Have you heard? In some Alpine resorts, summer is starting to challenge the ski season as the most popular time of year.
Mountain biking has a lot to do with that. In recent years, the growth of the sport has been explosive, and an ever-expanding network of trails and bike parks has spread across the Alps. Just a cursory glance at the youtube footage from resorts such as Morzine and Les Gets will show you how hair-raising and magnificent this infrastructure has become. In the Portes du Soleil in France, in Solden’s Bike Republic in Austria, and in many other other MTB hubs, July and August are buzzing.
But you don’t have to be a super-fit adrenaline addict to join the fun. A tough mountain bike is just as useful on a gentle, sun-dappled track as it is bouncing over rocks and tree roots. And if you don’t like of the idea of the uphill climbs there are always plenty of off-season ski lifts to do the work for you. A growing network of sturdy mountain e-bikes is offering power-assisted pedalling too – while MTB schools, pump tracks and beginner-friendly trails are waiting to help first-timers and their children.
There’s plenty do when you’re not biking, too. Check out our Summer in the Alps section for more.
Here’s where to get started.
Try a beginner bike tour in the Wilder Kaiser
The hilly terrain of the Wilder, Zahmer and Nieder Kaiser offer a unique biking experience among beautiful pastures and mountain lakes. Familiar resorts on the Drei Kaiser Loop Tour include Scheffau, St Johann in Tirol, and Fieberbrunn – and you’ll travel across the Kaisergebirge Nature Preserve. The 136km loop consists of easy mountain biking that’s suitable for beginners.
For more on mountain biking in the Tirol, see our posts Biking in Westendorf and Why You Deserve A Summer or Autumn Holiday in the SkiWelt.
Cycle in Les Gets and Morzine
Les Gets and Morzine are top resorts for mountain biking and there’s a MTB School here called RideAbility. Some 23 lifts remain open between June and September, giving access to around 650km of marked trails.
Mountain bike passes are available for the individual resorts of Avoriaz, Morzine and Les Gets or you can buy one for the whole Portes du Soleil area, which includes 12 different villages and all the bike trails linking them.
A taste of biking in Alta Badia
The Dolomite Biking School has guided excursions from late May to early October, of varying difficulty and for all levels of skills. For those not keen on riding difficult uphills you can use the lift system and focus on the downhill trails…and the food. Finally, for those wanting to push themselves there are the Dolomites’ most daunting routes to tackle.
Take the plunge in the Val di Sole
Gravity addicts will already know the 2016 Downhill World Championships were held at Commezzadura in the Val di Sole, Italy. In fact, they’ll probably fancy a crack at the infamous terrain themselves – although this is definitely an experts-only adventure, best tackled with an instructor from the local MTB school. It’s regarded as one of the most technical slopes on the World Cup circuit.
But that doesn’t mean this magnificent valley is off-limits to less accomplished riders. In fact, there’s a rapidly-developing infrastructure here, aimed at beginner and intermediate downhillers. At Commezzadura, there’s a medium-easy track, which follows a mule track and forestry road, and the intermediate 2.3km Steep Snake. Both are served by the Daolasa Val Mastellina Gondola, as well as the local MTB school. The local Enduro trails and a 36km asphalt cycle track are on hand whenever you need a change of pace.
Meanwhile, at the top end of the valley, at Passo Tonale, you’ll find the family-friendly Bike Park Tonale, served by the Valbiolo chair-lift. Three downhill trails (easy, intermediate and difficult) await, complete with boardwalks and banked turns – and they’re designed to be ridden with minimal braking or pedalling.
Biking and multi-sports in Chamonix
Chamonix has everything from marked routes along the valley floor to paths for experienced riders that are sometimes demanding and steep. Sites that are dedicated to downhill mountain biking can be accessed by the ski-lifts in Le Tour – Col de Balme, Le Brévent, Lognan, Bellevue and Le Prarion ski areas.
A weekend bike programme in Champoluc
Did you think that Ski2 was just for ski holidays? Well, you’d be wrong. They launched Mountain Bike Weekends, a tailor-made bike programme in the pretty Aosta Valley resort of Champoluc two summers ago.
There are three- and four-night weekend packages for groups of four people or more, which include return airport transfers, accommodation and all meals, uplift by Landrover or chair-lift/gondola, a qualified guide for each group and high quality full-suspension bike hire.
Mountain biking in Mayrhofen
The Zillertal valley is gorgeous all year round, with a whopping 800km of cycle trails. The local tourist board produces a directory of all the mountain bike tours in the area, and six gondolas are open during the summer. The legendary Trans Alp Challenge has been staged here several times over the years. Also, don’t forget that 19km down the road from Mayrhofen is the Hintertux Glacier, which has skiing 365 days per year!
Stay: Hotel Elisabeth has an indoor swimming-pool and spa. Bike hire available at a choice of eight different shops.
All types of biking in Val d’Isere and Tignes
The 150km of bike trails are accessed by two lifts (open from July 1 to August 27): the Olympique gondola from the centre of Val d’Isere and the Borsat Express which also gives you access to the trails to Tignes, where there’s a bike park. Val has a bike park just outside town and a new intermediate downhill trail. Tignes also has its own mountain bike school, Startline MTB.
Each July Val d’Isere holds the annual Salon du Vehicle Electrique (The EV Show), demonstrating what eco-friendly vehicles can do for a tourist destination. For example, if you decide to climb to the top of the Col de I’Iseran – at 2270m the highest paved mountain pass road in Europe – you’ll be able to manage it easily on an e-bike.
Bike Courses in Verbier
The four-hour self-guided Parcours des Familles Verbier-La Tzoumaz itinerary is particularly suitable for families and less fit bikers using the lift network – and an e-bike if you prefer. After going up in the cable-car to Les Ruinettes at 2200m it’s then an easy ride along the route de la Planie to the Croix-de-Coeur.
After this, it’s down to La Tzoumaz at 1510m to catch the cable-car back up to Savoleyres at 2350m. A long 8km descent then takes you back to Verbier via Les Planards. If you’d prefer to follow a guide, Verbier Bike Club organises tours and guides in the area.
Stay Chalet Rock (sleeps 10) through Verbier Exclusive, who have a bespoke mountain bike confidence class, alongside a series of performance courses ranging from an introduction to alpine cycling, through to a women-only cycling course. Bike hire available at Mountain Air.
Adventure in Alpe d’Huez
The summer lifts are open in Alpe d’Huez from the start of July to the end of August and there’s a biking school here: MCF Alpe d’Huez. As an alternative to biking the Sports Palace is well worth a visit with its indoor pool, climbing wall, tennis and squash courts, gym, yoga, archery and crossbow classes.
Brave the bike park at Jackson Hole
Jackson Hole is every bit as beautiful in summer as it is in winter. The trails at the Jackson Hole Bike Park are designed for riders of all abilities. Mountain Sports School can get you riding single track in no time with their Bike Park 101 entry level lesson tailored for first-time downhill mountain bikers ages 12 years and over.
If you’re after something more challenging, the Jackson Hole Mountain Bike Park has everything from jaw-jarring rocky descents to banked corners. But there are also smooth trail beds and terrain suitable for every level of rider including total beginners. Guided Mountain Bike Tours are available in the Yellowstone-Teton area, providing incredible scenery and some awesome terrain.
Join a bike clinic in Whistler
Whistler Mountain Bike Park is regarded as the world’s best bike park and is a must-do if you’re visiting Whistler this summer. It’s for intermediate to advanced riders and the trails are lift-accessed, so you’ll need a lift pass.
First-time mountain bikers can join one of the Bike Park clinics where you’ll get up to speed on correct stance and breaking techniques as well as downhill bike control. Then you’ll get started on easy trails like Easy Does It to get a taste of the excitement of MTB. By the way, there’s also summer skiing in Whistler.
Stay: You can stay in a wide range of accommodation, which varies from the HI-Whistler hostel – which was part of the Whistler Athletes’ Village during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games – to The Fairmont Chateau Whistler at the foot of Blackcomb Mountain. SNO offers a choice of accommodation in Whistler during the summer. Bike hire from Whistler Bike Rentals.