The bustling city of Aosta sits in the valley of the same name and is surrounded by monster mountains with quaint villages and farmhouses perched on their rocky slopes. Ditte and I have had a couple of previous sessions exploring the valley’s magnificent trails and so were pretty excited to return last year for an encore.
Beyond St Moritz where all the beautiful people hang out and the bike shops are full of carbon and titanium shiny stuff, a lonely mountain pass (Julierpass) leads to the train-less settlement of Bivio.
We were ensconced at alpine resort Vulpera, opposite Scuol but on the wrong side of the railway tracks and river. The faded once grand hotels and 80s budget apartments have been left to the vampires, vultures, chain smoking Italian road workers, and us mountain bikers. A bouncy castle, mini golf and kids swimming pool had invaded our front lawn, but an amazing piece of single trail descended from this to the mineral springs and back along the other side of the river into Scuol, bliss.
As we pack, shop and reluctantly bid farewell to Davos, we take a moment to reflect on a marvellous two weeks of riding, before heading for Scuol just 50kms away over the Fluela Pass. We adored Davos for its stunning trails, weather and discount guest pass covering bikes on lifts, trains, boats, buses and planes. Every trail and every day was a revelation. Our trips are studiously marked in sunflower fluoro highlighter on the 'single trail topo' map. A spiderweb of good times, challenges and climbs.
From the Ocean Atlantique to the Mer Mediterranee the Pyrenees mountain range undulates from east to west for over one thousand kilometers. Its summit chain pretty much marks the border between Spain and France, with the small enclave of Andorra slotting in along the way, like one small piece of a massive rugged jigsaw puzzle.
This high altitude mountainous landlocked peninsula is about 1200 square km of mountain biking joy in a convoluted sort of way. Bordered to the north by the illustrious mountain biking nation of Switzerland and to the east and south by a couple of Italy's innumerable provinces, it shares its incredible mountains and stunning vistas with Switzerland.
Yes, the Bike Republic of Soelden in the Oetztal Valley officially announced their independence from Austria, to pursue the mountain bike dream un-encumbered by democracy and the ghost of health and safety, its politics and regulations.
Zillertal is famous for its beer and its Radler. For over 500 years the Zillertal Brewery has been supplying the strongest beer festival in all of Austria and its Gauder Bock has reached cult status among the many local and overseas fans that visit the Gauder Fest.
In retrospect, our last week of riding in Ischgl rushed by, like an out of control quad-copter in Dr Who's Tardis. I concede, we may have gotten overly familiar with this Austrian valley, its catchment and the craggy mountains that influence its ever changing weather.