To Ride The Alps Is To Feel The Alps
By Hans Rey
Photos: Markus Greber
E-bikes are everywhere these days in Central Europe. It is safe to say that the Euros are years ahead of the e-movement in America. Especially in countries like Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Northern Italy, e-bikes are accepted and integrated into the biking world, be it from a urban/commuter point of view to a mountain biking/trail user’s point of view.
Many bike shops in these areas claim that e-bike sales are at an all-time high, and in some cases sell 10 e-bikes versus 1 regular bike. Many tourism destinations have embraced e-bikes and have added e-bike rentals, tours and commuter/transportation options.
They have long figured out that e-bikes are not just for the older folks or less fit. Many top, advanced, and even pro riders and racers have embraced e-bikes as one of their riding alternatives, be it for training, tours, transportation or just to mix it up.
Livigno is a ski and bike resort destination in the Italian Alps, not far from the most-eastern point of Switzerland. Livigno has long been known as a Mecca for cyclists of all kinds, and it is one of Europe’s best mountain bike destinations with world-class trails, bike parks and general biking infrastructure, which include specific bike hotels that cater to all needs for cyclists.
Not to forget the breathtaking scenery and alpine charm, along with the great Italian food, make it a top-notch place. They even hosted the Mountain Biking World Championships in 2005, and many professional cycling road teams train on the high-altitude passes and roads that wind through the mountains.
E-bikes are now the latest craze in this small mountain village, and many shops sell them, rent them or people bring their own to ride the bike parks (yes, they even use the gondolas) or explore the countless backcountry trails and routes. The bike parks have purpose-built flow trails specifically made for mountain bikes, while the backcountry trails are often hundreds, if not thousands, of years old and are ancient trade routes or ways to get from one valley to another.
THE TWO TOURS
There are two specific mountain bike tours that stand out that I would like to introduce to you. One is a backcountry tour, and the other is a bike park tour. Both tours take you further than what one would experience normally on a regular bike.
Feel the Alps Tour (Back Country Tour) is a 48-mile, 7850-vertical-feet, expert-level bike tour that will raise the heart rate of any cyclist. This long tour requires an extra battery (two 500 Wh), and it is recommended to also bring a charger to get an extra dose of power during one of the optional lunch stops in one of the mountain huts/restaurants along the way.
One of my favorite things about the Alps is that you can find food and shelter in the middle of nowhere at little family restaurants or rifugios. The ride starts and ends in Livigno, but crosses the boarder into Switzerland and traverses across five passes along the way. The alpine experience and panoramic views are five-star, and so are the singletracks. Don’t be fooled; this is not a walk in the park, and it will be a long day in the saddle.
I designed and named this tour over the last couple of years because I wanted to go further and deeper than I could go on my regular bike. I also wanted to include some remote valleys that don’t see many hikers or bikers during the short alpine summer season.
Once crossing the border from Italy into Switzerland you can get the full Swiss experience with beautiful mountains and glaciers, happy cows, the famous Red Train, chocolate and cheese, and always-friendly folks.
UP WITH THE GOATS
The second tour I have established is also in Livgno. It is known as the Wild Goats Tour. It starts and ends at the Carosello 3000 Mountain Resort, and to save both time and battery life, you do use the gondola on the first uphill to get to the top station at nearly 10,000 feet elevation. This tour is also for experienced riders and can be done on just one 500 Wh battery.
Besides the lift to the top of the first peak, there will be another 3200 feet of pedaling uphill to complete the tour that has a total of 6400 feet of downhill trails. Most of these trails are state of the art and are a nice mixture of some of the best in the area. The first descent is on the Val Federia trail, a natural trail that passes by at the Malga Federia, which is a small mountain hut, where the farmer stays with his cows during the summer months and makes his own cheese and other local specialties in-house.
From there you’ll get out of the Carosello 3000 Trail Park to explore some of the remote backcountry trails that are literally along the Swiss border (without crossing over). These trails are old smuggler trails from back in the days during and after the Second World War when many commodities were traded and smuggled across these green borders.
The trail has some steep and technical sections, but it is all ridable for an advanced rider. Eventually, this trail loops back to the Malga (mountain farm), where a hot cappuccino or lunch (and recharge the battery if needed) awaits. Afterwards there is a climb on a fire road back to the top of the Trail Park from where there is a great combination of purpose-built flow trails that lead back to the village via the Enduro and Blueberry Line trails. Total length of this tour is about three hours.
This tour is a great example of how bike parks will not be taken out of business because of e-bikes who don’t need the lifts or gondolas. In this case, a person can just buy a single one-way ticket for $13 (instead of investing into a full-day bike pass) and get a full battery of riding, plus an extra 3000 feet downhill on top of that.
Carosello 3000 has many more trails to offer, including many trails and tour variations that are more beginner- and family-friendly, like the Tutti Frutti Epic. State-of-the-art e-bikes are for rent at various places in the village, and guided tours are also available for any skill level.
Carosello 3000 Mountain Resort and Trail Park: www.carosello3000.com/en/mountain-park
Carosello 3000 E-Bike Tours:
Hotels and Apartments: www.livigno.eu/en/bike-hotels
Guide services: www.bikelivigno.com