Lift accessible long natural trails are super fun. When they come with spectacular views and a proper Italian pizza, it makes mountain biking La Thuile a superb experience.
A Day Trip To Italy
I live in Morzine, France and have quick access to some of the best mountain bike trails in the world. Many of the trails we have here, are nice and smooth(ish), with berms and jumps. However, it is great to experience what is available just a short drive away.
I got a call from Jon from TY Products, he wanted to try out his new and improved version of his tyre sealant on some unforgiving terrain. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to try somewhere new.
Jon picked me up bright and early, and we loaded our bikes into his fancy Toyota HiLux. We then made our way to La Thuile, via the boulangerie for a croissant and a coffee for the road.
It is fairly easy to get to La Thuile from Morzine. Just a 2-hour drive via the Mont Blanc tunnel. It is located in the Aosta Valley.
If you go, you need to factor in the price of the Mont Blanc tunnel day ticket. Currently, it is €55 return for a car, if you don’t have the tunnel pass.
Epic Scenery and Destination
Once you have paid the €22 day pass, you have access to two chairlifts. These take you from 1440m to 2340m, and the views from the top are pretty spectacular. Even at the end of Summer, we could see snow capped mountains and glaciers in the distance, and of course Mont Blanc.
La Thuile became well-known in the mountain bike world, when it hosted the Enduro World Series in 2014 and 2016. Mountain biking La Thuile comes courtesy of 13 marked trails and a huge amount of hidden single track to explore.
The trails are very natural. Only one trail, ‘H’, has been made with diggers, while the rest of them are old footpaths marked out with signs and the odd bit of tape. They are a far cry from the well maintained trails consisting of berms and jumps I am used to. They show no sign of regular maintenance, which makes them pretty interesting.
Just like most mountain bike trails, they are graded green, blue, red and black in order to indicate their level of difficulty. You will find that the bike park trails are less technical, but the black trails are rocky, rooty and steep.
My First experience of Mountain Biking La Thuile
When riding somewhere new I always take it relatively steady on the first run. I like to be calibrated to how challenging a new area is. Jon has been before, therefore he knew what mountain biking La Thuile is all about. So he took the lead and we headed for the blue ‘H’ trail. This was pretty easy, however, the start of it is quite deceiving. This is because there is quite a steep descent at the top, with a couple of tricky rock sections. But, once that part is over, you are treated to a nice flowy run back to the bottom of the higher chairlift.
Then we hit the red ‘E’ trail. This was super fun, with a few technical sections to wake us up, as we descended in to the forest. This trail took us all the way back to La Thuile, a change in altitude of 900m.
With the warm up run over, we did it again, but a lot faster. This time we added a couple of the black sections to our run that snake through the forest. These sections were amazing! They left us grinning like idiots and gave us a huge sense of achievement. This is because they make up some of the EWS tracks.
We played on these trails all morning, before heading in to La Thuile for a huge pizza. Italians know how to do lunch.
A Technical Afternoon
Full of pizza, we headed back up to experience the other side of the mountain. We loved the black runs we rode in the morning, so we headed to the ‘J’ black run, also known as Cambogia. This was way more difficult than the trails we had ridden previously. It is really long with lots of technical sections made up of roots and rocks. But, it is very steep through the forest too. I have to admit, there were a few sections where I had to walk down (in my defense, I was still waking up from a food coma).
This trail gave me a whole new level of respect for those EWS racers. I can’t imagine riding it in the wet at speed. Having said that, I loved it. I was pushed just outside my comfort zone, which is what we should be doing to become better riders. It is also great fun! Additionally, there is no shame in skipping the odd difficult section, and I want to go back and conquer them next summer.
After Cambogia, we decided to finish our day with a flowy red. So we headed to La Tour, and what a fantastic trail! It is fast and flowy and makes you feel like a hero, which is what we needed after picking our way down the previous trail. However, both Jon and I agreed that it would be the perfect trail to warm up on. It would really get you in the zone for the rest of your day.
Should you mountain bike La Thuile?
Whether you stay for a week, or go for a day trip, mountain biking La Thuile is a fantastic experience. Its trails offer you a great technical challenge, and no doubt will improve your riding. It isn’t all super technical, so don’t be put off going if you are not that experienced. One thing you will notice when mountain biking La Thuile, is that you hardly see any other riders. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about better riders catching you up and putting the pressure on. In my opinion, this just one of the reasons that makes La Thuile one of the best places to go mountain biking.