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.
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.
That’s a wrap, until next time I drive up here to try and break some carbon stuff.
If not riding then I'm writing, or quite possibly cooking something. I play bass with nine-and-a-half fingers, eat vegetables and fruit, and prefer movement as frequently as possible. I find discomforts and challenges more useful than most things, particularly what emerges from them.
If I died and could return as anything, I would choose a camp fire.
Enter your email address to receive our top stories via email each week.