Back in the day, we were lucky enough to do a few seasons in Europe, following the sun or the snow to some amazing places.
Whilst doing ski seasons in Meribel, Verbier and Crans Montana it was becoming apparent that resorts had a problem; the winter snow record was increasingly unreliable, especially below 1,000 metres, and the considerable investment in lift systems and adventure sports needed to be recouped. The winter season needed balancing, a counterpoint that hillwalking with Heidi wasn’t meeting.
Morzine or bust
For years I didn’t really want to visit the Alps in the summer. I knew the mountains would still be beautiful of course, but I felt I would feel short changed by the lack of adrenalin and excitement that both skiing and snowboarding afforded. A week in the summer would be one wasted I thought, despite the growth in some interesting pursuits like white water rafting or even glacier skiing in resorts like Les Deux Alpes.
Unbeknown to me at the time – mountain biking, particularly downhill and then enduro, was taking over the summer seasons in the alps. We knew mountain biking, Kate was racing XC having competed in triathlon and on the road, while Tracey Moseley and Steve Peat were in their prime. But I hadn’t yet made the connection.
Once we’d emerged from the toddler years, balance bikes replaced with pedals, Kate went out to Morzine with some friends to ride a few more Cols and reported back on the MTB Mecca it had become. Not only that, mountain biking was now a much more gravity orientated sport, to such an extent that the disciplines and even techniques had become much closer to the snow sports I missed.
Morzine and Whistler had definitely led the way in embracing the opportunity for a riotous summer season to mirror the winter and others soon followed suit, enticing riders and their cash to experience the thrill of bikeparks and off piste trails with epic descents, accessible by an existing lift infrastructure allowing for an easy uplift. Now that exciting winter vibe is all year round n the Alps, you ride the same gradations of trail on your MTB (VTT?!), you hire guides or instructors to maximise your enjoyment on the bike in the mountains and you can even indulge in a vibrant apres ride scene! Hang out in the summer in the Alps long enough and you’ll soon notice that the Red Bull and Monster helmets in the lift queue are those of the pros….
I think one of the major benefits of this new MTB reality is that, for me at least, mountain biking is the dominant alpine sport. Yes, skiing or snowboarding is great, but it’s a bloody expensive way to spend a week for us Brits. And some say you can ski back here in the UK: but trying not to dislocate your thumb on a big matt is not the same as surveying the scene from the terrace of Le Rond Point; no matter how much yodeling you listen to.
Mountain biking is an altogether different experience though. You can go for two weeks to the Alps in the summer, still have change from what you would have spent in the winter on one week, and smash out laps on some amazing trails, perfecting your cornering, jumps and drops. Better still, when you are back home, you will still have some of the best riding, from Bikepark Wales to Glenntress, within striking distance, as well as your local trails. You can have the thrill of riding your bike all year round in some of the best terrain on offer right here and keep that progress going.
And like skiing, mountain biking is best shared with friends and the whole family….
It made me quite emotional looking at these photos and what we’ve all been missing these last 2 years. Hire one of our lush vans and go on an adventure with your family/friends and make up for lost time!BikeVanCo