We’re now more than halfway through the Chamonix summer season and it’s been another really fun one so far. In past years I would be itching to ski by mid-summer but these days I’m happy to enjoy the biking to its fullest and let the snow come when it comes.
I’ve been riding on my own for a lot of the summer but those are still some of the most fun days, riding hard all day to my own pace and schedule.
I got hold of the excellent iPhiGénie app which provides full IGN maps with a GPS locator which has really helped in exploring new areas and finding new trails; much more convenient than a paper map and no time is spent finding the right section of the map or my exact location. I’m learning how to spot potentially good trails better but sometimes I’ve been finding trails marked on the map that must not see much foot traffic and are so overgrown that they’re unridable. It’s always a bit of an adventure anyway. There’s something nice about riding into the unknown for the first time, and returning to the best trails not needing to be as cautious is really fun, as is taking friends down new discoveries.
Loamy trails off the back of Les Houches have been the best find – I won’t say exactly where they are but seek and ye shall find! With almost every trail on the map now ticked-off I now know 6 distinct routes off the back instead of the 3 from past summers and the maze of trails lets you combine sections into a lot of different variations.
Much to the bemoanment of some bikers in Chamonix, Brevent and Flegere have been completely off-limits to bikes for July and August for the first time this year. In my eyes it’s a minor inconvenience at worst; with most of the trails up there part of the mid-summer bike ban and the remaining legal trails often busy with walkers anyway, I really only take the occasional lunchtime lap in the Brevent main bowl most years in those months. When you consider that we have 12 extra lifts included on the lift pass this summer spread across Saint Gervais, Les Contamines, and Megeve/Combloux/Giettaz in addition to the 6 still accepting bikes in the Chamonix valley, I’m not complaining at all.
In past years the various routes off the Back of Le Tour have been my favourite trails but it’s been nice to ride there far less this summer and explore the new terrain available in the areas mentioned above: Les Contamines for a decent bike park trail (not quite as nice as Saint Gervais but still smoother and flowier than anything in Chamonix) plus some easy-access technical singletrack, Megeve/Giettaz/Combloux for OK bike park trails and lots of new variations in their natural-ish trails in the woods that have seen some shovel work, and I’m still loving the Saint Gervais “Wizz” flow trail and the natural stuff off Bettex and Mont d’Arbois.
Last year I had a good ride linking the Les Houches, Saint Gervais, Megeve and Combloux lifts, and a few years back Graham and I rode most of the Chamonix Valley lifts in a day, so we had an idea in our heads since the end of last summer to ride all of the lifts covered by our lift pass in a day. Even with Brevent and Flegere excluded it was an impossible challenge really, especially if Les Contamines was included, but we made a big plan to ride every other lift that was open for bikes and pretty much managed it with 150km travelled and 9250m descended in 11 hours from Chamonix to Chamonix. On more than one occasion we were riding trails flat-out and sprinting uphill to the next lift to make it before it closed on its lunch break or half hour rotation so we didn’t have as much time for photos as usual but still got enough for a nice little article for Pinkbike.com.
Definitely the biggest day I’ve done on the bike so far and one of the most enjoyable, so hopefully we can manage at least one more big day like this before the lifts start closing for summer over the next few weeks.