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The best mountain biking in the Alps - our article in the Guardian

Of course like all companies we'll tell you that where we're based is the best the alps has to offer, but we really do mean it - and we've biked most of the Alps to find the best there is. Here's an article I wrote for the guardian a few years back where I pick my 10 favourite spots for some big alpine enduro. You can see the full article on the guardian website here.

St Luc, Switzerland

High in the giddy, vertical world of the Anniviers valley, Saint-Luc offers quintessential Swiss singletrack set against seriously stunning backdrops. A small but hardcore park adds some adrenaline to the mix. The small resort of Saint-Luc isn’t an obvious choice in this area: it’s nearby Zermatt, which has the most famous backdrops and singletracks in the business, while Crans-Montana in the Sierre valley below has the established park scene. However, the riding at Saint-Luc is every bit as good, both in the park and out in the wilds. The funicular uplift is open much earlier than its neighbours, and the sunny slopes mean dry and dusty trails by early spring, so you can get your big-mountain singletrack fix before the main biking season really kicks off.

Recommended route: Balcony Trail

From the top of the funicular follow the signs to the Hôtel Weisshorn. It’s not a particularly exciting climb up the firetrack, but the views up towards the Weisshorn and Bishorn are staggering. Once you reach the hotel, climb up to your left and on to the balcony trail heading towards Zinal. Big-mountain singletracks don’t get any more epic than this, with the rocky terrain and huge glaciers beyond feeling more like the Himalayas. Continue along this line until you see a small track on your right zigzagging through the meadows and on to a firetrack. After a couple of corners take a right turn, following signs for Saint-Luc. This lovely rolling singletrack is so thick with deep red pine needles that it’s like riding along a big soft ginger beard. When you reach the small chalets take a left and drop down through the forest to La Combaz before cruising back along the road into Saint-Luc.

Where to stay:

The Hôtel Beausite has clean, comfortable rooms, helpful staff and great views over the valley for around €170 a night. Another good (and more affordable) option is the Camping d’Anniviers in the town of Vissoie lower down the valley, where you can get a pitch for your tent for around €10. From here you can take a bus or drive up to Saint-Luc, which takes around 15 minutes.

Samoens, Grand Massif

Just a short drive from Les Gets, yet still very much off the UK biking radar, Samoëns and the Grand Massif boast one of the biggest networks of lift-accessed singletrack in the Alps. If you like the idea of huge descents through stunning Alpine backcountry, but would prefer to get there via ski lifts rather than days of slogging through the wilderness, then you won’t find a better place in the Alps than here.

Recommended route: Flaine to Samoens

Straight out of the Flaine gondola you’ll be greeted by a spectacular view of Mont Blanc. Go left towards Samoëns and stick to the right of the grassy peak in front of you. This is proper wilderness and the sort of place that would normally have taken many hours of pushing to access. The fun sheep tracks winding through the shale outcrops slowly turn into a main trail, which eventually brings you to the forest above Samoëns and a singletrack with switchbacks and natural wall rides all the way into the town.

Where to stay:

The hotels are not prepared for biking guests; a better bet is to go for a self-catering apartment. Alps Accommodation offers chalets and apartments with garage space and washing facilities. For guiding check out Ride the Alps.

Crans Montana, Switzerland

There’s a lot of money kicking around these resorts and it shows in the two downhill tracks above the village, which are among the finest man-made runs you’ll encounter. The huge height gains and breathtaking scenery make this a quality venue for epic gravity-assisted adventure.

Recommended route: Plaine Morte to Violettes

Take a series of lifts out of Montana up to the Plaine Morte, where you’ll be greeted by staggering views over the glacier below. Take a left and climb briefly to the peak before dropping down the ridgeline and drifting through the shale towards the col (lowest point on a mountain ridge) ahead of you. As the trail levels out, head to the left into a second valley following signs for Lac de Huiton. The mellow gradient through this valley means you can really rip and carve through the hardpack and shale singletrack, while smooth rock slabs work as hand-made kickers. Keep heading left around the spine following signs for Crans-Montana and Violettes. Push up to the Col de Pochet and then glide back down to the Violettes along glorious singletrack through the meadows.

Where to stay:

Camping Moubra, a tranquil spot among the pines, is one of the best and most affordable options. It offers tent pitches from around €8 a night.

Le Tour, Chamonix, France

Probably the best riding in the Chamonix valley … and maybe even the world.Le Tour and the adjoining Vallorcine valley have legendary trails. Add in breathtaking scenery wherever you look and you’ve got backcountry blasting at its finest. Le Tour is at the Swiss end of the valley and has the gentlest terrain in the area (by Chamonix standards at least). All the good stuff requires a small push or pedal to access, but it’s all easy enough to find if you’re armed with a map. What the map won’t tell you is just how perfect the trails are. Every ridgeline is topped with a ribbon of gorse-lined singletrack winding off towards the vivid blue glaciers and immense peaks.

Recommended route: Les Frettes ridge

From the Col de Balme drop down a magnificent hardpack run to the Col des Posettes. From here, traverse around the left of the Aiguillette des Posettes until you reach a crossroads. Either drop to the left for a brilliant flowing trail across the face or head up to the ridgeline, which is very technical and almost trials-like in sections. Both trails finish in the wood above the Col des Montets, which has seemingly endless switchbacks back into Le Tour. Be aware, though, that biking in this area is restricted in July and August.

Where to stay:

Stay in Chamonix to take advantage of the great nightlife there. Chamonix.com lists a wide range of accommodation options, including camping, self-catering apartment and hotels. The picturesque village of Argentière should also be considered if Chamonix is booked out.

Zermatt, Switzerland

One of the most iconic peaks in the business, the Matterhorn stands guard over some breathtaking singletrack that never seems to end. Those views cost money though, making Zermatt a relatively expensive venue. However, there’s no denying that this a very special place to ride, with magical trails that take you on a full-throttle Alpine adventure through the dazzling glacial peaks to the wooded valleys below.

Recommended route: The Rotthorn to Tasch

If you only ride one descent in Zermatt, make it this swoopy singletrack charge from the Rothorn to Täsch, more than 1,500 metres below on the valley floor. Ride straight out of the back of the lift to pick up a track cutting across the huge scree slope of the Oberrothorn. After this, it’s fair to say you’ll never want to ride a park trail again. Picking up another singletrack coming from the Sunnegga, it’s possible to traverse across the mountain following signs for Täschalp, before plunging into the forest and keeping an eye out for the cheeky lines that cut across the firetrack and deliver you to Täsch.

Where to stay:

Zermatt is car-free so you will have to leave the car at nearby Täsch. Here you’ll find many camping spots, as well as restaurants and hotels that have sprung up to cater for those looking to ease the financial strain of visiting Zermatt. One of the best is Camping Täsch, next to the river and close to the train station for Zermatt, where you can get a tent pitch for €6.70 a night. For more hotels with bike-friendly facilities, such as washing areas and secure storage, the zermatt.ch site has a long list of offerings. It’s also worth mulling over a bike-friendly chalet: OTP is one the most popular local operators.

Alpe d'Huez, France

Made famous by the Megavalanche, Alpe d’Huez has gained something of a celebrity status in the biking community. Huge descents over glaciers, moorland, rocky singletracks and forest trails provide a variety of terrain in what many claim is the home of modern enduro riding. Alpe d’Huez is high on a plateau above Bourg d’Oisans, not far from Les Deux Alpes on the other side of the valley. It’s a very different riding experience to the bike park of Deux Alpes though, with the emphasis on physically challenging natural lines rather than big berms and freeride features.

Recommended route: The Megavalanche route

Arguably one of the most famous descents on earth, the Megavalanche drops from the highest lift on the hill, the Pic Blanc, down to Allemont in the Bourg valley. It covers everything from snow to rocky traverses, sandy berms and pine forest switchbacks, with a few wee climbs just to finish you off. With over 2,500 metres of altitude drop, you can expect to be frozen solid at the top and lying in a pool of sweat at the bottom – layers are the way forward here. If you’ve seen the videos of the race and its mass starts, it can be an eerily quiet experience when riding this run by yourself, but that only adds to the adventure.

Where to stay:

Where to stay There are a number of campsites in the valley beneath Oz, such as Le Colporteur (camping-colporteur.com), while alpedhuez.com lists accommodation options to suit a range of budgets.

Sauze d'Oulx, Italy

Made famous by the Megavalanche, Alpe d’Huez has gained something of a celebrity status in the biking community. Huge descents over glaciers, moorland, rocky singletracks and forest trails provide a variety of terrain in what many claim is the home of modern enduro riding. Alpe d’Huez is high on a plateau above Bourg d’Oisans, not far from Les Deux Alpes on the other side of the valley. It’s a very different riding experience to the bike park of Deux Alpes though, with the emphasis on physically challenging natural lines rather than big berms and freeride features.

Recommended route: Super Sauze

Arguably one of the most famous descents on earth, the Megavalanche drops from the highest lift on the hill, the Pic Blanc, down to Allemont in the Bourg valley. It covers everything from snow to rocky traverses, sandy berms and pine forest switchbacks, with a few wee climbs just to finish you off. With over 2,500 metres of altitude drop, you can expect to be frozen solid at the top and lying in a pool of sweat at the bottom – layers are the way forward here. If you’ve seen the videos of the race and its mass starts, it can be an eerily quiet experience when riding this run by yourself, but that only adds to the adventure.

Where to stay:

Where to stay There are a number of campsites in the valley beneath Oz, such as Le Colporteur (camping-colporteur.com), while alpedhuez.com lists accommodation options to suit a range of budgets.

Les Arcs, France

The bike park at Les Arcs may not be the best the Alps has to offer, but the large network of unmarked singletrack lurking in the woods is really impressive. It’s rooty, rocky and great fun for experienced riders; you’ll either need to hire a guide or spend a week creeping around the woods looking for a trailhead.

Recommended route: La Varda

One of the classic big-mountain routes, this stunning trail off the Lac des Moutons offers everything from fast-rolling hardpack to technical and exposed sections. If you make it past the loopy hounds of hell that guard the sheep up top, you can enjoy a huge singletrack descent dropping 1,200 metres, all the way down to the village of Beaupraz. Go down into Peisey and take the Lonzagne lift back.

Where to stay:

Stay in Bourg-Saint-Maurice at the foot of the mountain, which has a vibrant old town and plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from. The Chill Chalet and the Loft (beds around €25 a night) are each good options. Also check out the Bourg-Saint-Maurice campsite where you can hire a pitch for around €15 a night. Bike Village and Trail Addiction provide accommodation, guiding and airport transfer packages.

Verbier, Switzerland

On the sunny slopes of the Valais, Verbier boasts a jaw-dropping array of world-class singletracks that remain in great condition despite the increasing number of trail riders who flock here every summer. The park is top quality, too, so there’s plenty of variety to keep things interesting.

Recommended route: La Chaux to Morgnes (aka 'Alan')

From the top of the Ruinettes lift go east and climb along the double track, following signs to La Chaux. As you turn around the spine you’ll spot a rocky track below the ridgeline in front of you. This leads you to the start of a sublime trail that follows the spine all the way to the valley floor. Unlike many of the natural lines here, the tight switchbacks are often set deep in natural gullies, which mean you can properly rail them and keep on the gas. Big grins are guaranteed by the time you finally reach Le Morgnes, where you can either climb up to Sarreyer and get a bit more trail time, or just roll down the road back to Le Châble and let those warped discs cool down a little.

Where to stay:

For local holiday packages see Bike Verbier and MTB Verbier; both offer week-long packages including accommodation, guiding, meals, transport, lift passes and laundry for around €1,100pp. If you’re just visiting for a day or two with your own transport then consider stopping at the lift at Le Châble. There’s a huge parking area here and it means you avoid the drive up to Verbier.

Espace Killy, France

Among the rocky peaks and glaciers of the Tarentaise valley, this giant bike park has a huge number of trails for all abilities. Forget any notions of forest singletrack and exploring forgotten valleys – this no-nonsense park is all about big berms, big bikes and big views. The Superenduro and DH world cup in Val d’Isère has cemented the area as a serious biking destination, and as if this weren’t enough, it’s totally free to use throughout the season. With most of the riding above 2,000 metres, a big mountain experience with stunning views is guaranteed, as are fast-draining, all-weather trails.

Recommended route: Ice Tignes

Big thrills are to be had along this knife-edge ridgeline, which is the closest thing you’ll get to a natural trail in Tignes. From Tovière you’ll see the path heading up the ridge in front of you. With 360-degree views over the glaciers and with massive drops on either side, this singletrack picks its way around the rocky outcrops. It takes some confidence to ride the really exposed sections, but it flows very well if you can keep your head. High Alpine giddiness guaranteed.

Where to stay:

The Dragon Lodge has simple, straightforward accommodation starting at €35 B&B. Startline MTB, a mountain bike guide to Tignes and Val d’Isere, can also help with bike hire, bike parks and accommodation.

mtb alps

Mountain bike Holidays Alps

Staying in our luxury chalet in the centre of the beautiful, medieval walled city of Briancon, you'll have access to a truly unique and undiscovered mtb paradise of endless, untouched singletrack in massive terrain surrounded by glaciers, huge peaks and deep canyons. Super fast, flowing singletrack litters the mountain sides around here - smooth, winding dream-like trails that twist and turn through the mediterannean pines and are bathed in over 300 days of sunshine per year - so you can forget the sloppy and cold conditions of the northern alps you may have ridden before!

Here's a little teaser of what to expect:

Rides are ski lift assisted throughout the summer meaning we can ride from 1000 - 3500m and take in epic descents up to 20km in length with minimal pedal time. There's really nowhere else in the Alps that offers this level of variety and back country escapism straight off the lifts.

Our riding area is vast too, taking in the resorts of Serre Chevalier, Montgenevre, Sauze D'Oulx, Bardonecchia, La Grave, Valloire, Sestriere, Alpe D'Huez and a whole lot more, including uplift opportunities on the highest cols in the Alps, such as the Galibier, Granon and Izoard, to access the most epic and untouched singletrack you can imagine.

It's difficult to describe just how good this place is, but you need to forget what you think you know about Alpine biking - it really is on another level for those huge backcountry trails you dream about, and after riding pretty much everywhere in the Alps during research for our book - 'Alps mountain biking', we simply couldn't believe what was down here, and just how completely undiscovered it still is. In fact we gurantee you won't ever want to ride anywhere else again!

Here's some guest drone footage from summer 2018

To make sure your riding experience is a great one, we keep group sizes small and it will always be myself (Steve) who is guiding you rather than second guides and gap year types. I hold the full French qualification so there are no worries with legalities and safety on the mountain - just great riding, great guiding and small groups to cut the faff factor to a minimum. Back at our luxury chalet in Briancon, things are no less fanatical, and Eleanor will serve up a feast each night to keep you shredding all week long!

mtb alps

Prices and Dates

Our mtb holidays run from June until October. Prices are per person and include accommodation in our chalet, breakfast and evening meals, guiding and any vehicle support we need.

We offer a 5% discount for returning customers and 2 week bookings.

1 week - 800 euros

A week's stay with us includes 7 nights accommodation and 5 full day's guided riding. There's also the possibility of some shorter rides on your arrival and departure days depending on flight times.

Long Weekends - 550 euros

Long weekends include up to 4 nights accommodation and as much riding as we can get in depending on your arrival and departure times.

Airport transfers

We offer airport transfers from Turin airport for 100 euros per person return. A 50 euro supplement applies for single travellers.

mtb alps

Testimonials

Here's what a few guests have had to say in the last few years...

 

"What a holiday! Briancon is certainly an undiscovered gem and should be on everyone's list. The amazing trails, food and chalet (loving that hot tub!) have really raised the bar on previous trips. That epic line from La Grave was the highlight I think, a megavalanche on acid! Broken but buzzing from another great stay with you. Big thanks to Steve, Eleanor and Maeva.- Simon M, August 2018

 

"Another belter of a trip with Bike Alp! So many new trails every year, what a place. Cheers guys!- Chris D, July 2018

 

"The best mtb setup you'll find in the alps - incredible riding and incredible accommodation and food. Can't ask for any more - definitely coming back!- Rob B, August 2018

 

"The best biking holiday weve ever experienced, the riding is as diverse as you can possibly imagine, truly epic and endless Alpine trails. Steve's knowledge of the area is frankly astonishing. Eleanor's great cooking tops off the day! Awesome, loved every minute of it, we will be back! - Steve S, August 2016

 

"Amazing singletrack! - Scott G, August 2016

 

"Best single track I've ridden for a long time , one of my top spots in the world fantastic week guiding and top food , can't wait for next year! - Chris F, August 2016

 

"A huge thanks for the guiding in Briancon - we all agreed it was the best riding we've done in the Alps for real, natural terrain. - James, August 2017

 

"Been going for 3 years now to this beautiful location which offers a good mix of riding for DH and enduro. Steve and Eleanor are perfect hosts and dish up some super food after riding. Steve's local knowledge of the hidden trails around the mountains makes the difference. We will be back for sure!! - Shane, June 2012

 

"Steve showed us around some epic Alpine routes - amazing. So far, probably the best riding i've ever done!" - Tom, August 2015

 

"A totally amazing week. You both made our trip an unforgettable one. Our confidence has improved immensely on the bike and it has advanced us by years. Without you Steve, we wouldn't have looked and any of those jumps or ridden so fast on the trails.  Eleanor, the food was unbelievably good every single day. Perfect food after a perfect day. a massive thank you for being such perfect hosts and for a trip I'll remember forever!!" - Chris, July 2013

 

"Absolutely Fab time - awesome riding in an amazing area. 10/10 Steve & Eleanor. Many thanks" - Joff, July 2015

 

"Fantastic food ;-) Great yard to tinker with the bike after a day of shredding. The guiding was spot on, especially the secret trails. Riding in Samoens with Steve has helped me progress like I would never dreamt of. Thanks to Steve I am hitting higher drops and sending it on wider gaps and overall just shredding that much harder. The personal touch and the ability to cater for all styles of riding and making it all fun is what will bring me back, regardless if I have to ride with people of different skill sets" - Oli, June 2012

 

"Amazing holiday guys, thanks so much. Steve provides you with great knowledge of the local terrain, along with a confidence giving calm demeanour - apart from telling us the cable car once fell, whilst we were in it! Eleanor provided superb hospitality and food, can't fault this holiday! - Kev, July 2015

 

"Best Bike vacation of my life... Food was restaurant quality, the best tour guide in all of France. Accommodation is excellent. It was my first time on a DH MTB. Great time! Definately I will repeat... The best... Thankx! - Luis, July 2012

 

"Just a quick thanks for the trip, it was awesome fun!! we will def be back next year!" - Paul, August 2012

 

"Hi steve had the best time of my life! I will be back when i get my new bike. Thanks guys." - Josh, July 2012

 

"Samoens has to be some of the biggest and best natural terrain riding in Europe. With Steve's guiding you will cover more vertical than you could imagine in the time you have. Overall Bike-Alp provides great riding and great hospitality". - Chris B, August 2012

 

"Great riding with a real good mix of terrain. Only outdone by the fantastic food every night! Thanks guys for a great week" - Toby, August 2012

 

"Just wanted to drop you an email on behalf of the boys to say thanks for a cracking week - riding, chalet, company and most importantly the food were excellent! Plus a nutty cat thrown in for good measure!" - Tom, September 2012

 

In any correspondance with us be sure to let us know your contact details, group size, dates required and a little bit about yourself - ie; what sort of level rider you are.

You can drop us an email here: info@bike-alp.com

Or give us a call on 0033 782 17 19 25