In the most beautiful office in the world…
What a magnificent office! The most beautiful in the world! At a time when digital technology plays a major part in our work, and when everyone is almost permanently and instantaneously connected to digital tools, the young Jurassien from Boncourt, Roméo Wicht, has a nice job, still unknown to the public, which he practises in an idyllic setting in the middle of our mountains here in Verbier. We could call him the mountain craftsman, “connected” in his own way with nature and the forest, working so that bikers can hit the downhill tracks.
One might think that the famous downhill pistes of Verbier are designed and developed by machines, and then evolve with use, as is often the case in other resorts. However, at the Verbier Bikepark, Roméo tends the 8 existing tracks of the Verbier domain with shovels, pickaxes and rakes throughout the season, from mid-June to the end of October, in order to minimise their degradation. “Bikers particularly appreciate our know-how and this way of working!” the young shaper admits.
Roméo only recently began his job as a shaper. He is the last to arrive and the youngest of a fine team of enthusiasts: Fabrice the manager, better known under the name of Trifon, Thomas, Marius, Sylvain and Sebastien. Roméo left his native Jura after completing an apprenticeship in carpentry. He came to Valais for the love of the mountains and the snow. He first worked as a shaper at the Verbier snowpark, and then joined the summer team at the bikepark. And the team is growing, as it is not short of work. With frequent use, the bikepark tracks get worn. It is therefore necessary to reshape the route with muscle power, hence the English term “shaper”.
A long-term process
He tells us as well that many people think that shapers ride bikes all day and that they have an easy life. But that’s not the case, and we could see that by following this motivated team. The work is a bit like that of Sisyphus. They have to be imaginative, find tricks and juggle with a multitude of parameters, then return, and use even greater means. A lack of rain also often complicates the task, as the terrain becomes dry and difficult to manage. Large holes could encourage bikers to get off-track, and they prevent this with their daily actions.
Downhill tracks, but not only that…
The work is always carried out in partnership with the forestry department and the municipality of Bagnes (path maintenance). This collaboration is essential, in order to ensure that the land erodes as little as possible. “We are all pulling in the same direction so that all users of the mountain can cohabit in the most harmonious way,” he explains. In addition to marking out and maintaining the eight downhill tracks, we also take care of several hiking trails in the area.”
A dynamic and unified community
In the municipality of Bagnes, there is also a large community of volunteer bikers who take part in various days dedicated to hiking trail maintenance. These days are overseen by the Bikepark, and more specifically by the Entretrail, an association they have formed to support this activity, and to unite users on a common project. It’s an invaluable help, and it reassures some hikers, who were concerned about this new population developing in the same playing field.” These days are open to all, whether they are bikers or not, and are cordial moments of sharing and friendship.
Roméo himself is not yet a bike guide, but he explains that his colleagues share their working time as shapers, mountain bike (DH) monitors, and enduro/e-bike guides at the Verbier Bike School, which was created in 2011.
Besson Immobilier had a great time with this team of shapers on the bikers’ beautiful playing field. We have discovered a profession, still unknown to the general public, which requires strength, patience, dedication and passion, and which merits our full attention.
Discover other portraits, interviews with craftsmen, ideas for walks and tips from the Verbier and Val de Bagnes region on our blog.