Where is the best Alps mountain biking? BikeVillage has their say.

Where is the best mountain biking in the Alps?

Maps to take mountain biking in the Alps

It’s the biggie, the question I’ve been asking myself since the first time I wrapped my mountain bike in cardboard and took a train to the mountains of Europe.

That was in 1994, when I was 17. Where IS the best Alps mountain biking?

Back then I’d found a musty smelling map shop in the Yellow Pages and bought as many French maps as I could on the limited budget my job in the bike shop gave me.

I would spread them out on the kitchen floor and spend hours with a highlighter pen marking out every squiggle, curve and line that looked like it might be hiding some mind-bending singletrack, some new adventure that would re-define, yet again the boundaries of what we thought of as ‘the best’ mountain biking at the time.

23 years on and some things have changed. The obsession became a profession, for a start, and the Alps became a home rather than a destination.

There are slightly easier ways of checking out potential trails in a new area too. It’s been a good decade for technology, that’s for sure.

The best mountain biking in the Alps

But after nearly 20 years living in the mountains, am I any closer to sticking a pin in a map and saying “there, that’s it! The best riding in the Alps is at (insert generic alpine village name)”?

Maybe, and maybe not.

I was pretty happy with my first answer for a long time. The Tarentaise valley in France ticks so many of the right boxes:

  • It’s not too steep (by Alpine standards. Pretty darned steep on any other scale)
  • It has an insane density of trails left by a rich history in mining, farming, hunting and getting invaded by neighbouring countries.
  • It has an equally insane variety of trail types, from high level flowing singletrack above the tree line to tighter, cheekier singletrack in the north facing woods below. Cross to the southern slopes and you find an almost Mediterranean feel to the biking, with more rock slabs and faster flowing trails.
  • The cherry on the cake is the scale of it all – the highest rideable point locally is at 3769m (read that again and think about just how high that is) and in places the valley floor is down at 500m. That leaves over three vertical kilometres of Alp to shake a stick at.

Amazing, yes. More than enough trails for a lifetime in fact. But are the Alps the best?

Over the years two distinct lumps have appeared in the sauce of perfection that is my home.

One: subjectivity.

Confusing a subjective opinion with an objective statement is the preserve of the true asshole.

My ‘best’ trail in the Alps might be your worst nightmare, for any number of reasons. The question ‘where is the best Alps mountain biking?’ should only ever be treated as a personal quest rather than any kind of definitive classification.

To reflect this subjective end each destination explored below is represented by it’s spiritual animal persona. Yes it is.

Two: scale of the Alps.

Understand this – the Alps are absolutely massive. It sounds so obvious but most mountain bikers, when asked to name 5 Alpine biking spots would probably manage “Portes du Soleil, err, Les Arcs and, umm, Verbier I guess. Isn’t that pretty much it?”

The Alps cover 11% of continental Europe and we, lest we forget, are riding push bikes.

To this end, we have focussed both on some classic (to us) areas and those that tend to be a little less visited, just to broaden our horizons.

What does BikeVillage know about mountain biking in the Alps?

It’s a personal search and an impossibly massive one. But these aren’t reasons to stop. Quite the opposite in fact.

There’s a huge void of incredibly rich riding, living, sharing, laughing, drinking, eating and grinning experiences out there just waiting to suck us in and see how well we do at expanding to fill it.

Maybe that’s a metaphor taken too far but it’s basically the premise behind the AlpPacker project.

At the moment it’s a North-South traverse of the French and, to a lesser degree, Italian Alps starting at the iconically beautiful lake Annecy. Finishing whenever our front wheels hit Mediterranean sea water.

At the moment it’s split into two 1-week legs, but that could just as easily be two months so numerous are the amazing trails on the way.

Plans are afoot to bring in an eastern flavour with a Slovenian leg, possibly linking this right through to the western Alps, as did Tito Tomasi in his excellent Alpine chronicle.

Until then, you can sit back and enjoy some vicarious armchair exploring as we break down some (by no means all) of the favourite spots we have ridden along our own personal adventure.

Mountain biking in The Beaufortain

Where to mountain bike in The Beaufortain: Click to see a map of The Beaufortain

Why MTB here? Chocolate box views with a pretty well marked network of enduro style trails. And cheese.

Who to mountain bike with?
For day guiding, why not give friendly local guide Wim Coorman a shout at info@riding-life.com
For an organised trip join one of the BikeVillage Hut Trips in the Beaufortain.

Who to stay with?
Either BikeVillage or else the Hotel du Doron, right in the centre of Beaufort.

Spirit animal: Stoat – a very beautiful and elegant to look at but with some pretty savage (rooty in this case) behaviour hiding beneath!

Mountain biking in Slovenia

Where to mountain bike in Slovenia: Click to see a map of Slovenia mountain biking

Why MTB here? This place is the spirit of mountain biking. Un-ridden trails, under-visited yet super-friendly culture and unbelievable beauty. Adventure awaits.

Who to mountain bike with?
Trail access is tricky in Slovenia so you really, really need a qualified guide with good local contacts. Anej and Dixie at BikeNomad are your dream ticket and their idyllic farm is the perfect place to stay.

Spirit animal: St Bernard Dog – A dream vision from the mountains. Friendly, strong and intelligent but demanding respect.

Mountain biking in The Tarentaise

Where to mountain bike in The Tarentaise: Click to see a map of The Tarentaise

Why MTB here: Stunning natural singletrack, absolutely loads of it. Most of it is quite hidden away though so using a qualified guide is very much recommended.

Who to mountain bike with, and stay with?
This is BikeVillage’s home patch, so come and see why we live here!

Spirit animal: Border Collie – a friendly demeanour and a fantastic all-rounder, albeit quite a cheeky one, not short of character.

Mountain biking in Graubunden

Where to mountain bike in Graubunden: Click to see a map of Graubunden

Why MTB here? Chamonix may have invented Alpine tourism but the Swiss arguably perfected it – St Moritz, Davos and so many more high-end destinations that, as luck would have it, are just teaming with trails.

Mountain biking Swizz Alps

Who to mountain bike with?
Bike Academy is an awesome bike school

Who to stay with? Swiss bike hotels is a thing. A great thing.

Spirit animal: We’re cheating here with a Spirit film – Wes Anderson’s Life Aquatic to be precise. That’s what Graubunden feels like – riding inside the most visually epic film whilst a mad soundtrack accompanies your every adventure.

Mountain biking in Chamonix

Where to mountain bike in Chamonix: Click to see a map of Chamonix

Why MTB here? This place has been on the tick list for Alpine travellers since the 18th century. Glaciers tumble their chaotic, spectacular way into the backdrop as brightly coloured Euro-enduro bikers hop and endo their way down improbably steep lines. Some trails are off limits to bikers in the busier summer months so again a local, qualified guide is a must.

Who to mountain bike with?
The lovely guides at Ecole MCF de la Vallée de Chamonix will show you the best of the trails.

Who to stay with? The bike-friendly Hotel Arveyron is a top spot.

Spirit animal: Zoo tiger – it’s the reason everyone goes to the zoo so you might have to stand in queue but hey, it’s a frickin’ tiger*!

*Please remember tigers like killing people. You are not stronger than a tiger.

Mountain biking in Maurienne

Where to mountain bike in Maurienne: Click to see a map of Maurienne

Why MTB here? Forget the heavy industry in the valley floor and think big mountain riding – no shuttling 2 hour loops but more shuttling, then climbing 3 hours then hiking 1 more. All to get you to a brain-melting all-mountain riding experience that wont feature on Strava’s heatmap any time soon.

Who to mountain bike with?
The AlpPacker Tour comes through the area so is a safe bet.

Who to stay with? If not the AlpPacker then the Hotel Marintan is a great spot.

Spirit animal: Muskahound (Eurohound) sled dog – not the prettiest thing at first glance but capable of taking you to places you never dreamt existed. Epic, epic places.

Mountain biking in Briancon/Queyras

Where to mountain bike in Briancon/Queyras: Click to see a map fo Briancon/Queyras

Why MTB here? Fortified to the hilt, Briancon and the Queyras don’t give up their secrets easily but what a treasure trove of singletrack awaits the adventurous biker. Think huge day rides and multi-day trips. Just don’t come if you don’t like carrying your bike.

Briancon - Where is the best Alps mountain biking?

Who to mountain bike with?
More AlpPacker territory here for a great first bet. Otherwise most of the gites d’etapes are listed here for you to plan your own itinerary.

Spirit animal: Patou guard dog – a big beast bred for killing wolves. Also friendly, brave, loyal and utterly, utterly beautiful.

Mountain biking in Aosta/La Thuile

Where to mountain bike in Aosta/La Thuile: Click to see a map of Aosta and La Thuile

Why MTB here? What’s better than mountain biking? Hint: nothing, unless you add Italian coffee and pasta. Simply stunning big mountain riding, both lift and leg accessed, with restaurants and cafes galore for refuelling.
Who to mountain bike with, and stay with? Aosta Valley Freeride for the win.

Alps mountain biking Aosta Valley

Spirit animal: Ibex – found at high altitude on steep alpine terrain, bounding around and somehow managing to look at ease in the process.

Mountain biking in Sospel

Where to mountain bike in Sospel: Click to see a map of Sospel

Why MTB here? Most people forget that the Alps go all the way to the sea. Sospel is a breeding ground for French enduro champions and offers up sublime trails and a Mediterranean feel. Like finale ligure would have been 20 years ago, but on today’s bikes.

Who to mountain bike with?
Uplifts and advice can be organised through our friends at Cool Bus and with Greg at 1001 sentiers.

Who to stay with? Ash has the perfect biking accommodation in Sospel.

Spirit animal: Cat – pretty sleek and cool, you need Sospel more than Sospel needs you. You really need Sospel!

Mountain biking in Diois

Where to mountain bike in Diois: Click to see a map of Diois

Why MTB here? Theoretically pre-Alps rather than Alps, that means peaks at 2000+m but with such flowy singletrack you can climb as well as descend on it. No need to winch and drop, just ride all day on thin ribbons of perfection.

Who to mountain bike with?
Velorizons offer superb trips with the bonus of Anglophone guides. Otherwise, the 3-day Chemins du Soleil event is a great way to explore the area.

Spirit animal: Swallow – elegant and agile, covering distance with style and poise.

Mountain biking in Finale

Where to mountain bike in Finale: Click to see a map of Finale

Why MTB here? If Europe has a mecca of biking, Finale is surely it. With a huge uplift scene, Finale is the beating heart of enduro on the continent.

Who to mountain bike with?
Luca at Bike and Sun is the consummate professional bike guide and local legend. Given that there are some very dubious guiding outfits of all nationalities in Finale, make sure you give Luca a shout!

Who to stay with? The Hotel San Giuseppe is perfect for bikers

Spirit animal: Debbie Harry (she is an animal!) – a teency bit battered around the edges but pure, undeniable class and fun.

 

That’s it for now.

We’ll keep adding new destinations from time to time but panic not – there is a lifetime of riding in the links and resources above.

Don’t let us tell you where the best mountain biking is in the Alps.

Why not go out and look for yourselves?

You’ll never find the answer, but you might just find your answer.

Comments

Sara Sloman

“What’s your favourite ride guys?” A question my husband Mike and I receive every year when we arrive bleary eyed off the plane and minibus transfer to complete our annual pilgrimage to the sanctuary that is BV. I personally consciously do not answer as there are SO many favourites but I choose to merely give a knowing nod which means “as long as I max out my skills whilst getting down safely and get to buy you a beer, Sam”.

For you and Lyndsey are living legends who are an inspiration as a loving couple, as superb hosts and astute business peeps. I salute you now annnd always – shit face. 😀 Xx

Swine

My favourite ride involved bunny hopping into a puddle and unwittingly soaking a french Bird, her husband then collared Sam riding behind me,and gave Sam a right bollocking and I think he called Sam a roast beef and told him to fuck off back to England ,which still makes me chuckle.
Sam then caught up with me and quite calmly with no abusive language whatsoever explained what I’d done and suggested quite strongly that I should ride back to apologise to said wet Madame,or he’d bum me to death.
Fearing wet Madames husband was also planning my anal demise I rode with trepidation back to the scene of the crime where unbelievably the moist female had seen the funny side of the whole bizarre event and accepted my sincere apologies with a hug and a kiss.
When I explained to Sam on my return the amazing turn of events he was incredulous turned bright red and slapped me senseless calling me a very rude word indeed.A truly memorable ride.

Leave a Reply to Swine Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *