Our last stop in the Val d’Anniviers was the skiing village of Grimentz. It looks like more than a village with it’s many chalets and apartments, but with only about 300 permanent inhabitants it feels wrong to call it a town.
We expected the sat nav to direct us back to the hub of Vissoie but instead it traversed us around the mountain on a road that was narrow but mostly level and very quiet. It was the right way to go, a lot less stress on Bertie than dropping down into the valley and climbing back up again.
Motorhome parking in Grimentz
The parking in Grimentz wasn’t as centrally located as Zinal and neither was it quite as pretty. The large car park sits below the modern end of town where lots of construction work was happening and cranes loomed over the apartment blocks. The services need a bit of TLC. Zinal had spoilt us, but everything was perfectly serviceable, including electricity at no added cost. Payment was the same as everywhere in the valley, 15 CHF a night plus tourist tax, and as with other locations we were able to pay online and receive our ‘Liberte’ guest card online.
In Grimentz the guest card was important because we wanted to go up in the gondola with our bikes and the guest pass would get us our half price tickets (bikes go free). There are two main lifts, one each side of the valley. The Espace Weisshorn lift would take us up to the mountain ridge between Grimentz and Zinal. The Bendolla lift would take us up in the other direction. For us there was no choice to make, the Bendolla lift was shut on Wednesday and Thursday as part of the low season schedule. So we were going back towards Zinal.
Bike ride Grimentz – Zinal – Grimentz
On the morning after our arrival we took our bikes of the bike rack and made a packed lunch. At the ticket office our liberte pass QR codes were scanned from my phone and we got our reduced price lift tickets. We were ready to go.
The Espace Weisshorn gondola is large, with mostly standing room. A couple of chairs cater to those with reduced mobility but you can tell it’s really meant for cramming as many skiers in as possible. There were racks for us to stow the bikes while we took a spot by the window to look at the view. We were surprised at how busy the gondola was now it was shoulder season, and taken aback at the sound of British voices among the passengers.
At the top of the gondola there was so much construction work going on that it was difficult to work out how to leave. We eventually found the stairs and pushed the bikes down before threading our way between excavators and trucks to the start of our route. Then we immediately ignored our plans when we saw there was a winding flow trail down the side of the hill. It looked far more interesting than the track with it’s many banked corners. We zoomed off, following the trail (which we think was for the ‘trotti bike’ scooters that people can rent in high season) as far as we could, startling a couple of workers who were raking it’s surface to smoothness. We felt a little guilty that we were undoing their hard work.
We eventually made it back onto our intended track where we were able to follow zig zags down into Zinal. We’d noticed this track when we’d been walking the day before and going down it was as fast and fun as we expected. It was no time at all until we were back in the Zinal valley.
At this point we made a bit of a mistake. In an attempt to avoid a few km of road riding we stayed on the west side of the river. As the path began to rise we took a look at the map to see whether it would keep rising. The map said it would level off and drop back down to re-join our original route, just not quite as quickly as we’d hoped. We discussed turning back, but thought that it would be as much effort as continuing. We may have been wrong.
The path took us up some nasty steep and narrow paths where the only option was to push. Some of the paths so steep that it felt almost impossible to push without sliding back down. We were sweating and swearing by the time we reached the highest point of this section. This was meant to be a nice easy downhill ride but we’d just added about 300m of ascent in 2km.
When we finally crossed a downhill path we found it was a mountain bike trail. This was almost as gnarly as the uphill. Paul raced down while I followed cautiously behind trying to keep going but occasionally stopping to recompose myself before tackling the next steep section or dodgy corner.
To my relief we eventually met the wide track that would take us around the mountain back to our parking spot. This route was not too far from the road we had driven to Grimentz the day before. It took us under the line of the gondola and into the southern end of the town, almost directly back to our car park. We stopped on the way to cycle round the pump track a few times. The first time we have been near a pump track when I haven’t felt that our skills would be judged by a pack of 10 year olds.
After all that hard work it was still only lunch time. Our packed lunch was still in our bags and so we ate it in Bertie while we waited for our water to heat up for a shower.
A wander around old Grimentz
Smelling fresh, we decided to walk down to the old part of Grimentz. We had only seen the ski infrastructure so far but we knew there must be something of the original village surviving.
Just like Zinal there are many old dark wooden buildings with bright window boxes. Storage buildings stand in seemingly random places on their mushroom shaped stilts. The centre of Grimentz is much more compact than Zinal with small cobbled streets running between the buildings and a stream that rushes down between buildings providing power for a couple of waterwheels.
We feel we barely scratched the surface of the Val d’Anniviers. There are so many hikes and bike rides we haven’t had the time to do, sights that we haven’t seen. But we’ll have to leave that for another visit. For now we were done and it was time to move onwards.