South Tyrol 2012: Mountain Biking the Dolomites & Italian Alps – Bruneck & the Kronplatz: 1 of 4

Mar 7, 2013 at 0:03
Mar 7, 2013
by Lee Lau  
 
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|| Bruneck & the Kronplatz || Brixen & Plose Mtn || Steinegg & the Rosengarten range || Latsch & Stelvio Pass ||



Servus!

Südtirol/ South Tyrol – North Italy! Or South Austria, or Tirol, or… well they speak German and Italian, have great food and some pretty nice mountains called the Dolomites and some awesome mountain bike trails that you can get to with a gondola.

It's our first time here and we're obviously pretty excited. After two weeks in Switzerland we thought it'd be pretty hard to impress us but this place rocks you between the eyes with stunning mountains, friendly people and the food...did I mention the food?

Dolomites and Marmolata views

Dolomites and Marmolata views.


Introduction
Because it's Europe, and travelling here is as much about the culture, first a history and geographical lesson for typical North American short attention spans. Südtirol is a province of Italy enjoying considerable autonomy. It's 7400 sq km so about the size of Delaware (ie, it's not big). 510,000 people live here.

Before World War 1, Südtirol was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Following that war (to the victor goes the spoils), Südtirol was annexed by Italy. Despite numerous attempts by the Italians to encourage immigration to their northernmost province, the majority of the population is Austrian-German and mainly German speaking (although many people here also speak Italian and, particularly in the tourism industry, English). For various economic, cultural and political reasons (read about it more here if you are interested) the Italians have largely used a hands-off approach in dealing with Südtirol. If I may be so bold, it means that Südtirol is basically Italy run by Germans, everything works efficiently and on time. Yet the Sudtirolians seemed to also have adopted some of the best parts of Italy; they are fun-loving and warm. And their food....mama mia.



Bruneck - Pustertail (Kronplatz - Kreutzjoch/Fidura) to Pragser Wildsee - SOUTH TYROL - Sept 16, 2012 from Lee Lau on Vimeo.




Dolomites singletrack

For some reason, when people think about the Dolomites they think of Cortina (in Trentino province just south of South Tyrol). We investigated the possibilities of riding there briefly, but it seems that most of the trails are there are inundated with "James Bond" tourists and quite crowded. The biking trails near Cortina are mostly double-track and while the views are no doubt impressive, we did not fly halfway around the world to ride gravel roads or pretty but wide cow paths. If we're wrong about this then we'll have to come back to check it out, so please let us know.

When we heard about Südtirol/South Tyrol we thought it was too good to be true...the Dolomites with beautiful trails that were legal to bike and an infrastructure friendly for biking? It gets better. We also found that the exchange rate was very much in North America's favour as the Euro has tanked against the Canadian and US dollar, so prices were very reasonable (although we explicitly note that we travelled in September which is the off-season).



A general map of the Bruneck area. The Hotel Innerhofer is in the village of Gais. We rode a loop to the west of town. Look how close we are to the hordes of people at Cortina yet the trails we rode were basically deserted!


Top:the proud flag of Suedtirol. L bottom: Location with respect to Italy, L right: A small but super cool place




Kronplatz - Passo Furcia - Fidura - "Trail 24"

We were here on behalf of Suedtirol tourism who had us on a tight schedule. They really wanted us to see a lot of the region so we only had time to do one ride in the Bruneck area. It bears mentioning that the map shows we could easily have done 3-4 days of riding alpine loops of legitimate alpine singletrack. As is normal in Europe, the maps are excellent; you can get them from bike shops or bike hotels. The differences between singletrack and wider trails (doubletrack, rural roads etc) are easy to see, so it's easy to avoid doing "marathon xc" loops (ie non-technical and to us, boring) and focus on the interesting singletrack. However, even one short session with someone familiar with the area is tremendously useful; local knowledge seems to be very useful to figure out how to link trails together. The Suedtirol public transit system (bus for the most part) is also very good so its entirely possible to get elevation assist or skip long road rides by using transit. It is also worthwhile mentioning that every one of the Suedtirol bike hotels have guided rides; here is the selection from the Hotel Innerhofer for example.

We had a fantastic dinner (more pictures of that later) with locals Peter Rabensteiner, Markus Irschara, Michaela Zingerle and Wolfgang Toechterle of Suedtirol Tourism; expressed our interest in riding cool interesting trails with transit assist and they took care of the rest.



Dolomites and Marmolata views

We started our ride by going up the Kronplatz gondola. Riding off the Kronplatz we ride along a ridgeline then on our first 800m descent and take in the views.


Singletrack to Passo Furcia

Down through valley singletrack towards Furcia Pass


Snow fell three days ago. Smells like winter but summer hangs on

Now we earn back some elevation. A big 750m climb up a loose dusty Dolomites road. Snow fell three days ago. Smells like winter, but summer hangs on.


Top of the Pass

The top of the pass at 2293m. A multilingual country means lots of names; its known as Kreutzjoch (German) and Fidura (Romansch).


Checking out the map

Peter checking out the map looking down towards Trail 24 (great trail names guys).


Then we go on Trail 24

Then we go on Trail 24; 9km long descending 800m.


We head into a valley of views

Trail 24 meanders west to east and drops into a valley of views.


Valley of views

What views! Typical Dolomites.


Dolomites wunderschoen

The Dolomites are known for the quality of the marble quarried. That makes not just for impressive sculptures but also for trails that dry out quickly. Our descent is on loose trails strewn with chunks of white marble.


Surfing Dolomite trails

Surfing quartz.


To a meadowy pumptrack

From Dolomites spires to a meadowy pumptrack.


Kasa Knodel at the Hutte

Kasa Knodel (Cheesy dumplings mmmmm) at a conveniently located alpine hut.


Dolomites chue

Our good buddy the South Tyrol big horned cow.




Kronplatz and the Herrnsteig freeride trail.

After this first trail we shared a cab back to the village of Olang thus avoiding a 10km roadride. A gondola at Olang took us back up to the Kronplatz where we got to check out the freeride trail that Markus helped build. The Herrnsteig was not what we expected. Frankly, because we live in North Vancouver and Whistler, we don't travel to ride freeride or downhill park trails and have to admit that we usually think the purpose-built bike trails in Europe are beat up and pretty underwhelming.

Well, we sure were proven wrong. The Kronplatz freeride just had work done it by the trail crew. We were pretty much the last people on it that day after there had been over 60 riders from a bikefest that very day. And even then the 1500m descent over 18km was super fast, super smooth and had some of the nicest sculpted berms one can imagine. Awesome work on this trail; lot of Euro park builders could learn a thing or two from the crew in Bruneck. We both agreed that it was by far the best mountain bike park trail we’ve ridden so far in Italy and Switzerland!



Back up another Gondola to the Kronplatz for coffee before riding down the Herrnsteig Freeride trail.


Kronplatz Herrnsteig freedide downhill trail

Berm, berms ...


Kronplatz Herrnsteig freeride downhill trail

Berms, berms and flow everywhere




The Bikehotels Suedtirol product and the Hotel Innerhofer

We were invited here by SMG - the Sudtirol Marketing Group. They are a public/private entity and have created a Bike Hotel concept that has to be experienced to be believed. Take it from a couple who live in Whistler/Vancouver (two hotbeds of biking and tourism) and who have travelled to many places around the world. Many tourism organizations and tourism operators could learn a thing or two from the South Tyroleans.

The key to their product is the Bikehotels Sudtirol concept (a tip of the hat to Wolfgang Toechterle for this) is the people. The most important element are the hotel owners all of whom are mountain bike fanatics. This passion extends to the superlatively good customer service they extend to their guests and the quality of accommodations; the owners attitudes percolates to the staff. All of the Bikehotels with which we stayed include breakfast and the option of half board (ie dinners included) and guided rides. It's a small but important detail but all the hotels had spacious well lit bike rooms with bike stands, tools you could use and washing materials. Basically, you were pampered and you could also pamper your bike. It seems that the Bikehotels Sudtirol concept was almost like a "quality seal " for certain hotels; stay with them and you could almost say you would be guaranteed a quality experience.



The Hotel Innerhofer in Gais, just north of Bruneck. The Bike room and Agnes Innerhofer (one of the two sisters who own the hotels at Reception.


Food of Hotel Innerhofer. Agnes sat with us. The chef came out and greeted us. Boy we felt like royalty.




Bruneck/Pustertal range rides

For more pictures of the area see the entire photo album set here - includes photos of landmarks and notable features

(Click on the links to bring the maps up full-page. You can download GPS also if you want to replicate the loops)


.

Statistics

Length: 26 km ( not included the second gondola ride and ride down Herrnsteig.
Duration: 5 hours, 23 minutes, 13 seconds
Vertical up: 2231.7 m
Vertical down: 1667.9 m
Average Speed: 4.8 km/h

Sud Tirol - Bruneck - Kronplatz Trail 24





The wonderful Kronplatz downhill - Bruneck, South Tyrol from Lee Lau on Vimeo.




Big thanks to Bikehotel Sudtirol (particularly Wolfgang Toechterle) who ran us ragged but handled groundwork preparations so well)

Thanks also to these people:

• Agnes and Edith Innerhofer and the people at the Hotel Innerhofer who pampered us
• Markus and Michaela; what a wonderful trail you've created
• Peter who showed us such a great time.



Our bonus video "32 (S)miles per Hour" from Tom Malecha; filmed in the Steinegg area of South Tyrol

32 [S]Miles per Hour from Filme von Draussen on Vimeo.

Must Read This Week









21 Comments

  • + 3
 Did the Kronplatz dh several times last september ... think about a more than 7 km trail of berms berms jumps and berms ..... you can hear people shouting of joy inside the woods ... specially on the lower part ... awesome .... 5 runs and you're done ... Smile
[Reply]
  • + 2
 I'm curious if they also used the Gondola to Monte Spico, slightly north of Brunico. Been there last October, unfortunately under very bad conditions. Compared to Kronplatz (Plan de Corones) it has fewer lifts, but the area is more hike-minded, meaning that the trails are unshaped, very technical and rocky. Makes for some real fun and slow trailriding, if that's more your kind of style.

When in the area, camping (if you're on of those) can be done on campsite Residence Corones, located in Rasun di Sotto. If so, also try some pizza's at the Wieser Pizzeria at the roundabout in the same village. You can walk there from the campsite! Smile
  • + 1
 No - time was short so we had to pick rides. Peter Rabensteiner picked something that allowed us to get views then circle back to Kronplatz. Monte Spico would have meant coming back late at night with headlamps
  • + 1
 Can I tag along on your next adventure? Big Grin
[Reply]
  • + 2
 stoked to see this article and waiting for the other 3 parts! I was in the kronplatz last summer, but did easier trails--being as we were on hardtails. This year the girl and i wanna head back with enduro bikes, and this post is a great starting point for the planning. grazie!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Thanks for this article, I love articles that encourage me to go ride my bike.The landscape is beautiful and interesting. all beautifully presented, lines look very simple and interesting made ​​for a calm ride so you can watch the landscape in peace.I love the idea of a the of ​​a bikehotel.Maybe i have one in my area. Thanks again for the article Big Grin
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Fantastic tour, only 1 thing to say Cortina in not in Trentino but in Veneto, there are a lot of differences with the laws regarding the trails ;-)
  • + 1
 Grazi. Sorry I got the name wrong. Next trip we want to explore more - perhaps more south in that area
[Reply]
  • + 2
 love this post!! view is awesome in the alps around bavaria, austria an south tyrol.
guys, if you ever come here, please try "kaiserschmarrn" or "brotzeit-brettl" Wink
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Epic euro mountain biking! Nice to see some real mountain biking with climbs,scenic vistas and sweet down hill runs.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 GREAT SEPTEMBER YOU´VE HAD!!! switzerland italy.... grrrrrrrrrr
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Excellent! Best travel write-ups on PB. I know the area but never biked there.... want to go NOW.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 You search the internet till you find an article like this that just sums it all up, awesome thanks.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Looks amazing, definitely on my to do list Smile
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Loving this series, looking forward to go !!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I was climbing here in September and really wanted my bike! Great article
  • + 2
 I had a bike ánd climbing gear with me, unfortunately my girl who's not so much into biking, had us rock climbing for 90% of the time! Don't get me wrong, I still had a great time.
[Reply]
  • + 0
 It would be awesome if the videos would play but they won't
  • + 1
 The videos are all Vimeo vids, maybe you need to update some software?
[Reply]

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