Singletrack Heaven: Mountain Biking Le Grand Massif, France
Rupert Barry, November 23, 2011
Le Grand Massif lies 50km due south of Geneva, situated above the main route towards Chamonix and the Mont Blanc Tunnel. It is comprised of five alpine resorts; Les Carroz, Flaine, Morillon, Samoens and Sixt-fer-cheval. The mountain biking terrain offers suitability for a wide range of disciplines and difficulty. This area is attractive as increasing lift access during the peak summer months makes it more accessible, offering rough and ready trails free of other riders unlike other alpine resorts.
Riding from Les Carroz, one can explore a mixture of downhill and cross country trails using lift access to summit peaks that network to other resort villages. The region hosts a variety of scenery including dense coniferous forests, wild meadows, and at higher altitudes expansive rocky outcrops and plateaus. This makes for great riding particularly amongst the trees where the ground is loamy and loose. Animals to look out for include birds of prey and chamois, the alpine deer. Like any other alpine setting, weather can be unpredictable so head out prepared and willing to rely on your legs if the lifts close due to adverse conditions.
If given the opportunity, try to head out over July to participate in the VTTticime, a well co-ordinated weekend event hosted in Les Carroz geared towards a whole range of riding ability and motivation. The event is well supported by regional and national sponsors with officially marshalled courses ranging from 15-70km in distance with 1000-3000m elevations. The weekend includes cycling demonstrations and local dishes including the Haute-Savoie speciality Tartiflette.
Les Carroz offers a range of accommodation from apartment blocks to chalets. There is also a host of other activities available in the village including parapenting, an outdoor pool and leisure centre. For bike maintenance, Alain sports can deal with most pressing needs and if not, a 20 minute drive down into the valley offers more resourceful shops in Cluses.
The uniqueness of riding in this area comes down to the range of terrain, the outstanding views of the Mont Blanc region and the wilderness and sense of adventure that can be experienced here. With limited management and monitoring from the resort authorities the best trails are found during a long days exploring. In stopping by the local bars in the evening, one can get insider knowledge on secret trails and projects going on in the region. A basic guide is available of the well established and maintained trails from the lifts or tourist office. For those looking for some road riding, many of the local Cols have been way-points on Le Tour.
The nearest train station to Les Carroz is Cluses, a 20-minute taxi ride away. Check out alpsmountainbike.co.uk for organised tours around Le Grand Massif and further afield. Lift access for a day in Le Grand Massif costs 15€, for more info check out the region’s website.