WEEKEND ESCAPE: ‘Les bisses’ from Valais

Perched high in the alps over the source of the Rhône river, near the mountain resort of Crans-Montana, is one of the favorite spots of EMYUN co-founder Salvatore Mandra. As Salvatore explains, whilst there is certainly no shortage of breathtaking locations throughout Switzerland, he has always been drawn to ‘Les Bisses’ for their remarkable uniqueness.

Veritable historical monuments of Swiss patrimony, ‘Les Bisses’, are a network of alpine irrigation canals that were built, sometimes precariously, into the mountainside as early as the 14th century. Designed to bring pristine glacial waters to the prairies and vineyards in the valleys below, ‘les bisses’, are still an important agricultural resource for the renowned fruit orchards and vineyards that are integral to the identity of the canton of Valais. As a result they are regularly maintained and their accompanying pathways make for the perfect excursion.

In particular, the Bisse de Rho is perhaps one of the most spectacular and the one that Salvatore enjoys most when he needs to escape to the mountains for inspiration. Straddling cliffs and sheer rock faces, the aqueduct was constructed by a series of interconnecting wooden beams and planks fixed to the mountainside in a display of ingenious local engineering that highlights the regions close relationship to the alps.

The path which starts from the Plan Mayen district of Crans-Montana, covers 5 km between 1’450 and 1’750 meters and dramatically skirts the winds and bends of the river. Although a technical path it can be easily followed from April to October when there is no snow. In addition, throughout the Canton of Valais there are nearly 200 bisses covering 1’800 km.