Endless DH runs,         Chairlifts

and

Mountaintyle Stunts:

Ten days in

the Alps

 

After a year out I was amped to be returning to the mountains. Despite a diet of trails and skateparks in the UK, years of alpine holidays created a homely atmosphere among the chair lifts and cow bells. My craving for ripping through berms and over jumps was about to be satisfied, and it felt great.


This year we stayed in Morzine, as apposed to Les Gets in previous years. This is a diary of our encounters in downhill paradise.

Day one. Sun


After a 5.a.m wake up call we caught a ride to Bristol airport with a taxi driver whose life accounts are fit for a comedy sketch, “At the pub they had two-for-one on meals, so I had three and the missus had one”. Unbelievably our Easyjet flight was on time.


We got to the hotel by 1.pm, with bikes together by half past. After some faffing around to get lift passes (remember to bring I.D when you buy yours), we caught the Pleney lift and rolled down to Les Gets.


It felt good having the 223 between my legs again. As usual for the first day our cornering was shamefully slow, but we quickly got used to bouncing around while hitting all the jumps first run. A few hours drifted and it was time to head back.

Day two. Sun


After a satisfying breakfast we set off to Les Gets. On our last evening two years ago we nailed the infamous Berm Jump on the 4X section at the bottom of Chevanne. We took from where we left off and trained it full speed, which definitely added excitement to an otherwise bland section of the track. From the run in all you see is a view of the town, which makes it pretty scary, but when you’re in the air it’s plain sailing.


In the afternoon we headed to the Les Gets Bike Park. First time down the black run we checked out what was on offer; a small jump over a berm, a 10 – 15ft drop, then a series of tight berms, wallrides, jumps and some fast wooded sections. The following run we hit all the stunts. I overshot both the drop and a jump that, luckily for me, had a very long landing.


With a few runs behind us we headed back to Morzine to get our swimming attire. In the rush from the hotel to reach the chairlift before closing en route to the lake Andy forgot his lift pass. Luckily the lift operator wasn’t paying attention so he sneaked through. From the top we raced to the lake in our speedos.


As the evening wore on Andy complained about a pain in his ankle, which got progressively worse over the course of the evening. When we got back to the hotel he was in agony. The next day was not looking promising.

All we could do was hang on as we descended with the grace of a car crash.”

Day three. Cloud


In the morning Andy announced that he was OK, which was great news after our low spirits the night before. Today we were moving out of Les Rhodos hotel into an apartment. With Andy’s ankle in a support we set off to Chevanne, and stumbled across Forest Gump run, a partly hidden technical track.


After Fuelling up at Les Boomering we had some runs on Pleney, where we spotted pro downhill racers Tracey Moseley and Chris Kovarik. What a track! Pleney is pretty much a faster, longer, more intense version of Chevanne. We soon incorporated some alternative lines among the trees to spice things up.


While I replaced a tube Andy found eight spokes dangling from his wheel. He was lucky I punctured when I did. Another run could have ended in disaster.

While I replaced a tube Andy found eight spokes dangling from his wheel.  He was lucky I punctured when I did. Another run could have ended in disaster”

Day four. Sun


In the morning I was welcomed by a flat tyre when I wheeled my bike out of the ski locker. As I was too lazy to undo a few axle bolts to get my wheel out, I hastily stuck a patch over a small slit. One run later low tyre pressure revealed my shoddy repair work. I quick fix had wasted a lot of time.


After our second run at 2 p.m we met a guy named Pierre from Reading who joined us for a few runs. He explained how he had trained us the previous day on Chevanne until we disappeared over the berm jump. The heat was really picking up so for the rest of the day we relaxed at the lake, fuelled up on a Desperados and bacon butty, and raced back to Morzine like idiots.



Day five. Sun


Another beautiful day consisting of Pleney and Chevanne runs, gear cable fixes, an evening lake session, Desperados, table tennis and table football, steak and sleep.

Day six. Sun


We met our new friend Pierre bright and early for a day in Les Gets. After a couple of runs we were joined by another rider, Andrew from Portugal. He took us down a discrete tack named Golf Course where I took a bad line choice. Looks can be deceiving as I found out during a savage branch encounter resulting from a niceroute between two trees. Andrew set off to work and we made our way to the other side of the valley, Les Gets 2.


After a run of the main track we took a black route, which had previously been a world cup track. It looked good from the top but after the first corner the track turned ridiculously steep. All we could do was hang on as we descended with the grace of a car crash. After a few crashes and countless near tree misses we had somehow made it the bottom. The telecabin wasn’t much fun in the heat so we took Pierre up the open lifts to the Bike Park. After a brief description of the track he followed us over all of the drops and jumps on his hire bike! 

Pierre headed back to the rental shop and we went for our standard lake cool-off. Later in the evening we met him at his friends parents up-market chalet. After a few 12% ’Polar Bear’ beers we hit the town; a street of sleazy looking bars scattered with men and very under-age girls. After some drunk pool antics and Pierre’s catch up with a punch bag machine we called it a night.

Day seven. Sun


Chatel day! After we eventually struggled out of bed and put my gears back in action we took the Super Morzine lift en route to the Swiss border. We rode the Pre la Joux run down to Chatel, cruising over the road gap that was terrifying not so many years ago.


Since the last time we were here the locals had been busy building new lines of jumps and gaps to accompany the original wooden features. We eyed up a sizeable step up and spotted a 25ft river gap from the lift, which we were going to ride had we not mistakenly taken a different track. We took the lift back up for another go.


A huge feature at the bottom of the Chatel mountainstyle course drew our attention as the lift approached the top. While we pushed towards the drop a rider sent it. Our curiosity grew and we had a closer look. This was well out of my comfort zone but to my astonishment Andy made his way to the roll in, undeterred by the gap of missing spokes in his wheel. Super keen and ready to go, he rolled towards the drop while I angled my camera in disbelief towards the 20+ft monster. A click of a button followed the thud of a landing. He had nailed it. Great! Now it was my turn.


Sat on my bike looking down the run-in was one of the most intimidating moments of my life. All I could see was the end of a ladder and the bottom of a valley. Surprisingly, despite our similar skill level, it was of little reassurance that Andy had just done it. My mind filled with unpleasant thoughts which I tried to replace with ACDC lyrics. “Too many women, and too many pills” screamed in my head as I rolled towards the drop. As soon as I took off I realised I was too nose heavy, but I had got away with it. I dropped it once more for the camera, a little nosed again and still pretty freaked.


There was only one thing left to session, a Desperados! After a drink at the café overlooking the course, and still pumped, we took the lift out of Chatel. The day of torment however wasn’t over. We unintentionally took an extremely technical track down Super Morzine, which included a rocky stream section for good measure. We came out the bottom buzzing and relieved, right next to the apartment.


During a well-deserved lake session Andy fixed his wheel. On the way back we rocked the Berm Jump, which now felt tiny. No more than ten seconds after we set off from the bike my derailleur fell apart. Luckily we found the parts and made it back to Morzine before Supermarche’ closed. 

Super keen and ready to go, he rolled towards the drop while I angled my camera in disbelief towards the 20+ft monster. A click of a button followed the thud of a landing. He had nailed it. Great! Now it was my turn.

Day eight. Cloud, rain and the jump


Pumped after an ACDC wake up call, we went straight to Chatel. An enormous jump followed the drop we did the previous day. After thinking it through, I knew I had to shoot to thrill.


The morning however didn’t go as planned. I was sat at the bottom of Avoriaz waiting for Andy. Where was he? I was worried. It turned out he had crashed head first into a rock face. He was slightly concussed but after a breather we were ready to move on, and after a short photo session on the Chatel road gap he regained his confidence.


We rolled over to the top of the mountainstyle course to look at the other obstacles, which included two monster ladder drops at the top and some big jump lines. We were only really interested in the last jump so we rode down.


Sussing out the jump, it was difficult to comprehend actually riding the thing! The gap was at least 40ft, bigger than anything I had ridden. However with a mellow wooden kicker and a big landing I deemed it safe.


With Andy waiting in anticipation with the camera aimed between take off and landing, and a “you’re definitely doing it right?” there was no way out. So I dropped in, pumped the landing, put in a couple of pedal strokes and hit the lip.

With a wave of relieve I landed perfectly on the landing. After riding it again without the dead sailor Andy did it too.

With Andy waiting in anticipation with the camera aimed between take off and landing, and a “you’re definitely doing it right?” there was no way out.”

Where was he? I was worried. It turned out he had crashed head first into a rock face.”

Day nine. Rain


Despite forecasts the night before predicting only a 30% chance of rain, we woke up to heavy showers. We weren’t particularly keen on the prospect of riding in the rain but as this was our last day we set off.


The weather was looking promising as we approached the chairlift but half way up the heavens opened. The mellow ride to Les Gets was a challenge in itself. No Berm Jump today. The journey to the top of Chevanne was dire. Every couple of minutes the open lift stopped during outbreaks of thunder, providing us with sufficient time to get completely soaked. For a moment the misery took a quick break when a rider had a comedy over the bars bail. When we finally made it off the lift we were rewarded with a soggy mountain side to slide down. We could barely see through mud and rain-splattered goggles.


“C’est bon!” shouted the lift operator when we got the bottom, so despite being drenched and ready to go home we decided to have another run in the heavy rain. The lift to the top seemed to take an eternity. I made the last run of the holiday a good one, managing to ride out of some super sketchy situations with severely limited visibility.

 

We got back to the apartment with hours of cleaning ahead of us, then the holiday drew to a close over the free table football at the Cavern bar.


End

In an instant the weather turned and it was time to leave, but we weren’t bothered. We had done what we set out to do and were on a high. We rode down the course on the other side of the mountain through the rain and waited at the bottom of the valley for the weather to improve and the lifts to re-open. Neither occurred so we took the road, riding past goat village (Les Linderates) back to Morzine, where we eventually ended up at the skatepark under the Super Morzine lift. Nice 8ft mini ramp, anyone up for posting my small bike over next year?

 

After we returned to our temporary home it rained harder so we hit the bar, where in a game of pool I potted the yellow (wrong colour), white and black two minutes into a game. At least my luck had run out off the bike.

Accommodation


Morzine is a great central hub with easy access to most of the main tracks in the Portes Du Soleil area. We stayed in Les Rhodos hotel (30 euro pppn), and then in Studio Plein de Soleil S2 (350 euro for the apartment over seven nights), booked through Morzinelets. This worked out well as budget accommodation, and the staff at Les Rhodos hotel were helpful.



Flights


Flights from Bristol airport to Geneva return including bike and hold luggage cost £150 per person booked in advance (March). Most major airports (including Manchester and London) and airlines fly here.



When to go


If you have a fear of braking bumps (they usually aren’t that bad on a 9’ travel downhill bike) go at the start of the season in June. On average, July has the lowest rainfall and hottest temperatures of the year. The season runs until the end of September.




Bikes


I have ridden here on a hardtail, a mid travel bike and my current downhill sledge. Definitely bring a downhill bike if you can. I would also opt for reliability over lightweight, as local bike shop prices are high. Don’t have a downhill bike or a spare 4k? Look second hand. I bought my 223 for a grand. Most bike shops do hire bikes, but at 60 euro a day for a mid range fr bike, and around 100 euro a day for a dh set-up, this comes at a price.



Every couple of minutes the lift stopped during outbursts of thunder”

Eating, Drinking and Nightlife


Eating out isn’t much more expensive than in the UK, but bar drinks are, with a pint at around five euros. In contrast food and drink from supermarkets is relatively cheap, and shop bought meat is very good, so you will save if you stay self-catered. Don’t expect much if you’re a party animal, as there are not many bars, few clubs and much fewer women (if you are a woman expect to be gawped at).


More information at http://www.portesdusoleil.com


 

20 September 2010