La Tarentaise – Road Biking and Mountain biking

Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise-mapLa Tarentaise region of the French Alpes offers an extraordinary location for both Mountain biking and Road cycling. Access by plane from Lyon or Geneva and by train and motorway right to the heart of the valley make this an extremely simple area to get to with your bikes. The region runs along the Isere river valley and comprises of a number of huge mountain resorts made famous for skiing in the winter and a couple of large valley towns.

Road Cycling – The region is also a popular for road cyclists, with classic routes such as the Col de l’Iseran (2764m), the highest paved road in the Alps, Col du Petit Saint Bernard (2188) and the Cormet de Roseland (1968m). In addition, spread along the valley are a number of well maintained resort access climbs to explore. The valley floor and balcony roads provide the perfect recovery day rides, to explore a number of beautiful villages and hamlets throughout the area.

6056620769_0c6bc4b7bd_oIdeal for families wanting to get their first taste of cycling in the Alps, located on the 12km stretch between Bourg St. Maurice and Aime is a flat paved piece of road dedicated to cyclists, rollerblades and pushchairs.

As well as bike related sports, the region offers hundreds of other activities to keep families, children happy for the duration of your holiday. Open air swimming pools, rafting, paragliding, summer luge, summer skiing (Tignes), hiking, swimming lakes and of course skiing throughout the winter.

999583_10151644169277911_919742052_nMountain Bike – With a large concentration of high altitude resorts, with modern lift systems most are embracing the explosion in popularity of all forms of mountain biking. Many resorts have now adapted their lift system to encourage mountain bikers with bike parks and mountain bike only trails crisscross the region.

Vast networks of interlinking resorts such as the Trois Vallee and the Paradiski offer massive amounts of varied terrain and trails to explore. Links from the valley such as the Arc en Ciel from Bourg Saint Maurice and the Moutier Meribel gondola extend the riding possibilities below the skiable level through the single track forests on the lowers slops leading to the valley.

Tignes/Val d’Isere located at the end of there valley has focused much of its attention on developing a huge selection of manmade downhill tracks with loads of interesting, jumps north shore and huge berm sections. As with most places in the Alpes single track is everywhere, but often shared with walkers, so attention must be taken during busy periods. The area is service by 5 chairlift and gondola as well as uplift services from satellite villages, all of which are FREE during the summer.

Saint Foy Tarentaise is for those who love natural, flowy, breaks off single track. Similar to the winter, this resort, with just a handful of chairlifts is ideal for those who love to head back country with a full backpack and a map.

Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 16.24.33Les Arcs is home to some of the best cross country, single track and downhill trails in France. With an altitude drop of over 2000 meters and trails all the way into Bourg St. Maurice, the area promises trails for all level and style of rider.

La Plagne – The altitude range is from 2739m down to 690m. Recent development have seen huge advances for mountain biking in the highest parts of the domain, through the village sites, right down into the valley and along the banks of the Isère river. The area and altitude range accessible from both the summer lift system as well as free busses provides a vast area for mountain bikers to explore.

Other popular resorts in the region include Courchavel, Meribel and Val Thorens (Les Trois Vallee) and La Rosier

Guide to road cycling in the Tarentaise – Thanks to www.Saintefoy-Tarentains.com

Download Tignes/Val d’Isere MTB trail map – Thanks to http://public.tignes.net

Download Saint-Foy-Tarentaise MTB trail map – Thanks to www.saintefoy-tarentaise.com

Download Les Arcs Mountain Bike Trail map – Thanks to www.lesarc.com

Download La Plagne Mountain Bike Trail map – Thanks to www.la-plagne.com

Download Meribel/Les 3 Vallees Mountain Bike Trail map – Thanks to www.mountain-summer.meribel.net

Portes du Soleil – Multi Pass 2014

Logo MP 2014_small

To enhance their popular summer season, between 7th June and the 7th September the Portes du Soleil offers an unbelievably cheap multi pass for over 50 activities activities as well use of the entire lift system. For as little as €2 per day (or less with consecutive days passes) the pass offers you:

  • Unlimited use of all 21 chairlifts and cable cars (not eligible with bikes)
  • Local inter resort shuttle busses.
  • Road trains
  • Many swimming pools and swimming lakes across the area.
  • Cultural and tourist attractions such as Museum.
  • Certain Ice rinks (excludes skate rental)
  • Tennis courts
  • Mini-Golf

The pass gives you the freedom to get the best from the resort and gain access to many of the lakes, mountain peaks and fantastic walking trails that make up the area.

The pass is only available for guests staying in certain properties signed up to the multi pass scheme, so be sure to ask before booking your property.

To find properties who have signed up to the scheme visit us at Bike lodgingPortes du Soleil.

Bike Lodging

Bike Lodging

Bike Lodging, specialists in bike holidays. Alpe d’Huez, Chamonix, St Maxime,

Heli-skiing in Alpe d’Huez, France

Technically heli-skiing has been banned in France since 1985 due topublic outcry over the concerns of the effect of fuel consumption on the delicate ecosystem of the high mountains as well as the impact of noise pollution.

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With this in mind and you can overcome your conscience, it is still possible to participate in heli-skiing in some form in France. Firstly skiers in resorts that share a border with Italy or Switzerland, where the activity is still legal, such as Morzine or La Rosière can simply ski over into the neighbouring country and pick up their helicopter their. Other companies offer the service where they are picked up in their French resort, fly a legal transfer to Italy or Switzerland, before being taken up to their drop points in these countries.  In Chamonix companies can pick up clients just over the boarder of both Italy and Switzerland.

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However another loophole in the system is available. Although being dropped off at the top of the mountain is illegal in France, being picked up at the bottom and transferred back to the resort is not. So it is possible to use the regular lift system in the resort to arrive at the highest point and in certain geographical areas, easily access mostly untouched powder bowls into which regular skiers and snow boarders rarely venture thanks to the time it would take them to return to the resort by foot or ski. Many French helicopter companies are providing the service where, accompanied by a qualified mountain guide, you are escorted through some magical ski terrain to one of their designated pick up points in the valley.

 ImageOne such resort that provides this service is in Alpe d’Huez. Skiers descending from the Pic Blanc at over 3000meters usually take the impressively long Serrene run back to the resort. Or those a little more adventurous, may take the short ski tour into the Combe du Loup, or the even over the Pyramid. However very few venture into the Glacier du Grand Sablat, aware of the considerable hike it would take to walk out at the bottom. Facing in an easterly direction this valley maintains fantastic snow conditions where other slopes on the l’île au soleil (Island in the sun) sometimes feel the effect of this sunny resort. Bureau des Guides in Alpe d’Huez can provide you with a guide and arrange for the helicopter pick up at the end of this valley, run for around €130 per person.

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Alternatively if you plan to stay at Ribot Lodge the owners can help you with the arrangements.

Mountain biking in Alpe d’Huez after the lifts have closed

Within the mountain biking world, Alpe d’Huez is of course best known for the MegaAvalanche. This three day event attracts thousands of amateurs keen to race against some of the best professional riders. Competitors start at the Pic Blanc at 3300m, beginning the race on the glacier before descending over 30km of gruelling trail to Allemont at 720m.

Climbing to mid station of DMC
When the lifts close its time to get fit and ride up to your favourite trails in Alpe d’Huez.

However Alpe d’Huez is also a world-class location thanks to the explosion in popularity of ‘Enduro’ riding. This combination of cross country, all mountain and even down hill skills lends itself to the huge sprawling resort with miles and miles of single track to explore. During the season, over 250km of well-maintained trails are serviced by a network of chair lifts, gondolas and cable cars.

Unfortunately the summer season is only limited to about 10 weeks, so once schools go back at the end of August the resort starts closing down. However this does not mean the end of the mountain biking season at all. Autumn see some of the best conditions for riding with warm stable conditions and deserted trails. Many business owners, time restricted during the busy summer season, now find time to get a little more time on their bikes.

Cross country trails around Lac Besson
Cross country trails around Lac Besson

My ridding buddy Dan from Ribot Lodge and I finally find ourselves with a little more time on our hands to go and hit our favorite trails. Granted, the high altitude trails off the Pic Blanc are no longer accessible, unless you fancy an epic slog up the service roads. However the majority of the best trails are found just above resort level and all the way into the valley.

One of our favorite inter-seasons rides has us meeting in Bourg for a pre ride coffee. Now some chose to ride the road up to Alpe d’Huez, but we prefer to catch the bus, which costs around €3 and is adapted for mountain bikes. There’s plenty of technical climbing to be done later in the day so good to keep something in the tank for then. Plus these days with both having kids, we have to have to keep our rides times down a little.

The bus drops you close to the top of the resort, where the majority of other riders chose to take one the of the down hill trails back to the valley such as the one from Villard Reculas via the Forêt de l’Ors. However here we chose to jump on the bikes and climb higher by paved then unpaved road to just past the mid station of the DMC gondola, where we hit the XC 11 MTB trail. This is a reasonably new and very fun piece of undulating single track, passing a number of picturesque lakes, ending with a fast decent to the mid station of the Grande Rouse cable car. Here you have a number of options. Continue on past the cable car on the EN7 down towards Vaujany and where there are further options to continue on down to Allemont. Alternatively change to the EN9 trail underneath l’Alpette gondola down to Oz Station (resort). However we chose to take a path that is located between these trails, which lead to just below the resort of Oz, but by a much more naturel and fun forest single track. This path is technically for hikers only and off limits to mountain bikers, but during the inter-season is totally deserted, so we never have any problems.

It starts as a high speed decent through grassy pastures, before dropping into technical

A secret MTB trail leading to the ski village of OZ station
A secret MTB trail leading to the ski village of OZ station

rock gardens, then moves into the forest and fast flowing, natural switch backs. Once in Oz station there is a short climb to bring you up to the lower part and arguably the most enjoyable section of the mega avalanche course (EN1). This is a fast section of forest trails with some high speed and technical berm corners. This trail can lead all the way to the mega finish line in Allemont, but we are usually short of time by this stage, so peel off close to the bottom in the direction of Bourg and the cars. There are trails on either side of the valley leading to Bourg along this 9km section. Both are undulating, but with little actual altitude gain. This section is a race to the cars and generally recognized as the time to drain the last of the energy in the legs.

The time it takes to complete the circuit varies hugely with your skill and fitness level, but you should leave yourself a good half-day. The bus from Bourg to Alpe d’Huez is number 3020 and 2013/14 timetable can be viewed here

Located in and close to Le Bourg d’Oisans are a number of cycling and mountain bike friendly hotels and chalets. One such hotel, Hotel Rondpoint is ideally placed close to the bottom of the road to Alpe d’Huez and offer the possibility of an uplift service to the resort for mountain bikers.