OPR Network Continues To Diversify

The past few months have seen Off-Piste Radio Network (OPRN) demonstrate its wide range of services and expertise, with new clients on board and a mix of international and local projects. However, the core offer remains the same: Swiss-based communication services and consultancy, with an emphasis on audio-visual content. Here are some of the key projects we have been involved with this year.

International clients include Solar Impulse, which  used OPRN services during the ongoing Round-The-World flight attempt. Conor Lennon was based at Mission Control Monaco as Communications Manager. The US-based Institute For Global Economic Growth also hired us to take of production co-ordination for the filming of the Swiss episode of their TV Show “Improbable Success”. This involved providing editorial consultancy, hiring the local crew and providing logistical support,

Locally, OPRN provided multimedia content in English and French for Swiss transport company TMR, helping them to reach the international population in Valais and visitors to the region. We also began consulting Lemania-Verbier International School on marketing & communications strategy and provided multimedia content. We are working with the WVerbier Hotel to promote events through online and broadcast media, the municipality of Bagnes has contracted us to produce and promote audio-visual content to highlight the successful integration of international residents and we continue to provide technical and editorial services to mountain radio verbier and Radio Crans-Montana.

If you would like to find out more about our services, contact me directly at conor@offpisteradio.com.

Following Solar Impulse Round The World!

Off-Piste Radio Network is getting ready to follow Solar Impulse on its next adventure : the first journey around the world powered exclusively by the sun’s rays. Here’s mountain radio verbier’s report on the dismantled plane’s transfer to Abu Dhabi, the start point of the attempt, from Payerne Airfield:

Off-Piste Radio Network has been involved with Solar Impulse since 2012, when Conor Lennon was brought in to present live video coverage of the Destination Morocco mission flight and script & present features on each leg of the flight such as this:

For those of you who are new to Solar Impulse, this endeavour began over 10 years ago when Bertrand Piccard, best-known for his pioneering non-stop round the world balloon trip in the Breitling Orbiter 3 with Brian Jones, teamed up with former Swiss fighter pilot André Borschberg to develop a plane that the aeronautical industry deemed impossible. Undeterred, Borschberg assembled a team of crack engineers and designers who didn’t know it was impossible (drawn from Formula 1 and boat design, among others) and Piccard used his considerable skills as an inspirational speaker to convince major international companies and organisations to come on board as financial partners. Today, there are over 100 people working to make the project a success, and major partners include such well-known companies as Omega, ABB, Schindler, Solvay and Google.

As the co-founders often say, Solar Impulse is designed to carry a message, rather than passengers (there is only room for one person in the plane, the pilot): that we can do extraordinary things by making better use of technology that exists already, massively reducing our energy consumption and dependence on fossil fuels. If you want to support the project, there are many ways to do so and you can find more information here.

Now, in 2015, it’s finally time to attempt the Big One: a journey around the world, starting and ending in the Gulf and taking in Indian, Burma, China, the US, Europe and North Africa. Conor Lennon will once again present live coverage and videos along the way. We’ll be sharing updates, videos and other information on the mountain radio verbier social network channels and onair. It’s going to be an exciting year!

The Farinet: Still At The Heart of Verbier

farinet hotel

“The Farinet’s closing and it’s going to be a private chalet”.

During the Summer months many people could be found swearing on their mother’s life that Verbier’s legendary Après-Ski venue was closed for ever. It turns out that rumours of the Farinet’s death were exaggerated, and the crowds who head straight to Place Centrale once the pistes have closed will not be disappointed after all.

That isn’t to say there haven’t been changes. The Farinet now has a new owner and management team in place: the building and business have been bought by British IT entrepreneur Lawrence Jones, who has been skiing in Verbier for several years and now lives in Switzerland with his wife (and business partner) Gail and children.

When we met Lawrence in September, he assured us that he never had any intention of changing the winning formula of the Farinet, and that extensive construction work has been taking place because the building only received remedial patchup jobs over the past few years. This means you can expect to hear virtuoso Scandinavian cover bands in the Après-Ski and big-name guest DJs in the Lounge throughout the 2014-2015 Winter season. The general manager is now Stephen Wilson (“Scotty”), replacing Laurent Royer who is reportedly launching a new venture at the Nevaï this Winter.

Even if you aren’t in Verbier, you’ll be able to share the atmosphere by listening to mountain radio verbier. The local station will be broadcasting many of the evening band and DJ sessions during the season and will have more information on its updated Website in early December.

Who is Verbier?

verbier_2014Who is Verbier? This was the question Pierre-André Gremaud, head of Verbier Promotion (the resort’s marketing company) asked at an information session on the 16th of October, the last before the coming Winter season.

The question was the starting point for a new, long-term marketing strategy aimed at presenting a coherent image of Verbier to the outside world. Previously the marketing director for Club Med and Mazda Switzerland, Gremaud has been in the job for just over a year, a period which has seen the dissolution of the “Verbier-St. Bernard” destination (which included Grand St. Bernard, Champex-Lac, La Fouly and Vichères-Bavon) and the launch of “Verbier-Bagnes-La Tzoumaz”, as well as the near-collapse of the huge 4 Vallées ski domain (since averted following an agreement reached by the various ski-lift companies involved).

Gremaud invited the resort’s main tourism actors (including the associations of business owners, estate agents, chalet owners, the ski-lift company, as well as Swiss Tourism) to a workshop designed to reach consensus on Verbier’s image. “Young, Progressive, Active” were the three key words used to describe Verbier. However, these only applied to Winter, whereas the perception of Summer, when the resort is dominated by the Verbier Festival, is “Old, Conservative and Passive”. The challenge, then, was to extend  the “Young, Progressive and Active” image throughout the year.

This is good news for fans of mountain biking, as Gremaud believes much more needs to be done to promote the fact that Verbier has some of the best trails in Europe. In terms of image, mountain biking would become the Summer and low season version of freeriding.

But how does the Verbier Festival, which prinicipally attracts older visitors, fit into this image? Gremaud’s reply is that he wants to push a “young at heart” aspect, as well as putting more emphasis on the members of the Festival Academy and Orchestra, both of which are made up of young musicians.

And what about the Verbier Bike Fest? One of the key, stated aims of the local municipality is to develop the reputation of Verbier and Bagnes as a reference for responsible, sustainable development (including elements such as eco-tourism, reduced pollution, renewable energy use and responsible use of the mountains). This is why the municipality has welcomed initiatives such as the Verbier Institute, which plans to become the “Davos of sustainable development”. When asked how the Bike Fest fits within this part of the strategy, Gremaud replied that he is working with the Bike Fest organisers to make it more sustainable, whilst admitting that he is at the start of a process and doesn’t yet have all the answers.

A major complaint from business owners has been the state of the resort’s Website, which has not been working properly ever since it was relaunched earlier in 2014 (the previous version was also severely criticised). A new, debugged version won’t be ready until February 2015, because Verbier Promotion and the Tourist Office have decided to prioritise the launch of a new smartphone application for Verbier, which will be ready for the beginning of the season and presented to business owners at a meeting in December.

We will have more information on the key events planned for the 2014/2015 season in a forthcoming article and, in the meantime, we welcome your comments.

Bagnes or Verbier Valley?

An entreprising couple marketing their holiday chalet in the Bagnes village of Versegères have described the location as “Verbier Valley“. Now Versegères is not in Verbier, and some might find this ploy reminiscent of South London estate agents renaming Peckham “North Dulwich”.

However, this example is not in the same league of mendacity: Verbier is up the mountainside, and Versegères is in the valley. Ergo, Verbier Valley. And, as an added bonus, you’re not likely to get shot or stabbed in Versegères (which also has more snow than Peckham).

Maybe the Vallée de Bagnes, to give it its official name, should have been rebranded as Verbier Valley years ago. After all, the stated aim of the municipal council is to promote tourism in this valley, practically unknown to the majority of those who visit Verbier every year yet which has many complementary attractions to the resort. These are principally in the realm of what can be called “soft” or “low impact” tourism (snow shoeing, skinning, cross-country skiing, hiking: anything which doesn’t involve heavy infrastructure such as ski-lifts).

It’s probably significant that the “Verbier Valley” idea came from foreigners. Amongst some Bagnards there’s a certain hostility towards Verbier, with several villagers having told us that they don’t feel it’s “their” resort anymore. Whatever you might think about that, these are the people who vote for the Conseil Communal (local council). Needless to say, a project to rename the valley probably wouldn’t get very far…