It's not all about Morzine and Les Gets
British mountain bikers regularly make the unofficial summer pilgrimage to European bike parks. The trails across the Channel are poles apart from your local woods. They are steeper, longer and dustier than anything you could dream of riding in Britain and what’s more, you can get a lift to the top.
The majority of us will probably head to somewhere in the Portes du Soleil. This is a network of 12 resorts, all linked by chairlifts and trails, and is undoubtedly a heavenly place to ride your bike. You can comfortably shred for a whole week without your wheels touching the same dirt more than once.
But is it all it’s cracked up to be? The wait for the chairlifts can be long, the accommodation is expensive and the braking bumps are forearm-destroying. We’ve picked seven of our favourite bike parks from around Europe that provide all the trail-thrills without the crowds.
1. Samoëns — France
The Enduro World Series rolls into Samoëns this weekend and we’re suitably excited. Not only because this year’s series has been tighter than an Alpine switchback, but because every race has delivered top-notch trails from around the world.
If this video of last year’s French enduro cup is anything to go by, Samoëns looks set to continue this trend. The trails look steep, techy and slippery and more than enough of a challenge for any rider. Get yourself out there and follow in the footsteps of the pros.
2. Petzen – Slovenia
Slovenia has loads of great, undiscovered riding that is sure to make it a hot-spot for mountain biking in the future, but we picked Petzen for one reason – The Peca flow trail.
This is the world’s longest flow trail. It’s 10 kilometres long and a good run will take 20 minutes to complete. Perhaps most blissful of all though, it’s virtually braking bump free. Here’s our photographer, Roo Fowler, following Olly Wilkins down just one third of it.
3. Tignes and Val d’Isere
Fancy a European bike park holiday, but stuck on a tight budget? Tignes and Val d’Isere could be the destination for you for one unique reason — it is absolutely free!
That’s right, we’re not sure it’s the best business model, but between June 27 and August 30 you don’t have to pay a penny to access the lifts or shuttles at this bike park. Don’t assume that’s because the trails are rubbish either as it even hosted a downhill World Cup in 2012.
4. Pila – Italy
Pila goes for the quality not quantity approach. It might only have four main trails but each one of them is fantastic, providing a real downhill challenge. It also has two freeride trails and a selection of XC routes, if that’s your thing.
Top it all off with the famous Italian food and weather (raining in Morzine? It’s probably sunny and dusty in Pila) and you have a holiday to savour.
5. Åre – Sweden
Sweden may not be a nation you immediately associate with mountain biking, but the Åre bike park is steeped in history. It was on the final turn of its World Championships downhill track that Shaun Palmer crashed out and decided to retire from the sport forever.
Unlike Palmer, the bike park is still going strong with 33 trail sections across its slopes and an elevation change of over 900 metres. You’ll have to save up to get there though; like most of Scandinavia, it’s not on the cheap side.
6. Serfaus Fiss Ladis – Austria
Serfaus is the newest bike park on our list, it only opened in 2013 but it is already cementing itself as a solid Austrian alternative to Leogang and Schladming. Serfaus is really keen to market itself as a park for everyone so has a wide range of trails including a kids’ zone, pump tracks, slopestyle courses and downhill zones.
If you can only make a flying visit then make sure you hit the shed drop on Hill Bill, it’ll look great on Instagram.
7. Winterberg – Germany
Winterberg is the spiritual home of the German downhill scene so will be great for those of you who prefer your riding a bit more gravity fed.
Every year it hosts the DirtMasters festival, which is like a mini-Crankworx, featuring downhill, 4X and slopestyle events, finished off with parties and live music.
It’s quite a way from anywhere else though, so be sure it’s the bike park for you before deciding to book there.
So plenty of trans-European riding for you there, which bike parks have we missed?