The best alpine downhill parks an hour from an airport

When we’re not riding roads round here we love a bit of downhill. And, if you want to avoid the crowds and braking bumps of the really well known places you should consider our backyard, the Piedmont region of Northern Italy and the adjacent Haute Alpes areas.

Small parks like Puy-St-Vincent are good for a few hours, but epic areas like Serre Chevalier and Bardonecchia means generally, the area has some of the best riding you’re likely to find anywhere, and you’ll never (hardly ever) find a queue. 

There’s tonnes of pedal up stuff, but for now we’re talking about lift access, predominantly downhill stuff, because that’s our favourite. 

Montgenevre (Monty) sits slap bang in the middle of our area. We live here so we’re a little biased, but we love it. We host a round of the French Cup, and you’ll catch Miriam Nicole and Loic Bruni racing here in August. 

We’ve got well maintained graded trails on relatively short but challenging runs which means lots of laps. North shore, natural features and proximity of the lifts to the town make it a super chilled park to lap all day. They often have the air bag out and Jerome at Snowbox will rent you a downhill or enduro rig if you can’t bring your own bike in via the very nearby Turin airport (1 hour and 10 mins via the near empty Italian motorway). The Graal will sell you a double ‘Graal’ burger for an apres feed you’ll need three pints to recover from. 

http://www.montgenevre.com/en/ete/activities/vtt-et-bike-park.html

You can book packages through local British operator Go-Montgenevre… 

http://www.go-montgenevre.com/biking-packages/

On the French side when you’ve done with all our lift served stuff, you can ride a lovely chilled trail from Monty down into Serre Chevalier Vallee (although you probably won’t want to ride back up, as it’s long and steep). 

Once in the Serre Chevalier valley you’ve got access to more lifts in the the massive Serre Chevalier bike park. About three years ago, the Park teamed up with Intense Bikes, to build one of the biggest and best bike parks you’ll find anywhere, let alone this area. The Melazine is a mega fun lift served trail descending over 1000m of vertical and it’s typical of the myriad trails around here. 

The best bit is no one knows about it. Ok, the Apres isn’t what it is in the more famous resorts, like Les Deux Alpes down the road, but the riding here is big, better and there’s no crowds. It’s like no one knows it’s here yet.

Check out Gravity Gates in Briancon for an alternative to Megavalanche. It’s an epic urban downhill, with a Evel Knievel style two-piste-basher-wide road gap waiting for any riders who make it to the end. 

https://www.serre-chevalier.com/events/gravity-gates/

Back up and over to the Italian side and you have got Bardonecchia in the Alpi Bike Resort. Bardo is allegedly popular with the Athertons, although I’ve not bumped into them yet, it’s easy to see why they like it. It’s a mega-fun park with some really flowy technical riding. Plenty of jumps and features and a really Italian ‘beach’ vibe at the bottom of the lifts with great cafes. It’s the busiest in the area, but it’s definitely not busy by better-known Park standards. Sauze D’Oulx and Sestriere are also worth a look, with the former having some of the steepest, rockiest and technical trails of the whole bunch. 

Serre Chevalier will keep you busy and riding for a week and I’m pretty convinced have you coming back year after year, but a day in each of these local spots would make for an epic adventure, and you might not want to go back to the crowds at Morzine ever again (sorry, Morzine no offence meant!). 

Check out this video made at the Intense Bike Park in Serre Chez by local riders Felix ‘Freeride’ Davis, and local guide/presenter/celeb/lush, Darren Turner…

https://www.facebook.com/SerreChevalierFR/videos/10154828600690745/?hc_ref=ARQpbAx5Sr7MaimToRDJyTxnWR31vYEEE2ORIlgzGOlHADMwHCjFTqp38AASEGN259U