First chair, last col – Les Portes du Mont Blanc

Trail map, for bikes!

Tuesday seemed to be a popular day for getting out of Chamonix. Groups were heading to Pila, La Thuile and the road cols of the Aravais. True to our Scottish roots, Lorne & I chose to make the 45 minute drive to the area with the cheapest lift pass, the Portes du Mont Blanc. 12.50euro for a day pass still represents a fair outlay in Irn Bru mind, so we were there for the 1st bin and rode till they closed the lifts on us.

So what was the riding like? Very different to Chamonix. A break down of the riding around each lift is below, but the need to knows are: if you’ve got a DH or Freeride bike, head to Megeve and play under the Pres chair and Jaillet gondola. If you’ve got an everyday MTB, head where ever you feel like, you’ll not be over or under biked.

Lorne gap

The trail map is available online here: http://www.combloux.com/images/stories/decouvrir/plans/plan-vtt-2.pdf  or you can pick up a copy at the ticket offices or tourist info, having it open in another tab will make the descriptions below easier! There are bike maintenance and washing points dotted around the bases of the lifts and a fair few of the mountain restaurants are open if you forgot your baguettes. Again, all of these are marked on the map

Lifts open from a civilised 1000 and close at 1700 with a break from 1300 to 1400. We used the lunch break to ride over the non lift accessed trails from Ball Trap to Praz-sur-Arly and, preferring the trails off the Pres chair to the slopes above Megeve, we rode there for last chair before descending directly to Megeve from the Col du Jaillet side via the base of TS Pres.

The whole area is much quieter than the Chamonix valley, both with walkers and cyclists. Away from the Pres & Jaillet lifts we didn’t see any bikes, though there was a good mix of families on hire bikes and top end DH machinery out. Walkers were all very friendly, but remember the trails are shared so control your inner Danny Hart.

Under TS Pres

Ball Trap / TS Pres

I could have happily lapped red 8 & 17 for most of the day. 17 is the faster and more man-made of the two, with smooth running berms and small but well formed doubles and step-ups that look pretty forgiving if you come up short.

Lorne double

8 is more natural, more roots and some loam, but with the deft touch of a good trail builder enhancing what nature came up with. If you really want a break from the steep tech of Chamonix, this is a great tonic. There’s also a cruisier blue snaking down with less incline and some fire road for less confident riders

Combloux / TS Pertuis

We didn’t ride any of the lower trails, accessed by the free bike bus shuttle, partly because the buses run on 30 minute rotations and we didn’t want to lose any time, but mostly as we were pretty disappointed by the trails under the chair. Red 12 starts out promisingly enough on some playful singletrack shared with a blue run, then turns to fire road for most of its 4.5km. Red 16 just starts on fire road. The blue 11 looked like it had promise from sections glanced at, but we were already moving on (EDIT! Lorne went back a week later, and said…“checked out blue 11 down towards Combloux, really nice high swooping berms at the top, some BMXy whoops in the middle then mellow turns through the forest onto the road” so there you go, our top tip for that side of the hill!).  Descents from the summit all the way down to the lake at Passy are possible from here, and 1300m of DH to end in a swim would be worth a go, but overall, we were fairly underwhelmed.

Megeve / TC Jaillet

For the uplift, the bikes are hung by the rear wheel from the gondola, if you’re of a nervous disposition about your stanchions then you might want to lag them, though no one was and I didn’t feel the bike was going to get trashed. The marked red 13 isn’t particularly memorable, however the unmarked freeride/northshore trail that runs next to it is much more interesting.

Megeve Northshore

Now that the features at Les Houches and in the woods above Les Praz are no more, this is probably the nearest place to Chamonix if that’s your bag

Le Plan / TS Torraz

Tricky one as the lift is closed for the whole summer, so several black and red runs which go to its base are closed for the year, unless you fancy a real slog back. This is a real shame as there looks to be the best potential for natural trails and some big enduro days in the area from here, ho hum. You can loop round to the top of the Christomet chair which accesses most of the trails from the top of the Pres & Pertuis chairs by following the signs for 6, 12 19, & 20 then, after the singletrack descent, contouring round on the fire road. The undulations look worse than they are and you’re quickly at the top of the (closed) chair where you can either follow the black 5 back to TS Pres (which we didn’t) or continue on to red 25 & 22 towards Praz-sur-Arly.

Near TS Christomet

After previous disappointment with red fire road, we were keen to avoid the same here and were considering using a single dashed black line on the IGN map. In the end we lost the track and ended up on a locals trail that took us on about 600m vert of loam (another rarely seen commodity in Chamonix) down to Villard.

Hidden trail

I don’t know the local etiquette on hidden trails, so I’m not giving any more clues, but it’s not too hard to find from the walkers trail, just look out for the tyre tracks…

Praz-sur-Arly / TS Cret du Midi

First off, if you find yourself in Villard, Villaret or such whilst trying to get to Praz, don’t bother with the trails, just take the road! Moving on, there’s not been much effort put into the tracks here, some bike hangers for the chairs (from the front wheel this time, check that QR…) and a few signs. The lift is also closed on Mondays & Fridays.

Praz-sur-Arly

The black 24 run follows a walkers trail complete with slippy log steps and rubble strewn double track. Despite this it’s a lot of fun, swoopy sections through meadows, fast leaf covered tracks through deciduous trees and some serious mud.

Alps or borders? You decide...

Last bit’s not so good admittedly, but we liked it despite this. There’s a long cruisy blue (21 & 39) that takes you downhill from the top into Megeve which looks like an easy way to get back, but with rotations on the looooong chair taking 25 minutes, and 1hr till last lift back at TS Pres, we skipped it to put the saddles up and heads down for a 10 minute blast up the road back to Megeve.

Definitely somewhere to head back to for more exploring, particularly once the Torraz chair re-opens. The potential for some really long rides here is great, and it’s refreshing to ride somewhere that bikes seem encouraged and welcomed….

The opening weekend for the area includes a series of XC and enduro races and a week long VTT festival. Dates aren’t up yet for next years, but the 1st weekend in July would be a reasonable guess.

2 Trackbacks

  • Chamonix Bike Blog

    Mountain bike blog for Chamonix and the Western Alps

  • Latest instagram posts

    This error message is only visible to WordPress admins

    Error: No posts found.

    Make sure this account has posts available on instagram.com.