Alps for beginners

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  • Alps for beginners
  • Premier Icon timidwheeler
    Subscriber

    We are hoping to go to the Alps next June. We ride at England/Wales red standard. Can anyone recommend a good base with lots of easier tracks and trails? I quite fancy Germany/Austria or somewhere a bit quieter. Any advice greatly welcomed. I have done quite a bit of googling but suffering a bit of information overload. Good website/guide book recommendations also very welcome.

    Thank you

    nealglover
    Member

    We ride similar stuff to you in the UK by the sound of it.

    We’ve been to Meribel the last two years and love it, loads of trail riding without being full on DH, but mainly downhill (with a small “d”) if that’s what you prefer.

    Massive area that can be covered easily with lift access when needed.

    There are also plenty of XC routes if that’s what you want.

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    I’d say the week we did with A Quick Release down in the Pyrenees might suit you… It was all self-powered though, which to me is a drawback, but the riding was fantastic.

    Might be worth checking in with White Room to see if they’re doing their Alps beginners weeks again- not sure they did last year. Never did one myself but most of the folks who were there when we went were returning, having done one and loved it.

    Other guiding companies are available ๐Ÿ˜‰ Whatever option- guiding will be a very good idea, to make the most of your time and make sure you stay at the level of riding you’re comfortable with.

    JonEdwards
    Member

    Second AQR. Brilliant for newcomers to proper mountains, but also plenty to keep even teh best riders entertained.

    Stay at Hotel Le Lutin (the AQR hotel) and you’ll get royally looked after too. Awesome food.

    mafiafish
    Member

    A lot of stuff in PDS is a reasonable gradient and fairly well-maintained these days. The Greens/Blues are great fun and there are a few nice xc routes to. It can get a bit mental on the steeper/ rootier/ “clayier” trails if you have prolonged rain though. To my shame I don’t really know anywhere else save Alpe d’Huez, not much there to be honest.

    somewhere a bit quieter

    &

    stuff in PDS

    ….hardly fits the bill, but it is relatively easy riding.

    I could give you some advice on the French / Italian Alps, but dont really know Germany or Austria, sorry.

    Premier Icon bigjim
    Subscriber

    Drop Sam at bikevillage an email, if XC singletrack is more your thing. One thing I would say is a week in the Alps will be the best thing you will do for your riding, well it was for me anyway. Within a couple of days you’ll not be batting an eyelid about what would normally see you getting off and walking down.

    second Bikevillage for more mellow trails,routes suitable for the ability of the rider and some good coaching from Sam

    geetee1972
    Member

    Timid can I make a strong recommendation for your first visit being with Bike Verbier.

    The area you go to is less important than the people that show you around. It’s easy(ish) to go to the Alps having never been before if what you want to do is ride DH tracks. You just plant yourself in Morzine/Les Gets and follow everyone else to the chairlifts!

    But if you want to ride trails, it’s a bit different and not quite as accessible. Staying with a guiding company means you will get the most the Alps have to offer as well as stay safe; this goes for not getting yourself into a tricky situation at 2000m as much as it does finding the right trails.

    Bike Verbier have a well earned reputation on this site. Run by Lucy and Phil, they combine chairlift access with their own van to give you rides among the best the region has to offer. They will always look after you and won’t have you doing anything you’re not comfortable doing. If the group staying in the chalet ends up being of mixed ability, they will sub divide the group so that everyone gets to ride their preference.

    Verbier is lovely and the chalet they own is as good as you could ever hope for, oh and the food is amazing.

    If you go, you will go back i assure you!

    Premier Icon nickjb
    Subscriber

    PdS is certainly busier that most places but it’s still easy to find peaceful trails. Most of the marked stuff is very similar to UK trail centres but there’s more of it and lifts to do the hard bit. We regularly take newbies and they love it. Check the opening times where ever you end up as June is around the start of the season.

    Luchon is great, too but the lift assisted stuff is fairly limited. Better suited to a long weekend unless you go guided.

    peasant
    Member

    +1 for MERIBEL

    Premier Icon timidwheeler
    Subscriber

    All great stuff, thanks. We hadn’t really considered a guided week. We were thinking of a week camping and mincing round some gorgeous scenery. I may have to rebudget.

    I hope the OP now realises that they were mistaken when he/she said they wanted to go to Germany or Austria ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I was thinking Bike Village or Bike Verbier for a real tech-fest of a holiday next year, is that not the case? I thought Bike Village used trails near Seez, like Double Header and La Varda which are pretty full on.

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    I’m kind of an enthusiast for guiding… The way I see it is, you pay a lot in time and hassle to get there. And then you’ve got meals, accomodation etc. And then you’ve got to sort out your riding, decide where to go, find the trails, find how to get there… And all that stuff takes time out of your riding. And then, in most locations it’s likely you’ll lose some time to riding crap trails, and pretty likely that you’ll not find the best the area has either.

    If you want, say, a downhilling week or a bikepark week then that’s relatively straightforward, though. But none of the best riding I’ve done in France was at a park, and the best park riding wasn’t on the maps anyway.

    …but camping has its attractions too, and not just the price.

    I guess that if you feel you can read a map, do some internet research, talk to locals and want to spend time on that sort of thing, then why not go DIY. Especially if you dont want to ride with a big group, or want to ride at your own pace, stop when you want, etc

    Or, if you just want to ride, and/or are a trail centre type person, have your food cooked for you, then guided is probably best.

    I’ve done both, just saying that you shouldnt rule either out (as these threads tend to turn into Classifieds on STW).

    Sorry – none of this answers your question about red-graded-like trail locations. Most of the Alps bike parks will have what you need – groomed DH and xc type stuff, particularly in the tree line. You could look somewhere like Andorra if you wanted to avoid the Alps, but a bit tougher to get to.

    Premier Icon timidwheeler
    Subscriber

    To be honest we would probably prefer the freedom of non-guided if we can make it work. I was thinking Germany as I love beer and sausages.

    geetee1972
    Member

    I was thinking Bike Village or Bike Verbier for a real tech-fest of a holiday next year, is that not the case?

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahah,

    hahahahahahahah

    No don’t worry. There is more than enough tech in Verbier. Best riding I’ve ever done in the 25 years I’ve been riding.

    …but camping has its attractions too, and not just the price.

    No it really doesn’t, not when it comes to mountain biking anyway. Where do you leave your bike? Where do you maintain and service your bike? Where do you wash your bike? Where do you put all your dirty clothes after you’ve ridden your bike? Where do you cook the mountain of pasta you will need having spent all day riding your bike? What do you sleep on when your bones are so from having ridden your bike all day long?

    No, really, camping is about the worst idea I can imagine combining with a mountain biking holiday.

    Oh and the trail centre remark being aligned with guided riding?

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah.

    You got the first bit right. It you actually want to ride your bike and have the most fun doing so, guided is the way to go unless you just want to follow the Plenny train.

    Premier Icon vinnyeh
    Subscriber

    If you’re going without anyone else with any regional experience ie all first time in the Alps, and unguided, do it the easy way- go to the PDS.

    A huge network, easily accessible riding of every sort from gravel roads to WC DH, loads of infrastructure, you can follow a route in a guidebook, or pore over maps to your hearts content building a route, hire a guide, whatever you want.

    Ticks all the boxes except niche credibility.
    The next year, try somewhere else.

    Premier Icon vinnyeh
    Subscriber

    oh, come on geetee, you’re sounding a bit of a cock now.

    marco
    Member

    Les Arcs is a good base. Some good stuff on the bike park les arcs and Bourg st Maurice is a nice town to stay in too.
    Check out Chill Chalet for accomodation and Coolbus for transfers & guides. Ask for Brian at Coolbus
    Everyone must do Black 8 at least once!!

    geetee1972
    Member

    oh, come on geetee, you’re sounding a bit of a cock now.

    I’m just a bit bored today so apologies.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love camping. I’ve been trying to get the wife to agree to do it and she flat refused. I spent a lot of my childhood camping with my brother and dad.

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    See, there’s no chance in hell I’d camp on one of my foreign biking trips- I end every week smashed to bits and aching in places that at the start of the week, I had no places. But lots of people do, and like it. Maybe they’re doing different things on the bikes, maybe they’re just hard as nails, or soft in the head.

    workhard
    Member

    Les Gets/Morzine or Samoens in the French Alps
    Leogang in Austria (Salzburgerland)

    would be my recs.

    wolfenstein
    Member

    @timidwheeler.. May i ask what bike you willl be bringing?

    Premier Icon timidwheeler
    Subscriber

    Will probably be on a whippet. I am really not looking for DH. I want XC trails, stunning views and nice pubs for the evening.

    Premier Icon nickjb
    Subscriber

    I love camping too, but no need if you go somewhere like Morzine. Chalets are so cheap. You get somewhere comfy to sleep, good shower and safe bike storage. There’s a good chance it will rain, too, so a solid roof is nice.

    Premier Icon wallop
    Subscriber

    I had a fab time camping in Bourg St Maurice this year, and yes – you’ll come back a far better rider than you went out. Amazing.

    mtbmatt
    Member

    Bike Village in the Alps or AQR in the Pyrenees. Both brilliant companies that can cater for all types of riders.

    Munqe-chick
    Member

    Footprint do one “mountain biking europe” is a good guide book.

    I love camping and the first year we went to PdS and camped in Les Gets for 10 days. the campsite itself was phenomenal, left bike in car, facilities to wash etc that wasnt’ a problem. but as mentioned my body was so bruised and battered it didn’t like sleeping in a thermarest!

    I can highly recommend Bike Verbier they have trails for ALL riders and capabilities, including super duper insanely tech stuff. The guides are phenomenal riders and will actually spend time developing you as a riding, teaching you skills, showing you the line, letting you practice it, if that is what you want. So basically included in the price was free tuition. Definately worth every penny as you only need a small amount of money for lift passes and food ont he Wednesday otherwise it’s all included. Awesome holiday we are going back in 2013.

    Premier Icon timidwheeler
    Subscriber

    Cheers Munge, just ordered that book from Amazon.

    grum
    Member

    I camped in Luchon and had an ace time. MTFU – hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha (because that seems to be a really good way to make a point ๐Ÿ™„ )

    We got a day of guiding from AQR which was definitely worth doing – spent the rest of the trip doing unguided bike park stuff.

    Premier Icon Trekster
    Subscriber

    Another +1 for Verbier
    My next best biking holiday was this year with http://summitdown.com/

    I am not much of a DH fan but Trev advised us and provided some of the local maps tp enable us to go find some nice singletrack. One of our group(Charlene)rode an On-One for the week and managed fine by riding to hers and the bikes ability ๐Ÿ˜†

    ianv
    Member

    1 There is not much open in June in terms of lifts. Not sure about the PdS but deux alpes opens mid June, Some of the Southern Parks are open before that on Weekends (Montgenevre, Allos) but that’s it. Most stuff kicks off July.
    2. The PdS has much worse weather than the parks further south.
    3. Anywhere in France other than the PdS will be quiet.
    4. No idea about Austria/Germany other than the lifts are pretty expensive in Austria

    Some ideas:
    http://singletrackworld.com/forum/topic/euro-road-trip-2012

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    Non dh and quiet does not equal pds. Les arcs area is a good bet. Would suggest guided and either a beginners week or getting I touch with the company and making sure there are others of a similar ability or that there enough guides to make sure your not tagged on a more advanced group. Have a look at the white room.

    Premier Icon jambalaya
    Subscriber

    If you don’t mind doing a bit of research you might like to consider Lenzerheide in Switzerland as a base, aside from the local riding spread out around the valley you have Laax/Flims nearby and you can get your bikes round to Arosa via bus/train and ride back for an all day epic type ride.

    I am a little surprised at the Bike Verbier suggestions, its a very well regarded company perhaps “the best”, it would certainly be a rolls royce introduction to the Alps but I winder whether it isn’t best as a second or third holiday. It is also premium priced, justifiably so I would say, I tried to book this year but they sell out pretty quickly.

    I’ve been to the PDS a few times, I wouldn’t say it fits your quiet / out of the way at all

    Samoens might work – have a look at these guys, they seem to offer a nice mix of guided days and days off, I’ve not been with them but website looks interesting Bike-Alp

    finners
    Member

    There are a lot of good points here. Trouble is everyone has a favourite or different ideas. I would +1 for the PDS area. Yes it can be busy at times, but the area is so big you dont really notice it as much when your on the trails. Which there are plenty to chose from, of all levels. We have been the passed few years in a decent sized group or varying abilities. From full-on Downhillers to the recreational xc rider. EVERYONE had a great time. If your with a bunch of mates the experience and laughs you have make the holiday. I have always fancied Bike Verbier as i only ever hear good things about it and folk on here are not easily pleased a lot of the time ๐Ÿ™‚ But i would go back to PDS (Morzine in particular) in a heart beat.
    I would definitely suggest booking a chalet however. I would very happily recommend Alptitude Morzine. Ben and the rest of them run a very good thing….

    Grum p
    Member

    For a first trip, especially of you’re not too confident heading off to explore “off piste” then guided makes a whole lot of sense, you’ll get a much higher ratio of enjoyable riding to well-I’m-liking-this-at=the-moment-but-wtf-is-happening-with-that-cliff-infront-of-meeeee moments!

    If you want to do it for yourself however, and like food, try Italy, particularly the Val d’aosta.

    For uplift you have La Thuile, Cervinia and Pila and for just riding out then there’s all manner of amazing trails which have pretty much the same access rules as Scotland (i.e., VTT are allowed, but be sensible, slow down/stop for pedestrians and don’t bother the livestock) And as for the food, well, it’s Italy! We go through from Chamonix and pretend to ski/bike/climb for an hour just so we can spend the afternoon eating!

    There’s an excellent guidebook (available in English and everyfink) here: http://www.versantesud.it/INGLESE/dettaglio.asp?id=318

    The Aosta valley freeride guys do uplift and guiding (generally more full-face style, but they aren’t all gnar): http://aostavalleyfreeride.com/bike-activities.php

    And here’s a wee trip report to La Thuile: http://chamonixbikeblog.wordpress.com/2012/09/02/singletrack-heaven-la-thuile/

    The rest of the Chamonix bike blog site might help give you some ideas too, there’s t.r. from Samoens and Megeve too.

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