In the summer of 2013 some of our club members took a their first road trip to this mountain biking Mecca in the French Alps. Just as popular in the winter months for skiing, the area is also the perfect environment for downhill MTB during the summer. After a long drive from the UK, we finally arrived in the resort and checked into the accessible accommodation we had booked at Residence L’Aiglon in the centre of town.
Unfortunately, once we got to the chairlifts, the operators told us we would not be able to use the facility with our gravity bikes. This was due to French ‘red tape’ and thus prevented us from accessing most of the trails in the area! Although we were bitterly disappointed by this unexpected turn of events, we were determined to make the most of our visit. We gained permission from the local tourist office to drive on any of the fire roads we needed, which meant we could at least enjoy riding some of the trails. So we resorted to running our own uplift service, with the club van, but could only access two of the main trails in this way.
Driving up the nearest fire road, our start point on this trail was about a third of the way down, after the cattle grids that cut across it. A wide track runs straight down from here, bending around the side of the woods, over a few small jumps and through a small gap in the trees. The trail then turns rougher as you drop down, at speed, into a series of very tight, rutted chicanes. It then opens out into another fast section, littered with braking bumps, before turning through the trees again, into a open area of hillside. You then reach several massive, fast berms turning left and right, descending quickly to the ‘jump park’ area of the trail.
A wide patch of ground here offers several lines, with hip jumps or table top jumps to get some air time, running across well groomed terrain and up over a wooden bridge which straddles the car park below. You then enter the final part of the run, with the smoother surface quickly changing back into gravel and dirt. After the last table top jump the trail enters another series of big berms, twisting from side to side, with small bomb holes between each one. You can carry lots of speed through this section as it gets smoother and faster again, with the final few turns dropping away very steeply, and ending on open grassland just above the entrance to the chairlift station.
We were able to access this trail right from the very top, via a forest road which led up to the top of the chairlift station. Its a fast and twisty track right from the very start, with a well groomed surface making the speed easy to maintain. The trail drops around the hillside in a seemingly endless series of bermed corners, and a few small doubles added to the mix. It fires you out of the bottom, crossing a small fire road, right back into more berms snaking left and right until you reach an open section with two large table top jumps. After this there are even more bends, with a small section of north shore before two more, even larger tables to launch over.
Once past the final few turns of the dusty trail, it runs through the edge of some woods, getting faster as you head down onto a gravel path, with deep ruts and tree roots to traverse. The path then turns sharply, continuing to get faster as you pass old farm buildings, and then opens out and drops away across open ground. After swerving past a larger woodland you continue at a pace across the grassland, passing a mountain cafe before turning into the final rough, rock strewn descent. The trail ends as you drift around a sharp final corner, braking hard as the start of the chairlift suddenly comes into view.