If you’ve ever skied in the Alps, Dolomites or Pyrennes mountains of Europe, you’ve experienced some of the world’s most beautiful mountains. Europe’s s high-alpine, above treeline peaks and see-forever meadows are breathtaking in the winter months, but in the lush summertime these places are truly magical. The iconic peaks, like the Matterhorn, Eiger and Mont Blanc, are still specked with snow which feeds the many flowing mountain streams, rivers and lakes, and the high-alpine meadows are generously dotted with colorful wildflowers and home to grazing milk and cheese cows and the horny-headed ibex. The most exhilarating way to experience summer in Europe’s mountains is on a mountain bike. Much like North American ski resorts, European ski resorts become biking meccas during the warmer months. Many of Europe’s ski resorts now also feature lift-accessed, mountain biking parks.
Ski Resorts for Mountain Biking in Europe
Note: Many of the bikers featured in the videos below are professionals and they are riding black and black-diamond trails. Every bike park on this list has world-class beginner and intermediate mountain biking, too.
1. Bormio, Italy
From its beginner and children’s bike park and downhill bike park to freeride trails and long-distance, cross-country routes, Bormio caters to just about every preference of biking style and provides bikers with summer lift access. Trail and route highlights include:
- Le Motte Bike Park provides a lift-accessed, four-kilometer (two-mile) descent that provides children and beginners with perfect trails and features for learning the fundamentals of downhill biking.
- Adrenaline junkies will love biking from Bormio 2000 down Panther, the challenging downhill trail that hosts the Italian Championship Downhill.
- Comparative to off-piste or backcountry skiing, the freeride trail from Bormio 3000 through Stelvio National Park to the charming town Santa Caterina yields excellent views, especially of the Cima Bianca.
- Several route options between Cima Bianca and Bormio 2000 provide cross-country enthusiasts looking to pedal with intermediate to expert ascents and descents, not to mention unforgettable views.
- Bormio offers access to the Passo di Gavia, which is a famed road-cycling route, but many of the old roads provide excellent cross-country trails at high elevations.
Where to Stay: Larice Bianco, located in the historic center of Bormio and near the lifts, is the ultimate biking hotel. The hotel provides guests with bike storage, information about trails and maps and has a relationship with a local bike shop if rentals, maintenance or repair is required.
2. Portes du Soleil, Switzerland/France
Imagine what mountain biking heaven would be like? It’d probably have a limitless amount of trail and route choices and types, the option to explore different places and towns and incredible scenery. This describes Portes du Soliel in the summer. Portes du Soleil is a massive ski domain featuring 12 linked resorts, including Morzine, that cross over the Swiss-French border. Here’s a look at Portes du Soleil’s mountain biking by numbers:
- Mountain bikers can explore 650 kilometers (404 miles) of trail spread out over the domain’s 12 ski resorts.
- In the summer months 22 lifts are running for bikers’ uphill convenience.
- Downhill biking enthusiasts have 50 trails to choose from.
- All-mountain explorers can experience a 70-kilometer-long (43-mile-long) trail.
- 22 mountain biking schools offering instruction guiding.
- 29 rental and repair shops.
Where to Stay: Located on the mountain and just steps from the Pleney gondola in Morzine, Le Viking Hotel is an excellent choice for bikers looking for convenient access and charming atmosphere, including a panoramic restaurant.
3. Chamonix, France
A cross-country mountain biker’s haven, Chamonix’s proximity to Switzerland and Italy provide opportunities to bike multi-day routes, tack-on mountain bike trips to nearby ski resorts and plenty of downhill, intermediate and beginner riding. Below are some of Chamonix’s mountain biking highlights:
- Endurance aficionados will love the five-day, spectacular Tour de Mont Blanc.
- Lift-accessed trails and cross-country routes in Verbier, Megeve, Courmayeur and Aosta/Pila are all within close driving distance.
- Downhill bikers will not be disappointed with Chamonix’s gravity-friendly trails, which are accesssed via The Les Houches, Le Brevent, Flegere, Le Tour and Les Grands Montets cable cars.
- Beginners and intermediates have plenty of trail options down in the valley on the river l’Arve.
Where to Stay: The three-star, historic Croix Blanche is a top-of-mind Chamonix accommodation for a mountain biker looking for a reasonably priced room, plenty of modern amenities and a convenient center-of-town location.
4. Verbier, Switzerland
Note: As of June 30, 2014 Verbier will no longer be connected with Switzerland’s 4-Vallees ski area by a single ticket. This will likely affect lift ticket pricing for the 2014 summer season and for future winter and summer seasons.
Providing access to 200 kilometers (124 miles) of varied trails, an 8-hour-long advanced cross-country route, the famed four-stage Grand Raid or Alpine Valais Bike route and it’s own downhill mountain bike park, Verbier is definitely a favorite mountain biking destination in Europe. The downhill park is located in the Ruinettes and Médran areas and covers six kilometers (four miles) of terrain with a 700-meter (2,300-foot) vertical descent. Verbier is located just 1.5 hours’ drive from Chamonix and Portes du Soleil, making it an excellent place to base your mountain biking vacation out of if you’re looking to experience a multitude of trails. Here are some don’t-miss trails and routes:
- The aforementioned 8-hour-long, 60-kilometer (37-mile) cross-country march, called the Tour du Mont Fort, may sound daunting even for an experienced mountain biker, but the views are well-worth the effort. Plus, it features 3,112 meters (10,210 feet) of vertical descent.
- Beginners have several easy, 40-minute routes on 4 x 4 trails that provide the perfect introduction to the sport and experience.
Where to stay: The three-star Hotel de la Poste is recommended for the mountain biker looking for a clean and comfortable, no-frills hotel that’s close to the lifts and town center.
5. Jungfrau/Grindelwald, Switzerland
The 160 kilometers (100 miles) of mountain bike trails in the Jungfrau Region provide pedallers will plenty of cross-country routes. Those looking for descents can enjoy uphill access via the region’s many trains and cable cars which can take the strain out of many a climb. The views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau are among Europe’s best. Here are some recommendations for mountain biking in Grindelwald/Jungfrau:
- “Marathon Routes” or dirt-road routes, are plentiful from Grindelwald’s First Gondola.
- Uphill-enthusiasts can ride 1,200 meters (3,937 feet) from the valley floor to Kleine Scheidegg. The downhill experience is worth the slug as mountain bikers can ride the World Cup Lauberhorn downhill via singletrack trail.
- Unfortunately, bikes are not allowed on the famed Jungfraujochbahn, the train which brings tourists to the “Top of Europe” or the Eiger. Regardless, head up the famed train to experience unforgettable views and a historic engineering marvel.
Where to Stay: The Chalet Hotel Steinbock is situated just steps from Grindelwald’s First Gondola, making for some seriously convenient access to the resort’s mountain biking.
If you’re ready to book a vacation to go mountain biking at Europe ski resorts give us a call, start a chat, or start customizing your vacation details today with our online booking engine. We can help you plan and book everything from flights and lodging to ground transfers, car rentals (with bike racks) and even bike haul lift tickets. And be sure to check out our year-round ski resort deals.
For more information on what mountain biking at ski resorts is all about, click here. You might be surprised to learn it’s a lot like skiing!
Originally from the icy trails of New Jersey, I moved West to pursue powder and a career in writing and editing. Now in Aspen, Colo. and working for Ski.com managing the website and blog content, I couldn't be happier. You'll find me skiing at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands in the winter and mountain biking at Snowmass in the summer.