The top 10 bike parks in France
During the summer, ski slopes are replaced by mountain bike parks. Like snow parks do in winter, bike parks evolve each year. They offer something for every level, from beginner to expert.
To bring you the top 10 bike parks in French skiing resorts, WELOVESKI spoke to Yannick Menneron (bike park creator for Bike Solutions), and Lucy Paltz (specialist reporter and rider from gravityladies.net).
So, what is a bike park exactly? Bike parks are complete facilities that are dedicated to biking. A park can include a whole range of features, such as natural slopes, jump parks (lines of jumps at the end of the slopes), and pumptracks (bumps and tight bends on a hard coating), as well as specialist areas for enduro biking and cross-country.
Les Gets and Les Portes du Soleil: pioneer bike parks in Haute-Savoie
Les Portes du Soleil and mountain biking have a long history. Les Gets, and Morzine were the pioneer resorts and, today, Les Gets offers a complete package of downhill slopes, cross-country space, and jumping areas. There’s good variety for all levels, with beginner slopes as well as more serious runs, “it’s steep and rooty” according to Lucy Paltz, so very technical. “The runs are very rolling, and very rutted even early in the season. There’s also some great freeriding to be had if you use a map or go with local riders!”
In Morzine the trails focus more on downhill riding, and are popular with professional riders. Châtel is legendary: “set in the Pré la Joux area, it has 20 unique slopes with technical, steep and rooty sections, as well as jumps for air amateurs!” says Lucy.
Tignes and Val d’Isère: huge, linked area that’s free of charge
A true mountain bike destination, Tignes made its mark in 2009 with the opening of its bike park. Linked with Val d’ Isère in 2012, the two areas have developed in harmony, with more than 135 kilometers of slopes, downhill sections for all levels, an enduro course, cross-country tracks, and courses for electric bikes.
According to Lucy Paltz, “its very well managed for a free bike park. There are easy slopes on Palafour, and more serious riding on Tovière. Tignes also has beautiful enduro tracks in the Boisses and Bréviaires areas, along with natural tracks than are more technical”.
Val d’Isère has one of the longest green downhill slopes in the world: the 13 kilometre Popeye trail. Perfect for families and beginners, this gentle slope offers easy riding, and has three rest areas along its course. Riding at a moderate pace without taking breaks, it takes around 1.5-2 hours to go from the summit of Bellevarde to the end point in Val d ’Isère. This year, the resort has also launched a new red slope on La Face.
Les Deux Alpes: the mountain bike mecca
Before Les Gets, Les Deux Alpes was the flagship for pioneering mountain bike resort. Part of the appeal is the Easy 2 Ride area that is great for families or as a warm up before the big jumps in the Bike Park. There’s also a pumptrack just next to the Bike Park Video Zone to catch your moves on camera. There are many reasons why Les Deux Alpes features in the top ten. Lucy explains: “the bike park is extensive, with rolling tracks that are punctuated with jumps. My favourite section is between the summit of Crêtes and Mont-de-Lans, going through the old slope of Petite Aiguille then the slope of Tallas. It has amazing flow and nobody on it, as the ski lift is very old! Also, the incredible 666 trail in the Venosc area, which has 800 meters of difference in altitude, with technical sections, rolling terrain, jumps… everything you need to have fun!”
The biking area in L’Alpe d’Huez covers a vast and varied area that links Oz en Oisans, Vaujany and Auris-en-Oisans. “It’s hard to get bored here, and the slopes are a bit more rugged than in Les 2 Alpes,” says Lucy. There are some great alpine pasture itineraries, with forests in the valleys. Mythical trails include the downhill from the summit of Pic Blanc to Huez (Pic Blanc is where the famous Megavalanche race is held each year), and the trickier downhill route from Pourtant to Oz.L’Alpe d’Huez: a vast area for biking
Les Saisies: a special mention
With its gentle terrain, the family resort of Beaufortain has really helped to open up the sport, thanks to its accessible green and blue -graded slopes. This is one of the most famous mountain bike areas in France, with enduro and downhill slopes that range from green to black. The trails feature sharp turns, jumps, a 2 kilometre cross-country loop, and more. Built in harmony with nature, the green ‘Pikachu’ slope is a good one to ease yourself in on.
Bonus: The ski lifts in Saisies are open throughout July and August, as well as weekends in June and September.
This resort in the Southern French Alps is doing a great job for the sport of mountain biking, and there’s a lot going on this summer: for downhill, the Ride’n Red trail has new modules in the lower sections; the North Shore trail has a new section; and the technical La Rocket trail sees a change of route. The kids 1650 zone has also been developed, with new modules for younger riders. “Les Orres bike park is well shaped, very fun, and has nice descents for all levels. There are some splendid runs leading down to Serre-Ponçon,” says Lucy.Orres: the southern bike park
Roubion: the secret spot
Roubion bikepark has a natural feel, with dry terrain, wonderful mountain pastures, and forests. The slopes are well maintained and mostly feature enduro trails.
Vallnord: the Pyrenees’ best bike park is in Andorra
Two hours from Toulouse, Vallnord Bike Park (headquarters of the bike brand Commencal) stays opens from May to October. “There’s a great variety of slopes, with secret freeride spots. At the top, the Commencal slope is suitable for all levels, thanks to a range of options, pathways and jumps. It’s got great flow!” says Lucy.
Lake Blanc: Vosges bike park
One advantage of this Alsace bike park is its long, May to October season. It has around ten beautiful and varied slopes that are well maintained for all the levels. “There’s so much choice, with big jumps, technical trails and roots!”
Les Arcs: the outsider in Tarentaise
In reality, Les Arcs deserves a place in the top ten. It has: ”…a run with 800 meters of difference in altitude, with rapid and technical sections that include lots of jumps. The top section is very pretty, almost lunar-like, and the Cachette Downhill slope is renowned as one of the best – an absolute must. There’s also a lot of freeride in this area!”
Méribel’s mountain bike area has a beginners’ zone and a pumptrack at Chaudanne; flowing descent at Tougnette and Pas du Lac; enduro and cross-country itineraries between Col de la Chambre (2,850m) and the valley bottom in Brides-les-Bains; two tracks for electric bikes; and a dual slalom at Mottaret. Having opened in 2011, the area registered more than 50,000 lift passages in 2016.
Also worth a mention is Saint-Gervais and La Plagne – two resorts that, so far, have focused on beginner-level biking. More news on these to come.
So, which resort are you going to ride at?