SkiBike Tour 2013-14 - Conclusion

Posted: Sunday, 6 April 2014 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

So that's the 2014 Skibiker Skibike Blog Tour for 2014 all wrapped up and what a success it proved to be. It didn't kick off till the beginning of February, but from then on it was a roller coaster ride for the best part of eight glorious, action packed and thoroughly exhausting weeks.

Week 1 - Getting back on the horse

The first week was the toughest; in spite of plenty of cycling practice over the winter, it was still testing to switch from a soft office job to riding the mountains for the best part of six hours a day. I spent the first few days hammering myself into shape at my "local" resorts in the Jura mountains, such as La Dole, Le Crozet and La Faucille. It was supposed to be an easy week of warming up and settling in, but the weather made for a tricky time. There was more fresh snow than I would have though possible, it was just a shame that for most part you could only see for a few feet in front of you.

Great snow in February - but poor visibility

Sadly I only managed one day with Carl & Andy in Flaine and that was probably only a couple of hours skibike riding at the most. All too soon they were homeward bound and Mark Bayston had arrived in Morillon.

Week 2 - Anglo French

Mark Bayston rode my black skibike for the week and we had a couple of fun days riding together. It was a better week for him than last year - injury free - well almost, he pulled a muscle in his shoulder walking!
I also managed to get in some solo rides at, Praz de Lys, Combloux and La Dole all of which have remained skibike friendly. I finished the week with a visit to Firem for some website tweaking and a ride at Grand Bornand, including a chance to try out the new VS 614 model.

Firem VS614 - It will put a smile on your face

Week 3 - Riding with Wayne

Wayne Richards returned to France after many year's self imposed exile and together with wife Lucille we got in a good few rides at various places. There was a fun ride with Team Firem VS at Combloux on the Saturday, with Thierry Avrillon on the Sunday comparing three strangely similar skibikes and finally cruising round the Grand Massif on the Monday. There were issues using the Grand Vans chairlift at Flaine, till this is resolved it is Au Revoir to Flaine, my hard earned Euros will be spent skibiking elsewhere.

Wayne Richard skibiking in France - what is the World coming to?

Week 4 - Back to the grindstone

Both refreshed and exhausted, I jumped on a plane for London and spent a few days working on a medical conference, but I did ride my push bike 30 miles a day to stay in shape for the following week's Balkan adventure.

Week 5 - Watch out for the Avalanches

Another plane took me to the spectacular seaside town of Thessaloniki on the edge of the Macedonian highlands where I met up with Team Avalanche. Together we ventured into Bulgaria along with the Real Balkan Spy and I rode Bucephalus at both Bansko and Borovets. We unexpectedly met Clive and Eddie on their SledgeHammer skibikes and made plenty of MacGyver repairs whilst on the slopes. The mountains, weather and the snow were all about as good as you can get and the prices way below normal. But there was something sleazy about Bulgarian resorts that spoiled their potential charm. All too soon it was time to get that flight home and make another quick turn around.

Team Avalanche Downhill Skibikes - I preferred the pink one


Week 6 - Three Valleys

Back in Geneva, I re-packed the car for my first visit to the Three Valleys area in two decades and my first time on a skibike there. First I gave my skibikes a shakedown in the Jura mountains before driving down to Brides-les-Bains to establish a base camp and form an expedition advance party. I met up with new boy John Andree and Cédric Sabatte and we found that Courchevel was the place to be. Meribel was a disappointment for many reasons and Val Thorens remained cut off from easy skibike access. 

Ace skibiker John Andree - joined the tour in Courchevel

Week 7 - Skibike Swiss Rolls

Fresh from the Three Valleys and with my salopettes in tatters it was time to pack some fresh clothes and head to Leysin where Carl Day had established a base camp. We braved the technical and icy black run descents from Glacier 3000 and in vain sought out the last fresh powder in Gstaad.

No powder left at Zweisimmen

We further explored Leysin, hot lapping the mountain and gathering some of the best skibike footage of 2014.
There was still time to ride with Kevin Dawson in Avoriaz and the following day skied Morzine in the rain and found the perimeter area where skibikes are allowed.

Week 8 - To The Very Last Drop

I managed an outrageously decadent day trip to BullSkate and rode two of the prototype models for the 2014/15 season. 

BullSkate - prototype models for the 2014/15 season

After much waiting, the NISM skis finally arrived for assessment, just in time for the last few days of the tour. They were put immediately to use on my first visit to Valmorel with "Mr A", it was so good we turned it into a two day trip and since I've been told that we are welcome back next season, yay! We gave the NISM skis a thorough going over and they proved to be the ideal off-piste tool.
On the last riding day we made a back breaking ascent of La Tournette, I had to employ every technique I could use to get both myself and my skibike to the top.

So What Next?

I was sad to reach the end of the tour but also very happy that the even the most hap-hazard of plans all came together so well. Unlike any previous year, so many virtual friends joined in and became real ones and we all got to ride together on the slopes of Europe like no previous season. We had a few new riders jump on and join in the fun too and so many enquiries for information that I had to make a second batch of cards.

A few people and places got missed out, next year I must build in some visits to the skibike friendly resorts in Italy and also those of the Auverne and Vosges mountains in France. We can only hope that mother nature will provide the medium for sliding.

Many, many thanks to all who took part, if you haven't been name checked, it is accidental and not deliberate. If you have read this blog and want to join in next season, don't be shy, all it takes is money to make it happen.

Every season there is one track that you hear played everywhere; in the bars, supermarkets and on the radio constantly. This time it was a cover of Keane's 2004 hit "Somewhere Only We Know" given a pseudo classical makeover by Lily Allen.

SkiBike Italy - Kronplatz

Posted: Thursday, 3 April 2014 by Waynemarlow in Labels: , , ,

Ladin Country, Sud Tyrol, Italy. Kronplatz a new venue for us.

As you travel around the European Alps you come across areas which seem to belong to another era and others that speak a dialect so strange that although you can recognise the core language, it's simply impossible to even begin to understand what anyone is trying to tell you.
From France, where the locals speak so fast that I have no chance of any decryption, to Austria and Saalbach, where there has been so much foreign influence that the German is simple and easy going, enough to grab a quick word or two. Onto Alpbach where the dialect is hard Austrian and finally to Ladin country, where the language is all of its own and spoken only by 20000 people in total. Hear Ladin in full flow, it’s nice to hear, but totally in a world of its own.
Kronplatz - wide open slopes

So to St Vigil, Sud Tyrol, Italy, Ladin Country, at the very head of a valley this lovely little town is a little gem if you want quiet and unsophisticated village life, it's bigger than you may imagine and is quite full of very high quality hotels ( check out Hotel Carmen a 3 star hotel punching well above its weight with its; 5 course meals, huge rooms, top wellness area and friendly staff, all for €78 a night, now if you want to impress the girls, lads !), small ski shops and better still, right on the edge of the Kronplatz ski area and with a 20 minute free bus ride, Alta Badia and the Sella Ronda the other way. The usual big church surrounded by a small number of shops and a limited number of bars and pizza style restaurant’s, typically Italian but with that Tyrol flavour. Got the picture, it’s nice, well worth a visit summer or winter. Do check out the local red wine, it’s stunning, available only locally and unfortunately not available in the UK, damn.

So what is the ski area of Kronplatz like for a skibiker? Well get your arses there and give it a go, if you are beginning to skibike and want a friendly easy area then you can’t go wrong; American boulevard skiing at its best, long blues and reds, all very flattering and carefully maintained. Black runs that are, well, tough reds in reality, are long and would be a challenge to the average skibiker, tough enough to test you but wide enough and with an escape route at the halfway points to let you off if needed.
Be careful of the St. Vigil side black run towards Piccolino, at the top it has a quite a steep pitch of about 200 metres, most skibikers would struggle, particularly in the mornings when it was very icy as we went down heading for the buses that would take us into the lifts of Alta Badia, which incidentally as far as I’m aware, are not skibike friendly.
So typical of the Dolomites

Add in all new bubble lifts everywhere, main line train stations built into the base of the lift system at Perche, a social après ski area at the base at Bruneck and loads of Tyrol style mountain restaurant’s, it’s quite a gem. Looking at the ski map it may look small, but the area is vast, some of the runs are over 8km long of 100m wide piste, real French 3 Valleys style, without the expense and vast numbers of people.

There are some downsides of course, the mountain is just like a big upturned ice cream cone with the lifts all ending at the top plateau ( where there is the Concordia 2000 peace bell,  one of the biggest active bells I have ever seen and well worth the wait at 12.00 o’clock to see it wind up and chime the requisite 12 chimes of noon ), its tree sparse at the top and the piste so wide that in poor weather it could be a problem. Equally because the piste are so wide and even, you find yourself thinking that you are skiing out the area quickly, although in reality you are just scratching the available area ( remember the Dolomite Superski of which Alta Badia is part of, is 1200kms of piste and over 400 lifts ) . Also because the pistes are wide, every available run is groomed and hence off piste is quite limited. Be careful also about when you want to visit, it’s quite a long way South and will close late March if Easter is late as per this year.
Concordia peace bell at the top of Kronplatz

All in all though a gem of a place for skibiking and well worth a visit.