SkiBike Tour 2010-11 - Grächen Snow Bike Race Week 1

Posted: Wednesday, 30 March 2011 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: ,

Like me you have probably never heard of Grächen (also spelled Graechen) before. But you will hopefully know nearby Zermatt and the Matterhorn mountain that gives this Swiss valley its name.

The Matterhorn - the perfect image for Swiss chocolate boxes

In summer Grächen has a reputation as an outstanding area for walking. Passionate hikers utilise the 250 km network of walking trails which cover the forest, lake and the entrance to the snout of the glacier. The Hannigalp (2,100 m) is the heart of the hiking region: it links the mountain path to Saas-Fee with the Europaweg (Europe Trail) between Zermatt and Grächen.
In winter it has a modest 40km of pistes, but they are good runs, immaculately maintained and in the right conditions there are plenty of off piste opportunities too.
The town is situated on a high plateau on the side of the Matterhorn valley, accessed by quite a narrow road. It is a little quirky and individualistic and as I was to find out later in the week, they really know how to throw a party.

I had booked a room at the Turm Hotel Grächerhof using the HRS website purely in the hope that for the reasonable cost (for Switzerland) quoted, it wouldn't be a flee pit. On arrival in Grächen I located it very quickly, it looked very small from the doorway I entered, which turned out to be the original hotel entrance and now a back door to the car park.

Turm Hotel Grächerhof - Room with a view

Once unpacked and settled in, I headed for the Tourist Office to make sure that my information was correct and there was indeed a skibob snow bike week taking place. I was introduced to Sylvie Margelist, the administrator for the event; she couldn't have been more helpful, but was surprised I hadn't registered for racing. She explained that tomorrow would be a practice day, I could go where I pleased, but that skibikes were currently banned from using the chairlifts in Switzerland.
I went for a long walk to limber up and reflect on what I might be letting myself in for. There can't be any other sport where you can just turn up and enter a race against the best in the world; it would be like turning up for the Grand Prix at Silverstone in your Ford Focus.