CdMB press release (and some Les Houches riding)

Black hidden trail, Les Houches

Read it here last! A little off the pace (I’ve been on holiday) and some time after everyone else has put it up, here’s an interesting press release from Compagnie du Mont Blanc about their commitment to biking:

Mountain biking in the Chamonix valley

Jump for joy...new trails in Chamonix. Maybe
Chamonix, August 3rd, 2012For three years now the Compagnie du Mont Blanc, aware of the ever increasing demand from mountain bikers, have made great efforts and significant improvements on the sites in the valley to offer mountain bikers more tracks to practice their favourite sport.The Balme area is particularly suited to this sport, so this year we have focused efforts on the creation of a new track off the Autannes chairlift.Here is up to date information on bike trails and areas in the valley:Balme : 3 tracks.
Piste de l’Ours Black track : from the top of the Vallorcine gondola down to Vallorcine.
Piste Océane Blue track : from the top of the Charamillon gondola back down to Le Tour. (Currently closed due to bad track conditions, a shaper will be called in next week)
Piste des Marmottes Green track : a new track from the top of the Autannes chairlift down to Charamillon (opening in August)
Bike patrol is on site from June to mid September.Flégère : 1 tracks not currently maintained but with open access.
Red track : which descends down to Le Praz.
The Compagnie du Mont Blanc has invested more than € 80 000 in recent years on the creation of mountain bike trails but it is clear that despite the massive investment, our company is not able to offer a suitable mountain bike area on this site. The decision has been made to waive any further investment on this site for mountain biking and focus our work on sites of Balme and Les Houches.Les Houches : No specific mountain bike tracks but a number of mountain bike trails are accessible.Brévent : No specific mountain bike tracks but a number of mountain bike trails are accessible.The work ahead is substantial, the Compagnie du Mont Blanc in partnership with the LH-SG (Prarion – Bellevue / Les Houches – St-Gervais) are currently working on the new plans for 2013.Rest assured that the Compagnie du Mont Blanc and the LH-SG are investing in the Balme and Les Houches sites to make the two sites dedicated to both amateur and professional mountain bikers.We hope, via this announcement, to prove that the Compagnie du Mont Blanc and the LH-SG Les Houches Saint Gervais, consider mountain biking as an activity with a future in the valley and that the two lift companies are currently working together on the development and preparation for 2013.The Compagnie du Mont Blanc’s operational team,will continue to communicate information on ongoing projects for 2013.We hope you enjoy your summer!

Perhaps more positively, CdMB have approached various folk in the valley to get their involvement and opinion on how to best work with mountain biking. Slightly worrying is the lack of comment on Grand Montets which currently has one of the best (and quietest) “natural” tracks accessible during the bike ban. Whilst the Flegere track is not going to get any more investment, CdMB seem happy for riders to maintain the track, and apparently tools will be lent out for anyone wanting to put in a bit of work. A word of caution from a few folk involved with CdMB at Le Tour and Les Houches is that negotiations for summer VTT tracks at both these areas is ongoing with land owners and new tracks getting built probably won’t help, so best keep to just track maintenance there!

Les Houches blue run

Anyway, excited by the prospect of 2 VTT friendly hills on the Chamonix annual pass next year, Lorne & I headed down to the Bellevue lift at Les Houches and discovered that whilst CdMB can give, they can also taketh away…

As seen on Bellevue

Or “MTB track permanently closed summer 2012. We’re looking at maybe making a MTB track from the Prarion telecabine for summer 2013”

Anyway, the old trails from the Bellevue are still in pretty good condition, though as ever they take a long, long time to dry. Three days after the last rain and still we were dodging puddles. The boardwalk sections are in poor nick (one section collapsed on us as we rode along!) and most, though not all, of the wooden features have been removed. An added wooden feature is the large tree from the April storms which is still blocking a fast lower section of the main blue trail.

Wallride

The best riding is probably on the assorted “black” sections which cut through the trees and have seen more maintenance from locals. Some of these sections can be pretty full on, so if it’s your first time through, there’s no shame in stopping to scope…..

After a few laps of the front we went for a run down to Les Houches. Tom (author of the Chamonix Bike Books) has raved about “Hugh’s way” for long enough, so having never ridden it, it seemed a good choice.

Hugh's wayJust waiting for a train

Unfortunately I was going off my memory and a pencil line amongst other pencil lines on my old map. As a result we had a few variations but, judging by the tyre tracks through the meadows, we weren’t the first, and probably won’t be the last. Suffice to say when Tom describes the “easy to miss” singletrack after the #8 piste marker pole, he’s being very accurate!

Bionassey

A great track nonetheless with lots of variety all 1175m of the way down, combined with a nice touristy train back up. If you’re looking to finish off your day at Les Houches with a run down to St Gervais bear in mind that the Tramway ISN’T included in the normal Chamonix biking lift pass, though is on your summer or annual pass. When you get to either the St Gervais or Le Fayet stations you’ll need to hand over your pass at the ticket desk to get a paper ticket for the train. Finally, it’s only the last 2 trams of the day that take bikes (although if they’re not busy you can usually get on trams earlier in the day) If all this seems to complicated, there’s always the normal train which runs from Le Fayet to Chamonix for about 5euro.

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