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photo: Brian Gerow

Les Orres, France is home to the country’s first bike park. Countless DH and Enduro races have helped shape these tracks into their current form, and it shows.

Boasting fifteen unique lines to the bottom and 25km of trals, the mountain offers just as many descents for beginners and children to enjoy as training tracks for pro gravity racers. The alpine forests, comprised largely of larch and noble-fir and teaming with marmots and other fauna, make for some bright and beautiful photography on the way down.

The lower lift carries riders to a midsection of the slope, where they can descend or hop on the adjacent chair to the peak. This first stop is at the top of all of the beginner and intermediate tracks where it’s possible to make a solid opener loop. If you prefer to warm up with a little adrenaline, take a left off the lift and head over to the freeride features and lower DH tracks. A cafe and swimming pool are located at the midpoint for all of your snack and cannonball desires.

There is a pump-track competition after the lifts close, with scooters and skateboards in the mix.

One of the drops at the bottom of the “freeride” section.

Setting off above the treeline, the upper DH trails are wide and flowy, making the first half of the descent a good warmup for what’s to come. As the trails wrap deeper into the forest, they become steeper, narrower, and more technically challenging. The most difficult pair of DH trails are called Coupe de France and On Envoie du Gros. These two tracks flow into one another and dump riders into one of two freeride sections below. Both tilt up to legitimate butt-on-tire grades and are carpeted with sweet off-camber roots. The freeride tracks are split between an “expert” enclave, with head-height drops and gaps, and a lower-risk section with tabletops and wheel-high drops.

If you want to ride something with more flow, Ride’n Red and Vallon are the best roller-coaster-rail options.

Top trails depart from the Zenith cafe, with coffee and local cuisine to fuel your day.

One of several picnic-perches above the resort.

Two riders dropping into “Magicwood.”

Les Orres “1,650,” located at the base of the lifts, is packed with bars, restaurants, bike shops, a luge course, and a clever “adventure park.”

The top section of “Magicwood” makes some truly magical shapes before it drops off the edge and into the forest.

Wile riding the lifts with shredders from all around the world I was cautioned several times about a more difficult trail that I had not yet ridden. Folks said it was part of the French Enduro Cup, and described it as “very steep and difficult to stay on the bike.” Naturally, I had to see what all the hype was about.

I took the right turn off the top lift toward the only trail I had not yet descended, expecting to walk some cheese-grater vertical chutes on the way down. It quickly became apparent that I have different skills to improve than my lift-mates. This track has none of the long drops or mach-speed tabletops that shook me on the other black-diamond runs. Instead, it is a more natural and narrow bit of singletrack that starts along an exposed ridge before dipping into the trees. I highly recommend giving Magicwood a roll if you like more rocky and technical jaunt through the forest. It was handily my favorite descent of the day.

We stayed in a nearby town called Barcelonnette that was celebrating its history with Mexico, and the food was amazing!

  • Les Orres Bike Park is open the last two weekends in June, daily
    from June 30 to September 2, and on the weekends in September.
  • Lifts open: 9am-5pm
  • Lift prices are €20 per day for adults, and you can find heaps of package deals here.
  • Find an interactive map of the park here, but note that it does not include all of the trails.
  • Bike rentals, guides, and wash stations are located at the bottom of the lower lift.
  • The park offers 1,170m (3.839ft) of vertical descent, from tip to toe.

Berms wide enough for motocross bikes, but designed for maximum gravity-bike speed.

Les Orres is accessible via train or bus. Or, park your car and take a free shuttle up the mountain. Nearby airports in Turin, Grenoble, Marseille, and Cuneo will get you within a short drive of the mountain. On hot July and August days, there is no better place to be than deep in the Alps, and Les Orres sits amidst a sea of jutting mountain teeth to explore.

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