joe_dist1“Ding, ding, ding”, the omnipresent sound of cowbells waft through the Swiss air. If there is one thing I relate directly to my travels in Switzerland, it is the sound of these large bells, attached to even larger bovines. Seriously, these cows make our North American hormone-infused versions look pretty puny. Must be something in the alpine grasses these happy-go lucky ungulates ingest by the kilos. The Swiss cow’s life is not always an easy one, however. Let me digress with a story.

Scene: A small bike park in the Alps, the sun is shining and we are soaking up the rays, having dealt with the past two days of torrential downpour, making the trails a sloppy mess. Ascending up the chairlift, the mechanical hum of the double chair is accompanied by the pleasant dinging of a herd of cows munching away on the wet grass at the top of the steep face the lift is taking us up.

All of a sudden, breaking the tranquility of this lovely summer morning in zee Alps, is an abrupt “DINGDING, DINGDING!” I look up the slope, and horrified, witness a cow tumbling down the mountainside, legs straight as arrows, cartwheeling towards a 200 foot cliff. Every time the unfortunate bovine bounces off terra firma, “DINGDING” echoes through the valley. Right in front of our unbelieving eyes the cow ragdolls off the cliff and out of sight below. As the rest of the herd continues to chow down, we disembark from the lift and speculate on the wet grass and a disastrous misstep resulting in the demise of the animal. Slightly unnerved, the day goes on. Later that afternoon, we are grimly reminded of the accident as we ride back towards home under the cliff and see the cow still lying there. Talk about tenderized beef!

Since witnessing this surreal accident, I have taken on a new respect for the Swiss cows, and the dangers they risk daily to provide the people of Switzerland with tasty dairy products. That DINGDING is seared in my memory forever.

I am in Switzerland right now, riding every day and loving it. I am leading downhill trips in the Valais region for Big Mountain Bike Adventures. I have been revisiting some of my old favourite haunts with my clients, and checking out some new ones.

Crans-Montana, a Kona Bike Park, is one of my new favourite zones. Keeping with the old adage of “quality over quantity”, they maintain just two trails, but both are amazing. One technical DH track, and one berm filled snake run down the mountain. Great terrain, and huge potential for expansion.

We rode a couple secret shuttle trails today, from high in the mountains all the way into the Rhone Valley (about 4,500 vertical feet apiece). One of the descents seemed untouched since I rode it last, a year ago. Reminiscent of powder skiing, carving the bike down a nugget of a trail covered in a years worth of pine needles. It was pretty special.

I am happy to be here, feeling totally assimilated into the Swiss mountain lifestyle. I am getting plenty of fresh air, taking in inspiring views daily, and eating loads of cheese at every meal. And, oh yeah, the beef sure is tender. Does it get any better?

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