By Christophe Gressent, head of Les Gets Bike Park
“Ours is the largest bike park in Europe, with 128km of marked trails. Since 1992, those who enjoy the thrill of the downhill have flocked to Les Gets, sometimes as soon as the snow melts. This is a pioneering destination and as the manager of the bike patrol team, it’s my job to maintain the high standards that our visitors have come to expect over the years.
Les Gets came to the attention of French riders when the village hosted the first Coupe de France de Downhill in 1992. Much trail development dates back to that summer, and the event gave us a taste of what downhill mountain biking might bring to a village that usually relies on winter tourism. We’ve hundreds of photos from this first event, and while the sport might look a little different these days, the passion for mountain biking in Les Gets stays the same.
In the years that followed, Les Gets became world famous, hosting a continuous collection of national and international events including the French Junior Championships, the MTB World Championships, Crankworx festival and most recently, the World Cup Finals in 2019 and 2021. This summer the World Championships return and we’ll be ready, as we always are.
Being on the world stage of professional mountain biking means our visitors are assured of some of the very best facilities and trails; we are always innovating. Our motivation is to try and create something for everyone, from beginners taking their first pedals in the mountains, to expert riders who like to be challenged. We have enduro, cross country and of course downhill trails, a freeride track, e-bike specific routes (complete with charging points!) and a three hectare jump park with bridges, jumps, forest passages and wooden features. The dual slalom track is excellent fun, while children love the mini jump park, two pump tracks and the kids zone.
To keep the bike park new and exciting, we begin work in the autumn of the preceding year to ensure perfection for the next summer season. Within our team we have many new improvement ideas to discuss and assess; providing diversity is always our priority. Once we decide on new features, any major earth works or developments are done at this time, before the snow and the skiers arrive. This leaves the track maintenance for early May each year and we work by sector as the snow melts, usually starting at the bottom of the trails in the village and working our way up to the top of the slopes, chasing the snow away. Of course some years, maybe this one actually, there really is too much snow for us to get to work, so we use machinery to clear snow and to promote its melting.
We have been working on a number of new projects for this summer, but of course they were a long time in the planning to make sure they are perfect. You’ll discover a new blue run on the Chavannes side of the bike park and we’ve also reworked several existing trails to bring you new and exciting experiences.
Les Gets Bike Park is one of the first bike parks to open in Europe each year. This makes the period of May critical and good weather is really important to us if we are to have the trails prepared on time. We all focus on the opening weekend, which is usually the final weekend in May each year. As the summer lifts come to life, we know there is a big desire to start rising again and it is our job to guarantee good conditions for our visitors. Good weather helps! Then we’ll have lots of people in the park and our work really begins.
The Les Gets Bike Park team is made up of nine people during the summer season and our role is to ensure the maintenance of the tracks and the safety of the people who use them. Our work is demanding but very rewarding, especially when we see people learning to ride for the first time on our trails – this is a great moment! And the feedback from the more accomplished riders is always very interesting to us. When riders are happy, we are happy. Of course there are times when the bike park becomes very busy, such as in the weeks that follow a big event – as Les Gets becomes more notorious, more people wish to experience our trails.
People always ask me if it’s possible to open new lifts in the summer season, especially since the bike park is growing in popularity, in the Ranfoilly area for example. The Les Gets lift operating company Sagets works in consultation with the town hall on this subject and for the moment, a number of options are being considered but nothing has been decided upon. I can tell you however, that it is possible that this will be the reality in the short to medium term.
The other question people always ask me is about unofficial or ‘secret’ trails within the Les Gets domain. Unofficial trails are a problem as they are not maintained or supervised by the Bike Park team, so they can be dangerous while also passing through private land. If you had an accident on one of these trails, it would be very difficult for us to find you. So, to try and deter riders from the secret trails, we offer varied official tracks to keep everyone interested on the official routes. We’ve discovered that this limits the problem of unofficial routes as much as possible in Les Gets.
The future is very exciting for mountain biking of all varieties in Les Gets and of course, the bike park must continue to change, as it has in recent years. Bikes are evolving so much; a few years ago we saw only very big downhill bikes, yet now we see lots of enduro and e-bikes, so we’re inspired to develop what we offer every year. Children are also inspired to come and enjoy their bikes in our mountains, so we must consider this too. Les Gets is a very popular summer destination for families, so we try to offer exciting times for the little ones too. We really hope that everyone enjoys their time in Les Gets bike park this summer and in the years to come!”
Les Gets Bike Park has a dedicated website, on which you can recharge your lift passes, book a stay in Les Gets, rent a bike, find a coach and discover which events are taking place in the bike park and in the village during your stay. Head to lesgets.bike for more information.