The Philippe Roux sportshop is an institution in Verbier which has developed along with the resort and will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2023. The store is writing a new page in its history headed by Christophe Roux, representative of the second generation and 2019 champion of the Valais Rally.
What is the store’s history?
Christophe Roux: My father, Philippe, was a skier and then a very high-level rally driver. As a sports lover, he bought the store in 1973 and gradually expanded it, evolving with the times but always keeping its family identity. My father took care of it with his former director for more than 40 years and now, at almost 40 years of age, I am taking over with Yves Stettler as director.
Yves Stettler: In those days, it was a small boutique with an apartment on the first floor. Over the years, the apartment disappeared to leave more room for the store which continued to develop in tandem with Verbier.
C.R. I lived in the apartment for two years, my bedroom was in what is now the ski sticks room.
You specialize in alpine skiing…
C.R. Alpine (downhill) skiing remains our number one niche. It is also a sport in which I have a past as a top athlete. However, times are changing and ski touring (hiking) is on the rise. Yves is a real specialist in hiking and he is also a long-time friend with whom I always wanted to work one day. I did everything so that we would not lose touch and eventually work together. Now the store specializes as much in alpine as in cross-country skiing.
Y.S. Verbier has the image of a resort focused on freeride and all the shops offer a wide choice of ski ranges for off-piste skiing. We distinguish ourselves by keeping this niche of alpine skiing and alpine ski racing, which suits winters well that don’t have too much snow and also fairly hard snow. We supply customers who enjoy skiing on the slopes.
We also occupy the hiking niche which appeals to a new generation made up of people from all walks of life, especially fitness regulars.
We also support a team of five riders, two of whom are part of the Swiss team. Every two years, the famous “Patrouille des Glaciers” (“Glacier Patrol”), which finishes in Verbier, enables us to advise and equip all enthusiasts of this discipline.
How has the clientele evolved over the past twenty years?
C.R. Verbier is a top-of-the-range resort, but it is also sporty and family-friendly. We have many Swiss, who come from all over French-speaking Switzerland, who own second homes in Verbier. There are also more and more expats. The most important thing for us is first of all to take care of these families, for example with the Philippe Roux ski club which welcomes more than 90 children each year.
Y.S. The rate of active skiers is very high in Verbier compared to resorts like Crans-Montana. People really come here for the skiing. There are also two international schools that offer their students skiing twice a week.
How does the Philippe Roux Ski Team operate?
C.R. We have season passes. Every weekend, morning and afternoon, a team manages the ski club. Verbier has three ski clubs, which is quite rare. But it must be said that here there are more than 300 children in the middle of winter. Each ski club has its own style. The Verbier team is more local and more competition-oriented; our Philippe Roux team brings together people from Geneva and the Canton of Vaud who come here on weekends, and finally, there is the region’s International Schools Ski Club.
We offer equipment for all three with plenty of day rentals.
Summer is gaining importance in the mountains. How do you handle it?
C.R. We are a local shop, so we are open all year. In the summer, we sell a lot of hiking accessories, especially shoes. The e-bike is also popular, but it’s a bit difficult for a sports shop to manage because the e-bike and ski seasons overlap, which raises the question of the place to store the equipment and also the skills required by our employees.
All ball sports such as golf, tennis, squash and padel (paddle tennis) are also very popular in the mountains during the summer.
But we mainly focus on winter. The season is quite long in Verbier since it starts at the beginning of October and ends on 30th April.
During the summer, we equip about fifteen young competitors who train between Saas Fee and Zermatt, which keeps us busy on into the ski season!
How do you explain the enthusiasm athletes have for Verbier?
Y.S. It is a south-facing plateau which benefits from a maximum of sun and which has very favourably orientated slopes where the snow keeps well and where you can also ski at altitude. We must also pay tribute to the people who, in the 50s and 60s, were visionaries and who developed the ski lifts. At the time, we thought they were crazy when they wanted to install a chairlift in such and such a place.
C.R. Verbier benefits from fabulous snow conditions and slope preparation. These resources can be used in the summer, for example, for cycling with downhill slopes. We also have an exceptional setting. At the top of Mont-Fort, we have a playground of 3,500 metres to 1,500 metres which is just incredible.
Verbier is passion. How does this inspire you?
C.R. We are incredibly lucky. As soon as you climb at altitude, from 2,000 – 2,500 metres, between Les Ruinettes and La Chaux, you have a truly breathtaking view of the entire Combins region.
Y.S. At the top of Mont-Fort we are about halfway between the Matterhorn and Mont-Blanc, the panorama is magnificent. I really recommend going up to see it. I am also a big fan of sealskin skiing and I encourage customers to get out of Verbier and discover the surrounding valley.