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European Diary 1 By Bob McCaughan

The French Alps in general and Morzine in particular have to be the top foreign location for British bikers. Find out more in these diaries.

Hi, I'm Bob McCaughan and this is the first of the European Diaries, which will be weekly / bi-weekly features (depending on how much is happening). I'm working as the resident guide for the Sherpa Hotel, ( Morzine in the French Alps for the season.
Things haven't been too rough this first week, with the good weather (25 ' 30C & sunshine) allowing plenty of riding and BBQ or just eating outdoors every evening.

Pleney start
The route from the Chairlift station at the top of Pleney (1554m & main mountain at Morzine), along to the Tete du Vuargue (1825m) and down past the Col du Ranfolly (1656m) into Les Gets, is a day / long afternoon ride depending on weather and ability. With the temperatures over 30C it took us almost twice as long, with many more drink stops than on cooler days.
The spectacular snow-capped mountain peaks including Mont Blanc to the south are worth the climb. We spent part of the return journey piecing together the correct route as the tracks across grassland are overgrown because the season has only just started.
Mainly fire-road ascent followed by a combination of rooty single-track, meadowland, fire-road and gravel piste descent, sums up the terrain encountered.

So after a few minor wrong turns, head scratching and a small amount of logic, we made it back into Les Gets for a cold drink. Remember your Carte Neige (5 approx for a weeks cover for mountain rescue), drink, food, sunscreen, mobile phone and waterproof top.

Pleney Courses
In my initial few days I met Rab & Co from Scotland, who were my first Video-Diary guinea-pigs, allowing me to suss-out the best spots for filming visibility on the main Pleney and Avalanche Cup courses. There's also a freshly cut section branching off from the main Pleney course, with off-cambery / freeride type trail roller-coastering through trees on the loose pine-needle surface down to the main road before Morzine.

Tree Hugging
Les Gets 2
This has to be the most fun DH course in the area! (so far) The top section has stayed pretty much the same berm-fest as previous years, bar the introduction of a couple more meaty berms just before the wooded section at the half-way point.
The main changes are to the open meadow / piste section at the bottom. The off camber route snaking across the slope has been replaced by yet more berms (you'll now realise that the French seem to be getting quite good at this course design lark, with the berms are becoming bigger and more eye-opening as they are much faster than the tighter corners of before).
The best of this new route is highlighted by an orange warning banner sending you left joining a short RH berm onto a very steep LH berm leading straight down through a flowing succession of these corners. It's hugely fast with each corner pinging you out for the next to catch (piccys below).
Next Week: 'La Free Raid Classic VTT'

3 days; 11 chairlifts; 7 areas including Morzine, Les Gets, Chatel, Champery; 4X races; BMX dirt jumping; Trade stands (Michelin, Marzocchi, SRAM, Giant, etc) > Diary 2


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