Riders Retreat diaries: Chatel and other goings on

The 2010 summer season is now well underway and since the rainy start to the season we’ve seen unbroken sunshine bar the odd storm. The tracks are riding well and there’s plenty of fun to be had.

Two of the busiest weeks of the season are just about tied up now. A lot of people want to come out at the start of the season, with a turn down in guests through August. The reason why has always escaped me – the weather is just as good, more tracks have been built and finished by then and as it’s quieter there’s fewer queues at the lifts too. Answers on a postcard please.

The season started off properly with the Passportes du Soleil event held on the weekend of the full Portes du Soleil lift area opening. It’s a good event and it always brings lots of people to the area. Despite being given numberboards it’s not a race in the slightest but it is a good chance for people to explore the area and there is always plenty going on and a great atmosphere.

The Chatel Mountain Style returned to the area for the fourth time. I’ve watched it every year and am always blown away by the shear scale of the modules that these guys are able to ride, let alone pull backflips, 360’s, suicides and no-handers off. Each year the course has been developed, changed and improved, this year was no exception and they are really pushing the envelope in this discipline.

The drop at the start of the course was at least 12 metres high and watching people fall through the sky off it was breathtaking. After a lot of sussing it out by various pro riders Brandon Semenuk was the first to give it a huck in his final run, he then went almost straight into a backflip off the huge step up which as it turned out was to be the winning run – well deserved!

One of the things about the summer that I love is how much else there is to do other than mountain biking and how good the social scene is. The whole place is just full of great, easy going, like minded people. I recently went to a barbeque to a favourite spot near to Lake Montriond with some friends and it reminded me just how awesome this region is. Good times.

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Talking of nice people – this year two of the towns best mechanics Neil and Gareth have set up Morzine Mountainbike Mechanics (MMM…). They are running out of a van and EZ-up in Linderets each day, so if you get a mechanical, puncture or just need something sorting on the bike then pay them a visit (you can’t miss the van). Even better, you can call them up of an evening to come to your accommodation to fix your bike and if they can’t do it on the spot they’ll collect it and drop it back to you. Contact details are at www.morzinemountainbikemechanics.eu

And if you’re over Linderets way, why not check out the Chatel Bike Park. It has to be one of my favourite places to ride and has an enormous variety of riding on offer. This year there have been numerous improvements and additions to the existing tracks as well as two completely new tracks in the form of ‘Vorachatak’ and ‘Komatrautrail’. Despite causing me to stutter every time I try to pronounce them, they are really good fun to ride.

Vorachatak starts from right underneath the Fantasticable (big zip wire thing) at the very top of the Bike Park and takes you down to the mid-point, making it a good alternative to the main line down there. It’s not exactly tough, but it is good fun and super tight and flows well.

Komatrautrail goes from a little way down the tarmac road from the mid point – follow the road until you start to doubt you’re going in the right direction, then on the first hairpin turn the track starts. It has a really natural feel to it and reminds me of downhilling in the UK. It’s tough in places, but shouldn’t phase anyone reading this. There are a couple of drops and jumps you might not be sure about first run down, but as usual there are chicken runs round them.

The Tour de France is paying a visit this weekend, arriving Sunday, rest day Monday and departing Tuesday. The town now resembles a very large MX pit with the number of camper vans lining the streets. More on the Tour next time!

You can also keep up with the latest news from the Riders Retreat camp on their Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/ridersretreat)

See Morzine through the eyes of a staff member on Mark’s blog – www.markinmorzine.blogspot.com

Written by Paul Thomas – www.riders-retreat.co.uk