Finding the goods in snow covered mountains17 Sep. 2019
TEXT // JAMIE NICOLL | PHOTOS // MAX SCHUMANN
Flying in from my home land New Zealand, for my seventh summer in France and Europe, arriving for the excitement of spring, getting back out into the mountains and a summer of trips and adventures ahead. It’s good to be back for another five month stint, this Euro land has grown on me more and more over the years.
It’s good to be back for another 5 month stint, this Euro land has grown on me more and more over the years.
Santa Cruz Rider
I’ve been in Europe a week now, it’s late May and the snow is still holding strong in the shaded corners of the high mountains and surrounding peaks of Morzine, France. Morzine sits at roughly 1000 meters elevation and is deep in the northern Haute Savioe region of the French Alps, this town is something of a “Mecca” for mountain bikers. Bikers from all over the globe gather here for summer, keen for big descents with long gondola and chairlift rides back to the top.
For me these are fun and a great asset - but I tend, where possible, to use them more to get me up high. So I can get out of the park and explore the seldom used and hidden trails, the ones tucked into the forested mountain faces, over the back of sharp ridges or towering peaks - there is just so much more for me still to discover here in this one area.
Bikers from all over the globe gather here for summer, keen for big descents with long gondola and chairlift rides back to the top.
Santa Cruz Rider
In May the lifts have not opened yet and so this weekend called for some of my good friends to drop by, coming together to do some exploring and hanging out together. On this day we chose to ride the 700 vertical meters by road up to col de Joux Plane at 1700 meters altitude. From the col another 300 meters on walking trails gets you up to 2000 meters and the epic viewpoint of Pointe de Chamoissière.
So the day started with a top up of croissants and coffee in a local Morzine patisserie, this had us brimming, charged and ready to go. We started the long road climb up out of the deep valley from town. After about an hour we started hitting snow drifts that stretched across the road, we had a lot of laughs trying to sprint and make it across these retreating icy snow deposits.
Passing the lake at the col de Joux Plane, we turned onto the snow covered walking trail and soon enough reached the viewpoint of Pointe de Chamoissière. Standing by the standard French mountain top cross, we were treated to clear views out to Mont Blanc in one direction and Lake Geneva in the other. From here, the fun begins, following the old walking track ridge descent towards Samoens. Dropping in with whoops of delight we followed the open grass ridge down to the tree line.
Luckily the trees gave us the feeling of some protection to the steep exposure as we hit long root sections down this amazing piece of fast trail. Weaving through trees, with that sweet feeling of the bikes suspension working hard. Now and then our trail passed by the switch back corners of the steep mountain road before finally leaving this shared ridge and dropping into forested faces with more sweeping turns through dimly lit pines and dense scrubby trees that hinder vision and keep you on your toes. Stopping at the top of the next section, we were laughing at the mishaps and surprises we’d faced. The moments where we’d had to make quick decisions, but got away with it all the same. It’s a fast ride on fresh spring trails when you have Max chasing you down the hill.
OreHigh-end mountain bike helmet that keeps you safe during every ride
As we got closer to the valley floor, the trail becomes more broken. Short sections of fun trail between rustic little groups of houses, barns with weathered and cracked timber slab walls and grey slate roofs with moss growing between the tiles. These scenes are common but I always enjoy passing by these relics of quality and old craftsmanship.
We had just had lunch in one of the café’s in the quaint Samoens village, scenes of church spires dwarfed by massive cliff faces directly behind town, with full tummies we were quite happy for a lift back up.
From the top you have a range of options, either dropping into the Les Gets bike park to your left or traversing out to the right and dropping any variations of the red trail that brings you back around to Morzine, either option will bring back near to the towns craft brewery, the Bec Jaune.
This is just one of the days and trails outside of the bike park that I love to ride, there are many more for the keen map reader and the prepared adventurer.
Remember that this is the mountains, weather can change fast and trips can take a lot longer than expected, so take the right gear and equipment, even if the sun is out and you are thinking it is just going to be a quick mission.