The Swiss resort makes the perfect stress-free escape for those last-minute long weekend riding trips.


Start planning an alpine riding holiday and the first places that probably come to mind are Morzine and Les Gets. These mountain biking meccas are so established on the flightpath of migrating British mountain bikers that we’ve almost developed a built-in homing system, affixing the blinkers when it comes to any alternatives. No matter how good.

Crans Montana

Want steep and chunky natural trails? Crans Montana has plenty.

Accessible alpine trails, (almost) all year round

Don’t get me wrong, Morzine, Les Gets and the interconnected resorts of the Portes du Soleil are something truly magical. A mountain biking paradise where you can rack up the vert in one spot, or enjoy the adventure that comes with taking on longer day trips to distant towns and trails. There are so many trails to choose from, first class accommodation, bike shops on every corner, and the feeling that you’re surrounded by your brethren.

But the area has its limitations. It’s only fully open during the peak season, so the prices are high, the lift queues can be long, trails get blown out, and you really have to plan ahead. Essentially there’s only a narrow window to get your fix.

Run your finger along the map about 60km south east from the PDS and you’ll arrive at the Valais region, at the edge of the French-speaking part of Switzerland. I had the pleasure of exploring the region a few years ago, and we made a rather lovely video of our trip embedded above. And perched on a stunning vantage point overlooking this sun-drenched valley is Crans Montana. You may have heard of it, either as a popular ski resort, or as host venue to the Enduro World Series (now EDR) for a couple of years. It’s also about to hit the MTB spotlight again when the UCI XC World Cup comes to town this weekend. It’ll be one of the last chances for big hitters like Nino Schurter and Tom Pidcock to get their eye in before the Olympics in Paris, so expect fireworks. And having been treated to a sneak preview of the track, I can vouch for how tough it is (I wouldn’t fancy hitting some of the sections on an enduro bike, let alone a skinny XC bike dressed in Lycra).

Crans Montana

After late season snow, the streams had becomes raging torrents.

From steep and deep loam, to rocky puzzles, and bike park groomers – so many great trail options

If, like me, you don’t fancy a six foot drop into a boulder field lined with tombstones, then fear not; Crans Montana has bucket loads of amazing trails that will plaster a big grin over your face. The valley is littered with them. But even without venturing too far, you can rack up miles of singletrack and kilometres of descending with unbelievable ease. Because Crans Montana’s secret weapon is its rapid and highly efficient funicular. This impressive piece of infrastructure climbing steeply out of the valley town of Sierre (elevation 500m), through the vineyards that coat the lower slopes, and deposits you in the centre of Crans Montana, elevation 1,500m. That’s 1,000m of elevation gained in around 12 minutes. And this is not a ski lift – it’s public transport, used by workers and residents commuting between town and resort. So it’s open all year round. Yes, you can come any time of year and use it to access 1,00om of descending without having to book an uplift or wait for a bike park to open.

Crans Montana

Irrigation channels cover the wooded slopes, channeling water to the vineyards below, and providing access to different descents without having to climb.

I mean there is a bike park in Crans Montana. And a rather good one at that, with your choice of natural tech or man-made flow, all framed by a magnificent view across to the Weisshorn, the Matterhorn, and even Mont Blanc on a clear day. But you don’t need the bike park to be open to access amazing trails in Crans Montana. Indeed, when I went in May, it wasn’t even open because there was still tons of snow above the resort. So for three days of riding our group of European bike journalists and influencers were guided on some of the best trails to be found between the resort and the valley floor.

Crans Montana

Julian is a great guide and host, and knows the area’s trails like the back of his hand.

Get a guide to save time and enjoy all the secret trails

For that we were lined up with an excellent guide. Julian Paganelli runs, tempting people with guiding packages and skills courses structured along the lines of a restaurant menu. And the food theme is not some contrived marketing idea; Julian actually offers packages that include riding as well as evening meals, fondue nights, and wine tasting experiences that bring the local culture to life.

Crans Montana

The Colorado Riders Chalet was our base for the trip.

For the full package (you can also do your own thing and book Julian solely for guiding), you stay in the Colorado Rider’s Chalet – a large but traditional alpine chalet with cosy rooms, a well-appointed workshop and bike store, spa, gym, and even an outdoor hot tub. It’s a lovely chalet, run by lovely people, and the food is tasty and healthy (well, fondue excepted perhaps!).

Crans Montana

Side-hits aplenty on one of Crans Montana’s trails.

Everything from EWS enduro stages to World Cup XC features

The trails are the main event though, as they should be. An extensive network of hiking trails sprawls across the valley, with descents linked at different elevations by terraced waterways used to irrigate the fields and vineyards. These trails, known as bisse, let you access different parts of the mountain with relatively minimal energy. They also provide great spots for picnics and just admiring the views of the Rhone. And the singletrack that spills off these trails is broad in variety, from chunky, rocky, technical chess matches, to smooth gulleys, loamy forest runs and EWS enduro stages. Julian also knows all the sneaky secret trails too, which are MTB-specific, and deliciously fresh and loamy. There’s also a purpose-built flow trails with berms and jumps that can be ridden almost all year round.

Crans Montana

Expect our switchback skills to get an instant upgrade.

To get a taste of what’s on offer, watch the video embedded at the top of this article. But let me caveat that with the fact that we only scratched the surface of what’s on offer, and we only rode the trails from the resort to the valley. There are (according to Julian) some amazing trails that cut through the alpine from the very top of the ski area, all the way into the valley, and are almost full-day experiences in their own right. Overall, Crans Montana has 275km of signposted trails to choose from, including specific e-bike trails.

Crans Montana

Wine tasting was the perfect curtain call for our three days in Crans Montana.

Two hours from Geneva airport by direct train

I’m going to finish off by reiterating how Crans Montana offers so much flexibility as a riding destination. I flew into Geneva with my bike, jumped straight on a train at the airport and travelled directly to Sierre (a two hour journey). From the railway station to the funicular is a five minute walk. Another 12 minutes later and you’re in the middle of Crans Montana – no need to hire a car and end up with it sat parked up for the whole visit. You can relax on the train and enjoy the spectacular scenery. And you can do that any time of year. Even in the winter, snow cover only closes the lower trails for a few weeks a year. So this is a destination that can be enjoyed at relative short notice, outside expensive school holidays, when the trails at home are hideously muddy and demotivating.

Crans Montana

Blasting through the vineyards on the way into Sierre.

That’s a powerful selling point, and an attractive prospect for any UK rider looking to get their alpine fix on anything from a week-long holiday to a long weekend break.

How to get there, where to stay, how to get guiding

For tourist info on Crans Montana including travel arrangements and accommodation bookings check out the official website:

We stayed at the Colorado Riders Chalet, a bike-friendly B&B about five minutes drive up the road from the funicular. It has communal areas with games room, TV room, large patio, spa, gym, and hot tub. There’s also a big workshop and secure bike store.

Julian Paganelli runs guiding and skills coaching through Book a complete package with accommodation and food, or individual guiding experiences.

We flew to Geneva from Heathrow with Swiss Air, and travelled from Geneva airport to Sierre with Swiss rail (SBB).