Alps2.0: Les Arcs, Finale Ligure, Verbier
Alps2.0. My wife and I decided to return to the Alps after having visiting Portes du Soleil and Chamonix 2 years ago.
Our first stop was Les Arcs with a base in Bourg St. Maurice. A quick ride down from our hotel to the funicular provided access to all of Les Arcs. Bourg St. Maurice was a great place to stroll around in the late afternoon and evening after riding, and my wife also enjoyed visiting Arc1950, which shares the same developer as Whistler village. The Tarentaise Valley region is also interesting from a historical perspective with Roman artifacts close by in Aime.
Les Arcs has some really fun and flowy runs that are part of the main trail map (Red10, Cachette DH), and serve as a great warm up for all the tasty bits of single track that are the true treasure of the area. The single track in the area varies from fast and flowy, to very steep and technical and everything in between.
Typical riding days for me was to lift surf up to a bike park run for warm-up, and then pick-off as much natural single track as I could before I needed to return for the day.
With so much elevation loss to work with, the downhills seemed endless, and I stopped once in a while to grab a picture as scenery changed or an interesting trail feature presented itself.
For single track trail access, I dug up an outstanding map and a collection of GPS tracks that I could merge into a workable ride plan, given my 3 riding days in Les Arcs.
Les Arcs GPS tracks here:
A note on the bike park tracks: Since Les Arcs doesn’t get the amount of bike traffic that Portes du Soleil does (for example), the bike park tracks were still fresh and not blown-out from breaking bumps even late into the season (end of August). This made for smooth berm railing without the typical teeth rattle!
As with any trip to the Alps, a large unknown was the weather. Weather reports were calling for thunderstorms mid-way through our stay in Les Arcs but never appeared, leaving us with perfectly clear skies to take in the breathtaking views.
Here are just a few pictures from Les Arcs:
Top of TransArc area:
Top of Red10 bike park track (fun!):
Making my way over to Grange Hill:
Along Grange Hill. This was a tight/techincal/steep track that intersected a dirt road along the way:
Morning view of Mont Blanc from the Cachette lift:
From Cachette lift and down towards Bourg St. Maurice. This is still well-below the top of TransArc, to give you an idea of the elevation loss potential for various tracks.
The start of another very tasty and long single track called Chicane in the GPS tracks. I linked this track with the Cachette DH track for a very long run to the bottom of the valley:
A twisty bit of the Chicane track:
Popping out of an awesome single track descent into several beautiful hamlets along the way is another one of the aspects that make this area special and unique:
More pics here:
LesArcs pictures by robertmtb - Photobucket
Last edited by robertj; 10-01-2011 at 09:00 PM.
Here's a video of a portion of Grange Hill in Les Arcs (not my video). It contains the section pictured in my post.
grangehill section 3 in les arcs - YouTube
Thanks for the post, this looks awesome.
Thanks for sharing. That looks like a fantastic time. Hope you had fun.
Wonderful. The Mojo HD looks so good in front of the big mountains!
The world needs a huge socio-economic change...be it. We all need to ride more....
Thanks for the comments, everyone. I'm planning on posting up the 2nd stop soon...lots of activity on the week getting back and lots of pics to go through! :-)
2nd stop: Finale Ligure
If it’s not broken, why fix it?
Even though my wife and I both enjoy the breathtaking scenery in the French and Swiss Alps, we decided during the trip planning phase to change things up and see something totally different for the 2nd leg of our trip. I had previously seen videos of Finale Ligure riding, which looked awesome. After a bit more research, we found that the region would be ideal for both of us, with a unique combination of scenery (Ligurian Alps meet the Ligurian Sea), riding, interesting architecture and history (in the form of medieval towns), and food (Italian seafood!!). Finale Ligure actually turned out to be better than we had even imagined.
For rides, I knew I was going to be coming off of 3 days of lift access riding in Les Arcs, so I planned a couple of pure all-mountain days with some big climbs and descents. Shuttle access is available in Finale Ligure, but I opted to earn my turns there and was happy to pedal my HD to the top!
The first ride was the classic ride up to the ex-NATO base and down the super fun “freeride” singletracks that originate from the base. The ride is ~3700’ of climbing (mostly all at the start) and I simply followed a GPS track from our hotel. The morning ride up to the base was a nice combination of very small two-lane roads past picturesque towns and olive groves, followed by a steep dirt road that lead me through at least a couple of ecosystems including Mediterranean brush and pine forest. At the top, were dramatic views of the mountains undulating right up to the sea. I had a good idea about the fun I was about to have on the way down from watching the videos, and it totally delivered the goods. Fast and flowy, steep sections with drops, all of the time twisting and turning, with sections that carved up and down the narrow hillsides that were like surfing the perfect wave.
Climb though the valley and up...
View from the top at the front of the ex-NATO base:
This is part of the guard station at the ex-NATO base. I liked the decaying brick. It made me think of a previous trip to Angkor Wat, where the jungle was reclaiming the area, but I don't think the coastal brush is up to reclaiming the ex-NATO base!
Back to Finale...start of the "freeride" downhill singletrack, and then a few shots along the way.
Crossing a road and looking back at the ex-NATO base:
Lots of fun sections down, more to go...
Interesting "discovery" up a hillside in the opposite direction of the GPS track:
Entering a town and another interesting sight along the way:
Unexpected sight on my way back to the hotel, and very cool. Turns out this medieval town was just a few blocks from our hotel and we ended up spending quite a bit of time strolling around, relaxing, and eating there.
More pics here:
FinaleLigure pictures by robertmtb - Photobucket
Last edited by robertj; 09-17-2011 at 02:23 PM.
ex-NATO base "freeride" downhill video
This is a video (not mine) starting with the downhill portion of the ride I did...I had the place to myself when I was there!
Base nato Freeride Finale Ligure - YouTube
Cool pics. Looks like a good time was had.
Nice pics, wish I could be riding there. Good to run into you today and ride for a while. We should do a greenbelt ride one of these weekends.
Thanks! I still need to go through some pics and post up the last ride destination for the trip.
Yes, very good to see you guys out there today...what an awesome day for a ride! Another GB ride soon sounds good!
Thanks for the Finale Luguria pics! My wife and I cycle toured through there in '96 (on MTB's with racks). We did not see a single MTB. We should have stayed a day and explored, but we were trying to cover some distance. We returned in '98, but with no bikes. We hiked above the town and wished we had our bikes. Next time!
A taste of Verbier...
For the last part of our trip, we had 3 days planned at our base of Thonon-les-Bains, France. The plan for this portion of the stay was to relax and enjoy the local culture and history, and to take boat trip across Lake Geneva to see Lausanne, Switzerland; Lausanne has an amazing view of the Alps across Lake Geneva, among other architectural interests.
Somewhere along the planning phase, my wife read some great reviews about riding in Verbier, Switzerland, so she twisted my arm to make a day trip out to Verbier from Thonon-les-Bains. How could I say no to that?
My small sampling of Verbier consisted of a few very fun runs on the blue and red tracks within the bike park. The blue track flowed well with lots of corners and a few small to medium sized jumps. The red track was a killer –steep- singletrack in the trees, with a few fun wooden features. Together, those tracks made for a great last blast in the Alps.
The views in Verbier were outstanding as well. I especially liked the mixture of heavily treed and grassy-green mountains, overlooked by rocky peaks.
Blue track: Start
My wife and I rode the lift together and she surprised me with a few action shots of my first run down the blue track:
Red track: Start:
Red track: Steep switchbacks:
Red track: Awesome singletrack.
More pics here:
Verbier pictures by robertmtb - Photobucket
Last edited by robertj; 10-01-2011 at 09:10 PM.
Awesome. I sooo want to do the Alps someday but I don't want to do all the planning. There's just some many possibilities it's overwhelming.
How about I just tag along with you next time you go. Looks like you've got it figured out and have found the types of trails I would love.
Oh man, no kidding! That's not a bad problem to have, though.
Originally Posted by KRob
Check out "Mountain Biking Europe" for a good overview of many possibilities:
Amazon.com: Mountain Biking Europe: Tread Your Own Path (Footprint Mountain Biking Europe: Tread Your Own Path) (9781906098315): Chris Moran, Ben Mondy: Books
Also check out Dirt Mountain Bike Magazine "Top 50 Euro Riding Spots 2010, Issue 95/January 2010".
They were both excellent resources to help us in narrowing down the choices. For example, my wife and I both like the more green areas with killer views, as opposed to the more barren areas. That eliminated some places right off the bat.
We both want to see other areas of Europe and the world, so it may be some time before we circle back around to to the Alps. I'd be happy to provide any other intel I have when you get to the planning stage.
Looks like the perfect vacation!
Thanks for sharing.
Flying High Again
very nice! i think les arcs is on my hit-list for next year. i'd love to do finale ligure too.
Nice shots! Looks like a great vacation!
Great pics and vids. Thanks for sharing!
Trek Mamba, '97 Specialized FSR