien led us along hidden and challenging trails. Julien's slogan: "Enjoy the trails like locals do". He skillfully connected the trails and ensured we not only learned more about the area but were also prepared for each descent. Julien also provided valuable tips to improve our skills. His expert guidance convinced me of the indispensable value of having a guide on this type of terrain—something I had never previously considered on cycling vacations.


© Patrick Güller

The many highlights of our trip

On one of our rides, we encountered a narrow tunnel after a challenging trail. It required some agility; we had to remove the front wheel from our bike and fold the handlebars to get through. Fortunately, our guide helped us with headlamps, which eased the cramped feeling somewhat. Not for those with claustrophobia, but perfect for the truly adventurous.

In June 2024, Crans-Montana will host the UCI Mountain Bike World Series, and in 2025, it will welcome the World Championships! We personally inspected the XC course, which is currently being built, and had a little preview by riding a few sections. Without a doubt, it promises to be a spectacular event.


Photo: The 2025 XC course. © Michelle Zacht

During all the rides, we regularly crossed several "bisses," beautiful examples of historic water management from the 14th century—a unique attraction in the heart of the Swiss Alps. By bike, we crossed the 134-meter-long Bhutan Bridge over the Illbach River in the Pfyn-Finges forest. Colorful flags line the entire length of the bridge. A beautiful, not-too-difficult trail follows along the valley.


Photo: The Bhutan Bridge. © Michelle Zacht

In the valley near Sierre, there is a lovely lake where we sat in the grass after our ride to chat, have a drink, and take a dip in the water before catching the cable car up the mountain. Of course, a wine tasting could not be missed, and so our last ride ended at a winery with explanations about the various types of wine from this region and wine fondue for lunch.

More information about Crans-Montana?

Be sure to check our region page. As far as we are concerned, it is definitely a destination not to be missed on your bucket list!

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