The Biketrails LAAX crew consists of 13 full and part-time employees and is responsible for the maintenance, construction and upkeep of the bike trails and hiking paths above the forest line in the destination of Flims Laax Falera. They pick and hammer on the trails and paths and make sure everyone has a good time outdoors in the region.
It’s 7.30 a.m. The Biketrails LAAX crew gathers at the locksmith’s shop of the valley station in Laax. With their baggage, coffee and dog “Jess”, they head up the mountain. The group splits up: Some go to the Nagens Trail, some change hiking trail signs and the last group goes to the Runca Trail.
Their work always begins in spring, as soon as the snow melts, and lasts until the beginning of winter. «We are actually never finished», says Ueli Guntli, head of Biketrails LAAX. «Every trail is used, every trail needs maintenance. At the same time, we want to improve the quality of the existing offer and fix critical spots on trails.»
Ueli Guntli, Head of Biketrails LAAX
The team is responsible for maintaining the bike trails in the destination as well as the hiking trails. They drain, trim, fence, dig, level, pick and hammer on the trails. «You can compare us to the piste machine drivers and snowmakers who prepare the slopes in winter for skiing and snowboarding. We simply do it adapted to summer», says Ueli Guntli. In addition, the trail crew is also responsible for the SOS service in summer and take care of the first aid of injured people on the signed bike trails. Some of the team members have also completed the summer patrol course for this.
The maintenance of a bike trail is costly. The trails are marked by natural erosion and signs of wear. Material is removed from the trails with every turn. In heavily used areas, the material must then be brought back up, shovelled and distributed with the dumper. «We are all passionate mountain bikers and live for the sport, which makes it easier to always stay motivated», says Ueli Guntli with a smile. With the hiking trails, he says, it is important to carry out regular drainage so that the paths remain passable.
After a short ride in the «Can-Am», an off-road motor vehicle, we are at the Runca Trail above Flims. The two shapers Ramon Huser and Basil Weber are filling the curve with «prepared earth material», the so-called «gold» as it is called among shapers. They confer with each other to get the best possible result. The logistics at the construction sites are not easy. Access to the construction sites is sometimes difficult, which is why the material and machines are always transported and used carefully.
The biggest challenge in construction is the terrain, emphasises Ueli Guntli. «When maintaining a bike trail, nature, slope preparation from winter, agriculture and biodiversity must also be taken into account.» There are many interested parties with different needs.
It’s 9.30 a.m. – time for coffee. The picnic box is unpacked and water is poured into a Bialetti coffee maker. The sun is shining and dog Jess finds herself a spot in the shade. «It’s a wonderful day», says Ueli Guntli. «But it’s not always like this. We’re always outside, even when it rains», he adds.
The workers, passionate bikers themselves, talk about their motivation for the job within the trail crew. «I like being outside here, enjoying nature», says Dries Meesschaert. He works as a shaper at the Snowpark LAAX in winter. The other members of the team are also partly active in the snowpark or work as ski and snowboard instructors for the LAAX School. «It’s a very satisfying job when you see what you do. It’s also cool to be outside», says Paul Ackermann, who pours everyone a cup of coffee. They also get appreciation. «From time to time, it happens that bikers who pass by us tell us that the trails are good, that’s nice», he adds.
After a short break, the work continues. The excavator is running again, the dumper is brought out, the trail is shaped. And that continues until the evening.
Here is a video of the work of the Biketrails LAAX crew from the series «How LAAX works»