Wow. Spring has fully sprung and watching it unfurl has been such a pleasure! The mountains have gone from white to brown to vibrant green, there is an explosion of alpine flowers springing up at every turn, and the birds and butterflies are here in abundance. The village has been quite busy with Second Home owners escaping from the nearby cities, and there is a good influx of Swiss tourists to our rental chalets. Our 12 chalets with an outdoor jacuzzi are in particularly high demand as people seek to embrace the fresh mountain air and abundant sunshine.
SHOPS – The village shop remains open daily and is always well-stocked. Down in the valley we noticed that the shops have started getting a bit busier as more and more Swiss residents come to Valais to enjoy the sunshine. There are occasional queues outside places like the big Lidl in Conthey due to the restrictions on the number of people allowed inside. Most people are respectful of the 2m social distancing requirements as we all try to get used to the “new normal” and make a habit of leaving room for other people. A few people are wearing masks and it is more noticeable with the warmer temperatures that some people are still wearing gloves to do their shopping.
RESTAURANTS & OTHER SERVICES
- Already open – Trappeurs Cafe/Restaurant, Auberge La Tzoumaz Restaurant, Le Blanc Cafe/Restaurant, Les Fougeres Hotel/Restaurant
- Already open – All the fixed village playgrounds, the summer playground in the main square, the large playground in Domus, the playgrounds in Riddes, Saxon and our all-time favourite playgrounds in Saillon and at the Parc des Iles (a fabulous green space with a large lake, playground with miniature steam train, and plenty of other attractions. There are trampolines with elastic harnesses, a climbing wall, mini golf and a high-rope park with 160 features, some of which are accessible to children from age 4).
- Open from 4th July – La Poste Hotel/Restaurant, TShop Bike Shop, TBar, and hopefully the La Tzoumaz Telecabin (TBC end May)
HIKING & BIKING – As the snowline recedes up the mountain, the hiking routes and trails are opening up for us to enjoy, but a lot of fun can be had following the bisses and trails around and through the village. There are more and more bikers (easy riders in jeans as well as professionals in Lycra) cycling up and down through the village, and e-Biking is definitely the way to go unless you are a hardcore mountain enthusiast. We’ve spotted Sebastien Reichenbach (Tour de France pro rider) on his road bike as he hacked his way up the Croix de Coeur, reportedly fighting his way through the remaining snowdrifts, and there is a red tandem in the village that often rides up and down the roads.
FEATURED HIKE – Past the Defis de la Rivere and up to the Newt Pond
This is delightful short hike for children of any age, ideal for a picnic lunch or a lazy day by the water, or perhaps an evening hike to see the setting sun. You can park at the Maison de la Foret, the Cremerie, or even further up by the Marteau if you don’t have much time. Take spare shoes and a change of clothes for any little ones who enjoy getting wet but don’t enjoy staying wet! The Defis de la Riviere is a brand new development for 2020 (scheduled to officially open at the end of June) and targeted at kids of any age, challenging them to use their agility to cross the course and indeed the river without getting wet. Our toddlers had the most fun throwing sticks in the river and getting tangled up in the cargo net 🙂 Nearby is a swing set and a picnic area with shade and tables.
The sounds of the rushing river and the cacophony of birdsong was so fantastic that I tried to capture it here:
Turn left after the Defis de la Riviere and follow the yellow signpost marked “Le Fou”. This takes you up a short steep hike through an enchanting forest (around 10 minutes, with 100m of vertical gain) and then you arrive at the pond. It has plenty of baby newts at this time of year. It’ a nice spot for a wild picnic in the grass overlooking La Tzoumaz if there are too many people at the picnic area by the river down below.
WEATHER – We’ve had some fabulously warm and sunny days and we even got out the barbecue for a nice lunch in the sun. Midday still remains the best time to have a barbecue here as once the sun goes behind the mountain in the early evening the temperature can drop quite sharply. The snow has gone from the lower pistes so we have stopped ski-touring and started to explore the footpaths further and further afield. The annual explosion of flowers across the mountainside is beginning to take shape, especially in the lower sections of the village. In the valley below the apricots are progressing well.
RESTAURANTS & OTHER SERVICES – everyone is getting excited about the first phase of de-confinement that starts tomorrow. As a family the thing we are most excited about is the playgrounds reopening! At a meeting of the local Accommodation Providers Committee we were given the following opening dates:
- Open from 11-15 May – Trappeurs Cafe/Restaurant, Auberge La Tzoumaz Restaurant, Le Blanc Cafe/Restaurant, Les Fougeres Hotel/Restaurant, all the fixed village playgrounds and the seasonal summer playground in the main square
- Open from 23rd May – Domus playground
- Open from end of June – Opening of the new playground “Defi de la Riviere” at the bridge/beach area of the Fare
- Open from 4th July – La Poste Hotel/Restaurant, TShop Bike Shop, TBar, and hopefully the La Tzoumaz Telecabin (TBC end May)
VILLAGE LIFE – Everything continues pretty much as it has over the last 8 weeks. There is a slow and steady increase in the number of people mowing and strimming as the greenery responds to the fine weather. Most of the people in the village are residents and second home owners. Most of the tourists are small Swiss families looking to escape the confines of their city life. We are interested to see how this demographic changes with the schools reopening tomorrow. It’s Mother’s Day today here in Switzerland so I’m off out to enjoy some hiking with the girls in the warm sunshine 🙂
WEATHER – Like much of the rest of Europe we’re having a few days of rain, which is great to start turning the grass greener, and help start the fruit trees to bloom in the thousands of local orchards down the valley. We’ve had a few inversions when we’ve been either above the clouds, or in the middle of the swirling mist. We also managed to get clear skies earlier in the week to clearly see the amazing sight of the latest batch of StarLink satellites charging across the sky like a bright chain of shiny stars (See here for the next viewing possibilities: https://james.darpinian.com/satellites/?special=starlink). After an overnight flurry there was a clear snowline yesterday morning, sitting prettily over the Tracouet but it should warm up again after the weekend however, so we’re not really very motivated to get the skis back out right now.
HIKING TRAILS – we’ve been doing some gentle hiking with our baby girls, and some hardcore hiking with the older boys. Around the village level, the Vieux Bisse is lovely, and so is the Bisse de la Chapelle. The Sentier des Fables is mostly passable (you may get wet feet in the remaining snow patches) and there are plenty of marmottes (and the occasional black kite) to see.
The Bisse de Saxon is starting to clear (direction Verbier) but some sections are definitely too risky to enjoy due to large piles of snow still present at some very exposed sections, and the NO PEDESTRIANS barrier is still up at the La Tzoumaz end. We haven’t yet tried this bisse from the Maison de la Foret in the direction of Iserables and the Chalet des Alpes – maybe next week – but we know from experience that the huge snow-piled avalanche gully halfway round is normally complicated to cross until much later in the spring.
The best hiking at the moment is still on the lower path that runs from the Som de Pro bus stop (see SNOW MELT /SPRING below), winds around the mountain and goes through the three tunnels to the Crossette. There are still some “wet feet” sections but these are slowly melting and getting shorter. From La Crosette there are many different options, with plenty of fun to be had lower down (see SAXON below), and the path up to La Vatze being clear (just don’t come back along the Bisse de Saxon for another week or two – instead loop back down a different trail to regain the main footpath).
SAXON – The Trail de la Pierre Avoi has been postponed to August 15th, but we went for an early race-route-recce of the first 1000m climb and it was very pleasant with no wet feet until we reached the home trails near La Tzoumaz. We started in Saxon by the new start line at the Casino, and tried to follow the old race markings. There were a handful of other trailers training in the hills too, and we came across a couple of hikers about once or twice an hour. There were lots of people working in the vineyards and the orchards and most seemed happy to wave and chat. In Saxon village we even said hello to an archetypal tourist, complete with map, hawaiian shirt & shorts and a camera round his neck.
VALLEY FLOOR – If you drive down to Riddes and park by the river or the canal there is a lovely footpath long the river. It’s a great place to go for a long easy run or cycle, but beware the headwind that often blows from the Martigny end as this can massively slow you down on the way back. The footpath is flat enough to take small wheeled vehicles for toddlers (yep – our baby turned into a toddler last week by taking her first steps!) but keep an eye out for the occasional car (they usually slow right down) or cyclist (they sometimes go incredibly fast). You may even catch sight of one of the local Tour de France pros, such as Sebastien Reichenbach who does a lot of his training rides around here.
CHALETS – There is a steady trickle of (mostly Swiss) bookings coming in for the summer, and a steady trickle of (mostly overseas) booking cancellation. We’re still looking after a trickle of clients who are coming up to stay in our rental chalets. Many are choosing to extend their stay once they settle in and realise what a pleasure it is to be confined up here in the mountains. We are progressing with a lot of minor chalet maintenance, and seasonal tasks such as climbing on the roofs to clear the meleze needles from the guttering.
HOLIDAYS – five weeks have now passed since the ski resort shut down and (nearly) all of the remaining winter clients cancelled their bookings. Easter came and went, much like any other day… but with a little more chocolate 🙂 It was sunny and warm and there were a lot more second homes occupied than there had been the week before – there were small groups of people sitting on quite a number of chalet terraces and patio spaces enjoying a meal together in the sunshine. We also had a few clients in the resort over Easter – it’s only a governmental recommendation to stay at home, not a requirement, so some couples and small families came to celebrate a calm and quiet Easter.
The Swiss Federal government has proposed a 3-phase relaxing of the lockdown rules, starting with a few businesses able to re-open on April 27th, and then (most concerning for our boys ) perhaps the re-opening of schools on May 11th, followed by lifting of further restrictions on June 8th.
We are starting to see a gentle increase in enquiries and bookings for next winter, as people start to believe in a brighter outlook for the future, with talk of different countries taking steps to return to normal. Summer bookings are also trickling in. We are still offering generous cancellation conditions to anyone who wants to book (see details here)
SHOPS – The village shop remains open daily (mornings only) and remains well-stocked, including freshly-baked baguettes every morning. The Monnet Sports “Tshop” is hoping to be allowed to rent out bicycles this summer, with the bikes expected to arrive sometime in mid-May. We’ll keep you posted on how to obtain your 4v4s discount.
VILLAGE CENTRE – The ice rink has been dismantled for the year, but the fixed playground is closed and the summer playground has obviously not yet been installed. Playgrounds are also closed in Domus, Saxon, Saillon, Nendaz and Parc des Iles. We’re hoping that the ban on playgrounds will be lifted with the opening of schools on May 11th. That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun in the big open square in the village centre though – we normally take scooters and other ride-on toys for the girls to enjoy as this is one of the biggest flat spaces in the whole of La Tzoumaz 🙂
PUBLIC TRANSPORT – The Post Bus runs between Iserables telecabin and La Tzoumaz Telecabin as usual. We hiked around the Route de la Foret Verte to test it out. This wide, flattish forest road is now driveable again since the snowploughs ran through it a week ago. We admired the stunning views of La Tzoumaz from the other side as always, and took the opportunity to see what the snow line looked like. Arriving in Iserables, the locals we spotted were mostly at home in their gardens or driving around, and seemed happy enough to wave at us. Any benches or play areas were cordoned off, and we saw one rainbow banner thanking the people on the front line of the battle against COVID-19, in both French and German. It’s difficult not to feel like intruders when you are a large group of two adults, two pre-teens and two babies, but the bus driver seemed pleased to have such a full minibus after so many empty journeys. The front rows of seats are cordoned off to protect the driver, and no payment is allowed on the bus. We had to plan carefully as there are only a handful of buses a day and you need to buy your ticket online in advance (instructions here or on the bus door).
SNOW MELT / SPRING – We’ve been eagerly waiting for the snow to melt on our favourite hiking paths so that we can enjoy them properly. In the early evenings wen La Tzoumaz is in the shade we like to explore the Rhone Valley side of town and enjoy the late sunshine. The flat road that leads away from the “Som de Pro” bus-stop near Villy is one of our favourites due to its steep-sided plunging views over the Rhone Valley and its adventure and surprises along the way – As you round each corner of this vertiginous route as it winds round the mountainside, you could be greeted by one of the last few heaps of snow slowly melting, a pile of rocks that have crumbled and slid onto the path, little streams that cross the footpath, tunnels carved into the rocks with curtains of water raining down, or even piles of rabbit/chevreuil droppings (much to the delight of toddler Katie). Here it is clear that the trees are blossoming and that spring is in the air. Little clusters of white or purple flowers (sylvie?) are starting to line the footpaths and the trees are covered in fresh green shoots and catkins.
VILLY – Another lovely place to enjoy in the early evening due to the late sunset and the stunning Rhone Valley views, Villy very much has a village feel. Thanks to the year-round sunshine, many of the chalets are occupied year round, and due to the acoustics you can hear laughter and chatter coming from distant gardens and balconies. Not enough to make out the words, but enough to really feel that this is a warm and friendly community. We stop and chat to quite a few residents, who seem pleased by the variety of our presence, and most take delight in the antics of our little babies. The central farm is still hard at work and there are a number of vegetables growing in the occasional vegetable patch between chalets. A number of the second-home chalets have ski-touring skins hanging up to dry next to their cars with their out-of-town Vaud plates.
HOLIDAYS – We are now in our 3rd week since the ski resort shut down and (nearly) all of the winter clients cancelled their bookings. We have very few clients in the resort at the moment but we are getting a steady trickle of people booking Easter holidays up here – they are already situated within the Swiss borders so they are allowed to travel to the mountains. It’s only a governmental recommendation to stay at home, not a requirement, so families are looking for somewhere relatively remote and isolated to celebrate Easter. We are offering generous cancellation conditions to anyone who wants to book (see details here)
SHOPS – The village shop remains open daily (mornings only) and remains well-stocked. There are normally only around 4 or 5 other people inside at the same time and they are offering deliveries to anyone confined to their home. The only thing we are having difficulty to find is yeast (either in cubes or in sachets) and despite scouring all the shops down the valley we have still had no luck. I guess we’re not the only ones thinking now would be a good time to try some home baking! Coop, Migros, Lidl and Aldi are all well stocked (apart from yeast). Lidl in Conthey now has a big sign up saying “One person per trolley” and “No families” so we are going to have to stop shopping there – normally one of us goes out with the two girls as the activity for that day and now we are running out of ideas where to take them. Our toddler loves pushing her own mini-trolley round and our nearly-toddler really enjoys sitting in the big trolley. Most shops are struggling to enable people to keep their distances as people frequently cross each other in the aisles instead of walking around or waiting, so we try to minimise the number of shopping trips that we make, despite shopping for an extended family.
WEATHER – The sky is blue and the outlook is for at least a week of glorious sunshine! Sadly the local public playgrounds are now closed, and the village ice rink has been dismantled. At least this means there is now a flat space in the village centre where we can take the girls to enjoy their summer locomotion toys as they transition from sliding on snow to rolling on tarmac.
SNOW – Down at the lower resort level, below the main street, most of the snow has already melted but in the top of the resort it has barely started to disappear from the fields. The snow on the pistes is definitely spring-like now, crispy in the mornings and soft by lunchtime so small moguls are starting to appear near the bottom. Around the resort it is easy to sink into the soft wet snowdrifts up to mid-calf in the afternoons, but in the forest or up towards the croix-de-coeur we are using running spikes to get a good grip on the frozen snow. The pistes are criss-crossed with footprints, paw-prints, ski and snowshoe tracks and the occasional skidoo track (left behind by the owner of our favourite isolated restaurant). Of course standing on the Croix-de-Coeur there is no snow at all on the Verbier side because it basks in the sunshine, unlike our protected side where the sun only gently grazes the pistes.
PEOPLE – Out hiking in the snow with the girls it is almost deserted – we only come across another person about once per hour or so, maybe skiing past us after skinning up the piste, or coming back from a snowshoe hike to the top, or out sledging with a child. We are allowed to be in groups of up to 5 if we respect the 2m-distance rule, so we stop and chat to anyone we see, not quite shouting. I’ve been outside tramping round the back gardens quite a bit on my own, taking new external photographs of some of our chalets, and I find that quite a few (usually older) ladies seem to be tucked away in nearby chalets on their own and they leap out onto the terrace or into the garden and have a pleasant chat with me. I guess we are all reaching out for some reassuring human contact in these strange times.
Skinning up the deserted piste by starlight, with nothing but the sound of an owl hooting in the distance, is pure mountain pleasure. Reaching the top and peeling the skins off our skis as we catch our breath we reflect on just how unique this whole situation is. Skiing down is exhilarating and the lights of the villages twinkle in the distance. With 57 years of skiing between the two of us and during that time only one visit to hospital for a skiing injury we feel the risk is very low, but still we ski down very gently and with bright head-torches to minimise the risks.
It’s now been a week since the ski-lifts closed, and the village is settling into a quiet version of the inter-season. A number of second-home owners came up for the weekend to close down their chalets after winter, and there were lots of windows thrown open and vacuuming sounds echoing across the valley before they all retreated back to wherever they live. Now the majority of the cars in the village have the local VS numberplates.
Out on the footpaths we crossed a few people, fathers out sledging with their daughters, older couples out for a walk. One gentleman with a group of four others that was walking up to the Maison de la Foret hastily pulled his mask over his face when we got within 10m. It’s the first person I’ve seen up here wearing a mask and I wish him good health.
The playgrounds are deserted, up here and down in Saillon. The La Tzoumaz playground is covered in snow but the Domus area is lovely and sunny in the afternoons. The donkeys there are almost as chatty as the climbers slowly making their way up the rock crag. The rabbits look a bit grumpy but the Japanese bantams are happily pecking at the ground unaware of how much the world around them has changed.
The footpaths and pistes are in excellent condition, considering they have been closed for a week. The snow is solid and crispy underfoot, which makes it a very pleasant surface to walk on, even when carrying a wriggling backpack full of toddler. The sledge run has only about 4cm depth of snow as it winds up through the trees, so we need to make the most of it before a few days of warm weather spoil our fun. There are many footprints and a few snowshoe marks, some sledge tracks and of course the skidoo tracks of our favourite local mountain restaurant owner.
Skinning up to ski down by starlight was a wonderful experience, with the head-torches just picking out the few small moguls that are starting to form in the otherwise hard and slippery surface. We didn’t see any wildlife but that may have been because we were chattering too loudly to each other…
There’s an inversion today so we are just in the cloud-line, with the view below obscured in thick fog. We resort to the webcams when we need a fix of sunshine:
We have completed the set up of our remote office facilities and the resort team is busy fixing outstanding defects in the chalets and completing the standard post-season check and close of all the chalets. There are a couple of chalets still occupied by rental clients and owners. Our agency remains closed to visitors but we are still working, as are the local tradespeople (carpenters, plumbers, dishwasher repair etc).
The village is very sunny and fairly quiet. All bars and restaurants are closed. The tourist office is closed. The supermarket is open daily in the mornings. Some people are out walking with their children, others are running or cycling. People are greeting each other but keeping their distance from one another by crossing the road etc. A few people are enjoying the ski pistes by using skis de randonnee to climb up and ski down. We might try it later by torchlight when our toddlers are in bed so we can see what’s happening to the snow quality 🙂
The Federal Council has annulled the decree issued by the Valais Cantonal Council and therefore we no longer have to close all hotels and holiday homes from midnight tonight.
Our teams are up and running and all services are functioning as normal, with the exception that we will not receive clients in the agency. If you are a chalet or apartment owner you may rest assured that we plan to maintain our Property Services as usual and continue to take good care of your property.
Valais has decreed an Extraordinary Situation for the entire canton until further notice. From Tuesday 17th March 2020 at midnight, they have mandated the closure of all hotels and holiday homes, including those managed by people such as 4v4s, who use online booking sites like airbnb. As such we will close as a Holiday Rentals Agency from Tuesday at midnight. We will be directly contacting all affected holidaymakers as soon as we can.
If you are a chalet or apartment owner you may rest assured that we plan to maintain our Property Services as usual and continue to take good care of your property.
Here is the full text of the official communication (in French):
Switzerland has mandated the closure of all ski domains and so TeleVerbier has closed all of the lifts in the 4 Valleys until the end of the season. At this time we do not know if they will open for the summer season in mid-June. The supermarket remains open every morning and is currently well-stocked. All other commerces (bars, restaurants, hotels) are closed, including the Tourist Office.
You can follow the latest updates from the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (in English) here: https://foph-coronavirus.ch/
If you have a 2019/20 winter booking with us
We are in the process of contacting all of our confirmed clients to discuss cancellation and refunds with all clients who have booked holidays and skipasses with us. We consider that the early closure of the ski domain represents a change in the product we have offered our clients versus what was booked, and so based on Swiss law we are offering every direct client a 100% reimbursement if the cancellation is not covered by travel insurance. Please contact us at email@example.com if you have not yet heard from us.
Some of our clients are choosing to retain their booking if they are still able to travel to the resort, eg Swiss residents. It is a very quiet village now that the ski season has ended so it is perhaps easier here to manage social distancing and self-isolation. The mountain views are still beautiful, and the footpaths remain open for snowshoe hiking and walking.
If you would like to make a new booking
We are offering “free cancellation until 30 days before, and 90% refund at any time” for any new bookings made from now for travel dates before 30th September 2020.
If you have a 2020 spring/summer booking with us
We have updated our cancellation conditions and all existing bookings up to 30th September are now eligible for “free cancellation until 30 days before, and 90% refund at any time”
Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you already wish to cancel under the standard conditions. Your travel insurance may be able to cover any cancellation fees for you. Otherwise, we recommend that you take a decision as close to your departure date as possible.
If you wish to stay in Autumn or Winter 2020/21
For any cancellations made before September 30th 2020, a full refund is available for any Autumn or Winter 20/2021 bookings.
Also for any non weather-related closure of the entire ski domain for a prolonged period during winter 2020/21 we will offer a full refund. This also applies if the ski resort is open, but either your own government or the Swiss government blocks international travel to/from Switzerland.
Our standard cancellation conditions still apply in the following circumstances: Bookings for Winter 2020/21 that are cancelled after 30th September 2020 in the event that the ski domain is operating normally, and international travel is possible. As a reminder, these are our standard conditions: “For cancellation up to 2 months before arrival (or upon resale) the fee is 15%. Up to 1 month / 80%, thereafter / 90%.”
There is a lot of uncertainty right now in lots of different parts of the globe, and there are starting to be impacts to many people’s daily lives and to their holiday plans. Here’s where we are today:
Swiss governmental advice
We expect a significant update on decisions affecting Switzerland after an emergency meeting of the Federal Council that will take place on Friday 13th March. Here is the link to watch the press conference live at 15h30 (Swiss time): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFI7vQU-YnY&feature=youtu.be
There is no current travel restriction on travel to/from Switzerland issued by the Swiss Government. People travelling on routes from or through Italy will, however, face restrictions. The general advice from the Swiss government is to avoid greeting people by shaking hands or kissing and to practice good personal hygiene, avoid touching your face and wash hands frequently. Recently they have also advised people to keep their distance from each other.
You can follow the latest updates from the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (in English) here: https://foph-coronavirus.ch/
Your governmental travel advice
The dynamics of this situation are such that we are unable to monitor advice from every country. Please consult your own government website for information on travel advice.
Current situation in La Tzoumaz/Verbier
At the moment there are no special precautions in place in our resort as there are no confirmed cases, and people (including me) are skiing, socialising, and working or attending school/kindergarten as normal. Except for hand sanitizer and masks, shops are well-stocked and no-one here seems to be panicking.
Standard cancellation conditions
Just as a reminder, here are our standard cancellation conditions:
“For cancellation up to 2 months before arrival (or upon resale) the fee is 15%. Up to 1 month / 80%, thereafter / 90%.”
“Advance-purchase skipasses are non-refundable once issued.”
We recommend that you check the cancellation terms and conditions in your travel insurance for accommodation and skipasses, and also for any transfers or flights etc that you have booked. There may be a difference if you choose to cancel based on government travel advice against travel to/from Switzerland or your home country, versus if you cancel based on your own risk assessment.
For any new bookings made between now and September 2020 we will offer free cancellation of those bookings if you cancel before September 2020
Stay safe and protect your communities by washing your hands, coughing into your elbow, not touching your face, and staying home if you are unwell.
Wishing you and your family good health over the next critical months.
From Anna, Percy & the whole team here at 4v4s