RAAW Summit 2023 in Champery, Switzerland
It’s been over a decade that we’ve been winding our way up the Swiss mountain road, landing in an unassuming town at the end of the valley. As your eyes follow the lift cables up to the top of the mountain, you can’t help but think how the hell a track is going to find its way back down?
While it really has nothing to do with the day-to-day running of RAAW, there’s a piece of Champéry engrained in RAAW.
When we pulled the trigger on developing our Yalla! downhill bike, the concept simply read “A bike for sending down the Champéry World Cup track”. The first samples of the bike were excitedly built in the wee hours and the first dirt the tyres ever touched was on that very track. Its steep twists and turns shaped the way the bike was designed to ride, delivering composure and support in a place that could crush a beer can from the g-forces you generate in the turns.
When we started to support downhill racers, we put the Yalla! under budding talent from all over the globe, from North America all the way to Portugal. We didn’t have a budget overflowing from our pockets, but we sought to give racers support in other ways that perhaps couldn’t have a monetary value. Help in bike setup, friendly presence at the races we could get out to, and just checking that they were all good. Racing at a World Cup level is a pressure cooker, but we were just stoked to be a part of it in any way we could.
The idea to gather all these racers together, as well as our ambassadors, spawned from what has become almost a yearly ritual. Each year, RAAW would descend on the Swiss Alps for gravity-fuelled laps down Champéry’s addictive tracks, followed by beers and food at Chez Joe in town. Joel, the owner, once built the very tracks that were plastering the grins on our faces. He now crafts delicious food that, ironically, also plasters our faces. We’re still messy kids at heart.
The RAAW Summit sought to show the riders we were supporting a slice of that same vibe. The plan was simple – bikes, beers, and burgers. The very same combination that we’d been doing for the past decade and that had gotten Champéry engrained in the soul of the company. While we’d already met all the riders face to face, we’re all in the business of bikes, so it was a pleasure to finally get out for a ride with them. There’s no better way to do a business meeting.
We couldn’t have asked for a better day – The sun was shining, the tracks were dry and running like a dream, and the pace from run one was bouncing off the limiter. While not everyone we supported could make it, as some were injured or just too far away to make the journey, the crew we had was loving life in the vert berms and sunny weather. We lapped until the final lift, drank in every last bit of stoke, and feasted on the delights that Joel and his team rustled up. As has always been the same with our days in the little Swiss town, we’d like to think that the smiles from that day lasted for many after.
Next year can’t come fast enough, where we’ll get to do it all over again at the next RAAW Summit.
The town of Champéry sits under the impressive Dents du Midi mountain range, and a big thank you goes out to the very kind people at Region Dents du Midi for their support of the RAAW Summit 2023.