Finding the ‘Spirit Of Alpe D’Huez’
Alpe D’Huez, what can I say? We fell in love with this place after just the first day. Sadly we were not able to make it last year due to an injury which saw my MCL ligament torn, We did however keep in touch with the tourist office and arranged to visit again when we next headed down that way. We had planned to visit this resort as we had been told there was some good riding to be had, and we were certainly not disappointed.
Our plans meant that we would be arriving during the Triathlon. However this caused us no issues, other than the fact there were many roadies on the famous 21 bends that head up into resort from the valley floor. You immediately get the feeling that this place is road bike heaven for a lot of people, but look past that and there’s more to Alp D’Huez than meets the eye. Compared to Les Gets for example that we rode earlier in the holiday, there seemed to be a quieter atmosphere out on the trails which we enjoyed and meant for some awesome rides.
Heading for the trails
On the first day of riding we met Celine in the tourist office who we had a lovely chat with. She gave us some very helpful information about the resort, and what we could expect. After picking up our lift passes, we were met my Charlie who was one of the mountain bike guides for the area. We discussed our skill set and headed off to see what in his words ‘The spirit of Alpe D’Huez’ was all about. Charlie had a great knowledge of the area and also where the best trails were. Being a ski instructor in the winter and a trail guide in the summer, he really does have the best job!
We headed out and onto a red trail to begin with as a warm up. Immediately we found there were less braking bumps to some other resorts we had been to which was a big relief. This bought a smile to our faces right away, as we flowed down the trail even hitting some north shore. We could tell we were in for a fantastic day already given laughs we were having. Charlie knew a great run that was hidden and off the trail maps which he wanted to show us. He wanted to share with us the real spirt of Alp D’Huez, and in his words, this comes from the ‘flowy’ funny trails. This spirit does not only reside on the trail map, and if you know where to go you can find yourselves some amazing riding as we were about to find out.
Heading off piste
Heading out of resort Charlie took us to a secret spot where he goes on his down days, a run that heads down the face of the mountain under the tree canopy. You can ride this non-stop all the way down apparently, but for us was about the enjoyment. We will not be revealing the location of this secret trail in order to preserve it and not flood with riders. After all we want to keep it special and how we found it. Looking out over a stunning view on the mountain edge, we discussed what was ahead of us, we put our goggles down, strapped up and dropped in. We were greeted by one of the best trails I think we have ever ridden. The flow, the leaves, and the small bits of what looked like slate just keeping you on your toes as the rear of your bike darted around. We took a second to look left and right as we flew down at what was a very, very steep drop. Whilst it really makes you think a lot more, as long as you focus about what’s in front, you need not worry about the death drop by your side! All we could hear from one another as we shredded this trail was laughs and giggles. I don’t think we have ever had such big smiles on our faces when riding….EVER.
Ready for a black line…
As we got to the valley floor and rode along the side of a river, it was at that point we realised what the spirit of this place was all about. As we spoke more to Charlie about the resort in general, we were handed so much information and knowledge. We were truly grateful and privileged to be shown around this beautiful place, something we will remember for a long time to come. We carried on through the valley floor and then picked up the free bus which takes you up to the closest lift. From there, a journey up and then the drop into a black line. Unlike other resorts, this wasn’t a black with gap jumps and huge table tops, but instead another flowy line with steep technical sections, but also super dusty areas through the trees. It was at this point about halfway down, Sams bike started to make some rather loud screeching noises, he had burnt through the rear pads. With a short wee break and only one way down, we carried on with the next point of call being a shop for some new pads.
It was laughs and smiles the whole way and we couldn’t thank Charlie enough for the experience. He showed and helped us find the spirit of this place, which we then took with us on the final two days. We went off to explore for ourselves some of the marked trails on the map, and with quiet runs, and dry dusty trails, we honestly had an absolute blast!
Are there really any bad points?
We couldn’t really find a bad thing to say about this place, but the one thing I think we all agreed could be improved, was the lift system within the town, If you drop out of the bottom of resort and return to the town, there is nothing that links you to the top, and we found ourselves pushing our way up to the top. Whilst there are lifts which could be used as a connection, it seems due to the lesser amount of MTB riders that they cannot see its worthwhile opening another lift. Like all places, there are improvements to be made, but this was a minor annoyance more than anything. We accepted this and for the quieter mountains as it made for some epic riding, hardy ever meeting anyone else on some trails.
MTB School (A worthwhile option)
If you get the chance or want to maximise your experience here, we would highly recommend the MCF school. Charlie our guide was part of this group and their knowledge is such a valuable tool especially for someone who has never been to the area before. They can asses your skill levels and offer you trails and guidance for your ability. For more information on the school, check this link out HERE.