PART TWO: Our Zermatt feature looks at what is in store for the 2019 EWS!
Words: Mike Blewitt Feature Photo: Dario Furler
While our visit was to see the new trails – we also wanted to see what would be in store for the EWS next September, so we lined up a ride with some of the guides from Bike School Zermatt, who have played a key role in the event coming to Zermatt.
I head out one afternoon to look at two of the stages. I take the chairlift towards Glacier Paradise with guide Nik Wicki . We'll be going beyond Schwarzsee, where bikes normally get lifted to, and travel another 500m higher.
The EWS is known for visiting places that will not only test the riders on the world circuit – but also be beautiful places to ride. With the Matterhorn providing a near idyllic backdrop, it's easy to see why Zermatt was chosen as a new destination. As we ride the gondola up the valley, we pass trails below us. Nik points out some that will be used, that were considered, and ones we will be riding back down shortly.
Thanks to the year-round mountain tourism, Zermatt has the facilities required for world-level events. From having enough hotel beds and restaurants through to access to mountain transport. There are plenty of trails and ski roads to climb to the start of stages, but as Nik from Zermatt Bike School says, “we don't have to be the hardest to be the best - we have the facilities for excellent uplift.”
At this point, they are planning on having either 6 or 8 stages. And there will be one hard liaison stage up to the Rothorn, with about 500m vertical to climb. But that is from 2500m to 3000m – it will be a slog! Details on the descent from there weren’t confirmed, but if it’s through the valley off the back of the Rothorn you can bet it will be fast and exposed.
Nik explains that the mix of trails for the EWS will be a true alpine experience in Zermatt. From fast and open ski roads, tight natural trails, fast trails through the larch forests, exposed lines and then what we are about to tackle – lots of high alpine rock with wide taping so riders will be searching for the fastest lines.