Worldwide Shredlist, in Photos: La Thuile Bike Park, Valle D’Aosta, Italy

My partner, Megan Chinburg, on Kappa Trail: 5k in length, 707 meters of descent, starts at 2,328 meters elevation.

Few people in the world are fortunate enough to live near their favorite trail system, or even to visit it annually. The steep natural singletracks in La Thuile, Italy are the main reason why my partner and I moved to northwestern Italy over another region. Yup, they’re that good. If you like ungroomed trails, carpeted in roots and stones, a couple of which are too steep to walk on, this bike park near the Swiss and French borders needs to top your “must shred” list. In this photo essay, I hope to share some of the splendor that this high alpine mountain bike playground has to offer.

The phrase “steeper than it looks” may have originated in La Thuile. The ribbons of singletrack are steep enough that I decided not to bring my fancy camera on any of the most vertical descents. Lead trail builder, Enrico Martello, has been digging for gravity riders since 2002, with a specific focus on making Enduro World Series level trails since 2013. Though the 2020 event has been canceled due to the pandemic, Martello and his small crew cut new trails for each of the previous EWS events here in 2014, 2016, and 2018 respectively. The park now boasts a total of fourteen trails, with more being built as I type. The most recent project is to extend a blue trail, aptly titled Flow, that currently only descends half of the mountain, and to build a new pump track in town.

This video, shot my my friend Elia Bozzola following me down Kappa trail, shows one of the flatter and easier descents.

Like a majority of singletrack in the Alps, the trails in La Thuile are former mining and military routes that have been uncovered in recent years for hiking and mountain biking. While hundreds of kilometers of trail surround the park, inside the lift access area there are seven black-rated trails, six rocky red options, two smoother blue rides, and one green route that rolls around the village below. The trails can be accessed via two chairlifts, or riders can pedal a few different routes to the top if they prefer. All trails are open to eMTBs and muscle bikes alike, and bike rentals and lessons are available at the base of the mountain, as usual.

The perfect bike for La Thule is any modern enduro machine, preferably with at least 150mm front and rear. While something like a Yeti SB130 would work, you might find the limits of the bike before you reach your own on these trails. No matter what whip you bring, spare parts are a key ingredient for the packing list. We blew through three tires, four sets of brake pads, one bottom bracket, one headset, and undoubtedly need a full suspension service after a few weeks of hard riding here. I would highly recommend mounting tires with downhill casings if you plan to let go of the brakes in La Thuile. Two of the three tires I destroyed had the Maxxis EXO+ casing, which was definitely not tough enough. Even while running 5-10PSI more than I typically would the rocks sliced right through them. Something like Michelin’s DH22, or a Maxxis tire with a Double Down casing would be ideal.

Lift tickets go for as low as €7 for a single trip, to €25 for an adult full day pass, €18 for youth under 14, and €180 for the full summer season. Kids under 8 years of age ride the lifts for free, provided they have an adult to accompany them. Now for the photo load below.

Another shot from Kappa.
There are horseback rides in town, and an adorable burro to pet.
From atop Touriasse trail: 3km in long, 582 meters of descent, starts at 2,390 meters elevation. This one can easily be linked back into other trails to complete the descent.
Touriasse is a little faster and flowier than some other tracks, though it looks like a hiking trail in every way.
The steep section that Megan is about to drop is part of the comedy of La Thuile. She disappeared from sight in less than a second.
I randomly ran into Chloé Gellean of the Lapierre Zipp Collective at the top of Cambogia trail: 3.6km in length, 670 of descent, starting at 2,270m. This one becomes much steeper about half way down.
Gallean once more.
With her riding partner following close behind.
My thirteen-year-old daughter also had a great time on the Flow trail, and took some helpful riding lessons with the La Thuile MTB school.
La Thuile is cradled by mountains at 1,405m, with a population of 795 residents.
There are numerous glacial melt streams to cross on almost every trail.
There are plenty of animals to photograph as well.
Another fun slab on kappa. This trails is a good one to lap between the steeper descents for a little arm-pump break.
The trails are primarily lined with larch, mountain ash, spruce, ferns, and blueberries. Oh, and plenty of bell ringing bovine.
The marmots don’t pay too much attention to humans as they whistle through the day.
The Col Della Croce ride that climbs just across the valley from the bike park is a fantastic way to take in more of the mountain views and icy lakes before dropping down another EWS stage.
Along the saddle at the top of the climb you can see Monte Bianco, La Thuile, and other awe inspiring views that are worth a long sit.
Long forgotten farm and military structures dot the landscape.
If you decide to loop Col Della Croce, instead of descending the EWS track back to La Thuile, you can soak your aching hands in this ice bath known as Lago D’Arpy.
Sightseeing alongside Lupin trail.
This is a trickier segment of what might be the steepest trail in La Thuile, called Lupin. The track starts out with some flowy loam and grows progressively more difficult as you fall toward town. Though it doesn’t look it in the photo, this brief piece was too steep to walk up or down after a brief rain, and it’s a full commit segment where braking only costs you control on the bike. The first day of racing was canceled halfway through this stage in the 2016 EWS, as it became too dangerous to ride in the rain. My partner can actually point to the rock she landed on that broke her back in that stage. It’s no joke.
When the dirt and roots are dry Lupin is a blast of a trail that will challenge even the best descenders. It winds through the trees for 3.3k, dropping 723m in elevation from a starting point of 2,350. The actual beginning point of the trail is hard to find since it was built for the race, and isn’t ridden as much as some of the other tracks. I typically ride it from the top of Maisonnettes (aka Kappa), and pedal over a few meters after crossing the main dirt road.
Back for more Kappa.
The rocks are all sticky and fast rollin’. We also rode this trail in the rain and it was rippin’ good fun.
Early risers will be privy to some sweet photo light on the jagged slopes.
The kid’s skills area in town has a magic carpet to keep learning fun.
With a wooden pump track below.
There’s no need to bring a hydration pack on rides, as these fresh spring baths can be found at the base of every descent. Also, it doesn’t get too hot up here, so you might want to pack a pair of riding pants and a back protector.
There was a Land Rover convention in town when we visited. Barring the pandemic, La Thuile hosts a wide variety of mountain festivals and events every summer.
Oh, I nearly forgot, there is great food and wine in La Thuile! Though not pictured here, my favorite spot to refuel is called Il Mulino. It sits at the end of Le Volpi trail, which is 3.4km in length, with 601m of descent beginning at 2,085m.

That’s a wrap, until next time I drive up here to try and break some carbon stuff.

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