Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Alps 2012 - Part 2

Thanks Dave, this now feels like a 'Dragons Den' pitch :)

Ok, In conjunction with Dave, I've been researching organised MTB trips to the Alps. I've been in contact with a number of companies based in France and Switzerland including AlpsCycle, OTP and WhiteRoom. The objective has been to find high quality single track riding, good quality guiding from qualified and legal guides. A decent standard of accommodation and a clear indication of total inclusive price. As a final phase, I posted an open forum question on STW requesting recommendations. The feedback was very helpful and as a result I shortlisted the 'WhiteRoom', Sainte Foy, France.

Here is a summary of what's on offer plus some user feedback and comment from the guys at WhiteRoom:

Ref http://www.whiteroomchalet.com/

Firstly, the WhiteRoom web site is very comprehensive. There are some great video's of the single track riding on offer + lots of useful information about what to expect and what is covered in the inclusive price. Once I'd read the web site I was left with very few questions to ask!

WhiteRoom response to my limited questions:

" If you enjoy getting out there, away from the resorts and your are prepared to pedal a bit to do it then definitely go for the back country week. Our Classic Singletrack weeks are focused around using uplift to allow us to do as much singletrack descending as possible with the minimum amount of climbing. That said, if your group is 4-6, then we'd almost certainly give you your own guide for the week, so there is no reason you couldn't do more of the Backcountry type riding during the chair lift season.
In terms of the difficulty of the trails, it's always hard to judge this without seeing you ride, but generally speaking our trails are more flowy and less steep then in some other places in the alps. Our trails are generally less rocky and more loamy. A lot of our riding is on surfaces with a deep bed of packed dirt and pine needles. "Hero Dirt" as someone called it this year!. At the same time, this is the alps and it is inevitably going to be steeper, more technical and rocker than anything on a UK trail centre. There are some videos at www.whiteroomchalet.com/mtbvideo.htm and loads more posted on Facebook by guests. Our guides can tailor the riding to suit the kind of trails you prefer. If you'd rather avoid the steep and techy stuff and stick to the flowy stuff, that's fine by us!

Prices for the week are around £495 and incl:
5 days guiding
on trail coaching, skills sessions
Airport transfers
7 nights accommodation
Bfast and 3 course dinner
Packed lunch
unlimited beer, wine, soft drinks
Afternoon tea and cakes
Wireless internet

Some STW user feedback:

http://singletrackworld.com/forum/topic/mtb-holidays-in-the-alps-recommendations-and-comment-requested

"Just come back from there and its easily the best trip that I've ever been on. Seemed very capable of adapting to the needs to the client"

"White Room gets 100% recommendation. The riding was superb, lots of trails to choose from. Doubt I'd go anywhere else now for an Alps holiday."

"Another vote for WhiteRoom, been the last two years, wipe the floor with every other MTB Holiday company I've been with....."

In Summary:

Option 2 is an organised holiday with a professional MTB company.
It's more expensive but what you are getting for the money is set out in detail. I don't think the quality of riding is in question.
It comes highly recommended

Looking forward to your feedback and comments on both option 1 and 2. Dave and I will response accordingly pending your comments, preferences and potential group size.

R2

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Alps 2012 Part 1

R2, Willy and I have been looking in to a number of options for next year. The main criteria being:
Not scary downhill stuff
Some form of guiding.
Can fly or drive there.
Can accommodate long weekend or full week.

R2 will be blogging some details on a highly recommended mount bike specific company.

Below is a place I have found that is more of a generic alpine holiday, but they can help us out with the mountain biking. See website:
http://www.meribelskichalets.co.uk/selfcatering.aspx (Maps can be found under their summer activities section)
Chalet Snowbell is the one they recommend has it has a lock-up garage below it.

In 2011 there were lifts open in each of the 3 resorts (Valleys) every day except Saturday. This means that you can access most areas within your chosen 'Base Valley' (Courcheval, Meribel, or Val Thorens) 6 days of the week. Meribel has the most lifts and the largest variety of trails for all abilities out of the 3 Valleys and is hence the best base in my opinion.
On 2 of the 6 days there are lifts open that provide access into the adjoining valley. Once again with Meribel being the in the middle of the 3 valleys it is easy to access either Courcheval or Val Thorens on these "Access Days'.
There are also certain routes that can be taken between the valleys that do not require lifts if you're feeling particularly fit.
To summarise, Meribel is the best "Home Valley' in terms of exploration as well as access to the other valleys on 'Open Days'.
Be aware, there may be more positive changes to the 2011 'lifts-open status' and/or number of dedicated trails by 2012 as Meribel is in the process of increasing it's summer infrastructure. Events such as The National Downhill, Cross-Country, 4X, and Trials Championships are held in mid-July providing entertainment, great atmosphere and a legacy of new and exciting courses/trails.
There is also an organised event where everybody can join for part (or all) of a marshalled circuit (80km) of whole of the 3 Valleys aided by the lift system in the 'Rando Tour' on the opening week of the Summer (1st weekend of July) - Fully supported with free food and wine stops and mechanic stations at regular intervals. It's an amazing day!

http://www.les3vallees.com/3vtt/

Guiding

Formal - There is a group called FRP (Fast Riding People) that guide specific 'Downhill' groups that started this season. They navigate and advise on technique etc This takes place on the many trails in resort but they have the advantage of placing a minibus and trailer 1000m below the lowest lift station, giving a further 1km of vertical decent options with an 'uplift.

Informal –Lee the chalet host is happy to show us round the trails. Lee rides the local trails on his Nomad, but has introduced his wife to mountain biking this year on a 100-120mm bike (so about our level?)

They have a mini-bus - a LWB 9-seater that can accommodate 6 people and 6 bikes (with 3 of the seats taken out). We can offer a transfer service to/from Geneva (approx 150€ each way for the service whether it's 1 person or 8), as well as potential pick-ups during your stay if you would like to do the additional descents 1km below the lower lifts.

The price per person for a week of catering (6 days out of the 7) would be less than £200 per person. I would have to confirm numbers and what we require. Catering would be for a good continental breakfast of cereals, fruit, yoghurts, pastries etc to start your day, and a 2 course meal with unlimited wine in the evening. We could talk about further options of full English/cooked breakfasts, packed lunches, 3 courses in the evening etc if a catered option is of interest.

For:
Excellent value
Looks clean
Food looks OK and flexible
Bike lockup
They will show us around the trails
Lee sounds genuine
Meribel recommended by MBR

Against:
No recommendations (+ve or –ve)
Not a mountain bike specific company.

Let me know if you are interested and once R2 has blogged the other option we will get some email discussions going. There are few things I don’t want in the public domain!

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