After the recent trip to Germany it was time to check out somewhere a bit closer to home – France! Despite spending an inordinate amount of time in Morzine, I’ve ventured little further than an hour or so from the area. So, bags packed, hotel booked, and off we went 3 1/2 hours south west to Alpe d’Huez.
Alpe d’Huez is a place most will of heard of due to the Mega Avalanche event held there each year. It’s a fairly quiet town and the landscape is nothing short of baron. Upon arrival it was compared to the Breacon Beacons; which it does resemble. Kind of. This is due to the area being largely above the tree line, and so although there is the odd bit of growth here and there the vista is mainly one of rocks, dust and a bit of grass.
One thing that became apparent to me quite rapidly is that I like riding in the trees and I was quite rapidly starting to miss them while riding here. The tracks are generally pretty fast and open and corner after corner blend into one as they wern’t going round anything – you know, like most tracks go round trees, these were just corners. They wern’t all completely featureless though, a lot of the more technical tracks had some pretty tough rock sections and steep corners, so it’s not all mundane by a long shot.
Don’t get me wrong, the riding here is still great. Varying the type of riding you’re doing is always good fun and there are a decent number of tracks here and so plenty of riding for a day or possibly two if you want to master a couple of the more technical routes. The area does actually have 7 lifts for bikes and is linked to a couple of other towns, but most of the riding is off two or three of the lifts, and broadly speaking in the same area.
The Mega Avalanche route has to be done once as part of your trip here due to its legendary status. Riding on a glacier was a first for me and who’d have thought ice could be so grippy!? We were here towards the end of the summer season and so we wern’t greeted with quite the level of snow you will have seen from the race footage, but there was still plenty enough. After that the route descends on to some incredibly tough single track (people race this!?) and then continues for a good old while with the odd uphill thrown in for good measure.
A pattern is starting to emerge with these trips. A lot of places are good for a day. Possibly two. More than that and there’s too much lack of variation. There’s a possible solution here with Les Deux Alpes almost literally around the corner. Well, being a mountain there were probably a good hundred or so corners between them, but you know, round the next valley. Next stop – Les Deux Alpes.
Day Pass: €19
Written by: Paul Thomas @ www.riders-retreat.co.uk
Additional photos by: Richard Coleman