Nobody lives in Il Pin all through the year these days. At just over 1,500m above sea-level it's little more than a handful of houses, perching far above the winter snowline. With a twisting, beaten single-gauge road running in and out, no snow plough or gritting lorry ever gets that far. So when the first falls of winter come, that's it. You're either in or out. Few people have the stomach for that kind of extreme, insular mountain living anymore. The world has moved on and the village is little more than a collection of summer houses that spend the winter empty, shuttered up against the weather.
Yet there is something special in the hills around this dying hamlet: trails. In an area that has been used by mountain bikers for more than twenty years now, the riding around Il Pin is still some of the best you'll find anywhere. The last few months have been spent nervously watching the snowline. Can you get a van up there yet? It's a long way out to get a vehicle stuck and on this side of the Atlantic, few of us have big 4x4s to play with. So it's been a waiting game... this week the time seemed right, local enduro racers Manuel Ducci and Valentina Macheda came up and we pointed the van up towards the big mountains.
A big thank you to Manuel and Valentina for their time. www.life-cycle.euwww.rivierabike.co.uk