The Pass Portes du Soleil is a heady mix of chair lifted descents, jaw dropping vistas and oh-so-much cheese. At a decent clip, it takes around half a dozen hours (maybe more) to complete the full circuit of this annual event, as it links up ten or so Swiss/French alpine resorts of the Portes du Soleil region.
It’s a superb experience, and that’s why thousands upon thousands of Frenchies, Italians, Germans, Swiss, Brits and more take part every year. To cope with the demand, the Pass Portes is now spread across three days, but even still the carnival buzz is irrepressible.
To tell the tale is no easy task. Ask a six year old to tell you how Christmas day feels, that’ll be a pretty close approximation. With a GoPro in hand, clad in layers of merino to keep the chill away on the chairs, and a brand new Lapierre Spicy Team to ride, Flow headed into the fray once again. We’ll let the pictures bring you the story.
My steed for the day, Lapierre’s 2014 Spicy Team EI. There wasn’t a better bike on mountain, as the ogling it attracted in the lift queue attested. 650B wheels, intelligent suspension, the new Rockshox Pike – quite the beast.
Any day that begins with a German man named Falco taking you for a breakneck drive in the French Alps in 1980s M-series BMW, is a good day.
Big day ahead, eat up. Pass another croissant, please.
It’s not a race, but the number plate makes a good momento!
The event takes you to every major alpine resort in the region and you’ll cover 80km+ during the day, nearly all of that spent descending.
Your lifts back up in between resorts are provided by a mix of chairlifts, gondolas and one massive telepherique (cable car) out of Champerey.
The cable car out of Champerey gains you a huge amount of elevation in minutes, and treats you to the concentrated aroma of 60 mountain bikers who have been eating cheese and beer all day.
On the cusp of summer, the flowers are just beginning to bloom. Pity the sun wasn’t out, as this would’ve been a pretty special sight.
The descent from Champerey is a highlight, I did it twice, chasing some mad Frenchmen.
Picture yourself here. Feels quite good, doesn’t it?
Do you think this is way?
What the hell is that smell? Oh, a raclette, of course. This smelly but very tasty cheese treat was on offer at most rest stops – it consists of melted cheese, a pickle, some onions, and a small potato. The devil’s quartet of gas creation.
The rest stops all all totally stocked with bread, chocolate, fruit, all kinds of cured meats, hot pasta, coffee, beer, cheese and more. It’s like a new hotel buffet in every resort. I think this is one of the few 80km rides where you can actually gain weight.
The friendliest cows on the planet roam these slopes. They’re milked by hand, so they’re happy to be patted and they’re completely unfazed by the mountain bikers hurtling by.
Yes, that is a chocolate fondue. I filled my Camelback.
And yes, those are kegs of beer at a rest stop. Australian race organisers, take note.
Sometimes you ride with new friends, sometimes you ride alone. With views like this, a solitary ride’s never dull.
Only one flat for the day, not too bad! There are plenty of broken bikes and bodies about the alps, so I felt happy to get away intact.
Not quite Manly Dam.
There was still a bit of snow about this year, so much so that there were fears the event would be postponed, but it melted just enough to make for a clear but muddy route.
Man down. This particular descent was a killer, lots of big roots hidden in the puddles. Tentative didn’t work, it was all or nothing.
A man with a tuba in the alps. Of course.
80km through alpine mud is hardly a nice way to break in a new bike, but the Spicy is made for it. Sorry guys, I tried to miss the puddles, I swear.