Les Arcs is well known for it's mountain biking with a huge area accessible by the lift system, with downhill, enduro & cross country trails criss-crossing from the top of resort right down to Bourg St Maurice and into the neighbouring villages of Villaroger, Peisey and Vallandry. We went on a perfect blue sky day to check out some of the down hill mountain bike tracks.
Starting in Bourg St Maurice we picked up the funicular which runs every half hour, whipping you up the mountain in hardly and time at all. It's got loads of space for bikes, pedestrians and parapenters so there were no issues trying to get everyone on board. We thought we'd done a good job of trying to stack 5 bikes and their respective riders in a sensible fashion, only to have them fall over as the funicular picked up pace and gradient going up hill..doh.
Getting off at Arc 1600 we swung around to the Cachette lift and got straight up to 2,160m. The black track and the north shore area that we'd seen from the lift looked pretty good so the fact that most of the team had brought their DH bikes instead of XC bikes for the day seemed like a great choice. (Some of us only have the one bike, although my enduro is really good at tackling most things I throw at it!)
Bearing in mind on Saturdays there are only the funicular and the Cachette lift open, you're a bit limited in the access you get to the rest of the mountain. There are a couple of Enduro trails (A,B & C on the map) that link you to Arc 1800 and another long red enduro trail down to the funicular.. all of which involve a small amount of uphill which no-one was keen to do, so we opted for a purely DH day and I have to say it was pretty darn good!!
Fans of north shore will find a whole play area in the trees off to the right of the Cachette lift with easy and difficult route options. The easy one has smaller, shorter sections with see-saws, skinnies to practise on and little jumps. The expert section has big drops, steep run outs, big rock drops, step ups and downs and a tight right-hander wall ride (see the first picture above). Loved it!
The blue down hill track ("Rock'N Arolles - no. 4) from the top of the Cachette was a good warm up lap of about 4km which takes you down a bit of single track, into some nice wooded sections and covering -560m of descent. It's got some great little rollers, table tops and well built berms with lots of little jumps all over the place.. loads of fun. Loved that too!
The black DH track ("La Cachette" - no.7) starts from the same place as the blue and has some big table tops, big jumps, lots of rocks and steep sections, with variations where you can dive off left or right & re-join the main track again. There are some short steep step downs all the way down it, with lots of roots along the way and a wall ride towards the end. (Watch out for where the track crosses a small stream.. ride through the rocks & the stream on the left, or be prepared to jump the stream all together and go up into the trees on the high right line :-)). Really loved this track too!
There are a couple of places on the black track where you just have to commit and go for it.. I found the steep rocky section half way down a bit of a mental challenge, but once you've done it a few times it's no bother. There were guys on hard-tails that were walking around this bit as we went back up the lift.. no surprise on those bikes!
After a few laps of the black we stoped for lunch in the square next to the Cachette hotel and had one of the best bikers lunches I've had in a long time. Great salads, salmon & tsatsiki and filling galettes all washed down with an ice cold coke - the perfect refuelling stop. The day was getting on & we still had the home run to do, so we did one pretty much non-stop hit on the black track (not a great idea with a full stomach!) and a quick lap of the blue before the Cachette closed at 4.50pm.
It was the first time i've ridden the Black 8 track back down to the funicular & it was so much fun! The lads were taking lots of the steep cheat lines through the trees and having the odd minor incident as a result of pinning it into the corners a bit too quickly and a being a bit too close together. Meanwhile the girls were doing every hairpin and taking the more sensible lines! It's a great trail, weaving down through the trees on narrow, rooty single track with big drop offs on the sides in places, and by the time we'd got to the bottom we all had massive grins. Loved that too!
I know I've only touched on some of the vast amount of riding that's available in Les Arcs, but from the little bits that we were doing I'm sure the rest is pretty darn amazing too. Les Arcs you rock - I will be back soon to try out some more trails! Oh and if you feel like you deserve a beer and a pat on the back after your day's riding like we did, then stop off at Bazoom Bar in Bourg (across the road from the station). It's got a great atmosphere, decent beer and had a live band outside when we were there.
- Mountain Biking
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