Destination Showcase: Châtel Bike Park, France

Jun 24, 2019
by Ben Winder  


CHATEL BIKE PARK, FRANCE
Centrally located in the Portes du Soleil
Words by James Mcknight & Photography by Ben Winder
Presented by Chatel Bike Park


Châtel, which sits centrally in the Portes du Soleil area (the network of interlinked resorts including Morzine, Les Gets, Morgins and Champéry), has a rich network of 20 purpose-built trails (about 45km total) ranging from gentle rollercoasters to enormous hucks and steep tech. While there is relatively little for beginners to ride, intermediate to pro riders will have a field day here. Châtel has one of the most progressive bike parks out there.

Two chairlifts access Châtel’s trails. The lower lift, Pierre Longue, takes riders up to a mid-point plateau at 1600m. This lift has been replaced for the 2019 season, offering a brand-new six-seat chair with space for two bikes per chair. The upper lift, Rochassons, takes riders further up the mountain to 1900m. Both lifts access a multitude of trails, and rides on the upper mountain easily link into lower trails. Views stretch far and wide from the high point atop Rochassons. Indeed, from here it is possible to drop off the other ride of the hill and quickly access the area’s other resorts. But we’re here for Châtel, and there’s certainly plenty to keep riders occupied.

Chatel is nestled in the French Alps.
Châtel is nestled on the edge of the French Alps, just a stone's through from the Swiss border.

Chate Bikepark.
Chatel Bike Park

Let’s take it from the top: The Panoramic trail skirts around the top of the mountain, a super mellow track with berms and small jumps, perfect for first runs and realistically the only beginner-friendly ride in the bike park. Also departing directly from the top of Rochassons is Haute Tension – an exposed, steeper track with endless massive berms and the odd rocky tech fest along its route – as well as several other trail options.

Views from the top of the bikepark looking out over the surrounding towering mountains.
Views from the top of the bike park looking out over the surrounding towering mountains.

The panoramic trail well and truely lives upto it s name with views towards Lake Montriond.
The panoramic trail well and truly lives up to its name.

There s quite a lot of variation in dirt from packed down bikepark dirt tacky mud in the woods and even some loose shale.
There's a decent amount of variation in dirt, from packed down bike park dirt, tacky mud in the woods and even some loose shale.

Plenty of playful corners.
Plenty of flowy playful corners, to get ourselves warmed up for the bigger features.

Back up to the top for a run down the Vink Line.
Back up to the top for a run down the Vink Line.

But it is the Vink Line, shaped by Nico Vink himself, that is bringing a lot of attention and riders to Châtel at the moment. Drop in from the top of the mountain and take on probably some of the best-crafted berms (huge and almost vertical sides) and hit-after-hit of doubles, tables, hips and transfers. It’s a super-fun track built so well that every feature links easily into the next. Another sign of its solid build is that it’s still fun to roll everything – so take a few laps to learn the turns and speed for each jump. The track is split into upper and lower sections, with a break halfway to either access the lower reaches or jump back on the Rochassons lift for another lap of its upper senders.

The Vink Line is quite a feet of trail building which snakes it s way down the hillside.
The Vink Line is quite a feat of trail building, which snakes its way down the hillside.

James proving you don t need a Downhill bike to have fun in Chatel.
James proving you don't need a downhill bike to have fun in Châtel.

We'll let Nico show you what the Vink Line is all about...


Jump tracks and interesting features is certainly something Châtel is good at. Delve into the woods of the lower mountain and the likes of Air Voltage, Komatrautrail, Zougoulakata, and Black Shore – all graded ‘very difficult’ – harbour sizeable booters, drops and north shore sections. It’s a lot of fun riding around the park and discovering the hidden gaps and creative lines that have been built in as options to most of the tracks. Everything is very well crafted and signposted, but make sure to look before sending – trail team aren’t scared to include real gaps!

One of the famous freeride lines in Ch tel is Air Voltage.
Our crew was joined by Travis Pollard for a day for a day of hucking the one of the famous freeride lines in Châtel, Air Voltage.

Loads of fun features all the way down...
Loads of fun features all the way down...


Morgane attacking some of Chatel s roots.
Morgane Charre attacking some of Châtel's roots.

There s some pretty happy cow s living around the bikepark.
There's some pretty happy animals living around the bike park.

It’s not only the black-graded tracks that promise airtime. Pretty much every trail in the bike park (actually, every trail) is littered with optional or rollable tables, doubles, wooden kickers and drops. People, Fluid Line and Serpentine, all graded blue, are fun to ride for anyone but offer plenty of boosts for those who air, including a sizeable river gap under the lower chairlift (which is likely to be adjusted for 2019 due to the new lift installation).

One of the many opportunities to get airborne. All of the drops and gaps have routes around so it's possible to work up to the bigger features.


Travis powering through some of the rooty sections.
Travis powering through some of the rooty sections.

James boosting one of the hips.
Plenty of fun jumps around the woods.

Back up to the top.
Back up to the top.
Beautiful Alpine Chalet s make for a lunch stop.
Beautiful alpine chalets make for a lunch stop.

From the top of the lift in Chatel it s easy to access the rest of the Portes du Soleil.
From the top of the lift in Châtel it's easy to access the rest of the Portes du Soleil.

In the woods on rider’s left of the lower slopes, several fantastic trails disappear steeply off the side of blue-graded Serpentine. These black-graded trails – Gueps, Dré dans l’Pentu, Coup d’Fouet, Bike Patrol, and Cha-Nada – comprise plentiful tree roots, tight turns, natural jumps and super steep sections. They are superb tracks that had been freshly reworked when we rode the park, the soft earth in their hand-sculpted berms testament to the quality Châtel’s Bike Patrol (the trail team) expect of their creations.

James dropping back in for another lap.
James dropping back in for another lap.

Chatel is known for it s big jumps but they have a load of more natural steep technical trails.
Châtel is known for its big jumps, but they have a load of more natural, steep, technical trails.

James dropping into one of the steeper black trails.
James dropping into one of the steeper black trails.

In the woods the dirt is perfect tacky and well maintained..
In the woods the dirt is tacky and well maintained..

Morgane styling up some of the jumps towards the bottom.
Morgane styling up some of the jumps towards the bottom.

Talking of Bike Patrol, it’s worth noting that Châtel has a dedicated team of eight shapers who work full-time during the summer and in the run-up and wind-down to the season. The team is fronted by Gary Guyard, who has been head of Bike Patrol here for two years. Gary comes with a pedigree – he was head shaper at Schladming (Austria) before moving back to his native France to boss it at Châtel. The team take care of more than shaping: they also take turns to spend the day riding around the park making sure everything is running smoothly, helping with casualties, and checking spots that might need some work. It is clearly a well-run operation – the trails are in great condition, especially considering the amount of traffic they receive.

There s a full time bike patrol in Chatel who are responsible for the building and maintaining the trails but also close the trails at the end of each day to make sure no one is left stranded on the mountain.
There's a full time bike patrol in Châtel, a team that is responsible for the building and maintaining of trails, as well as opening and closing trails and ensuring rider safety throughout the park.

Gary is the head of the Bike Patrol he used to be the head shaper in Schladming. Quite the credentials.
We stopped for a chat with Gary Guyard to get the lowdown on future plans.

If you’re into progressing your riding, Châtel’s open-to-all slopestyle course, complete with two massive ramps to woodchip landing, is the perfect place to session those half-back flips (we witnessed quite a few – woodchips seemed to do their job). There’s also a pumptrack in the trees just below the main car park that makes for a great evening hangout.

There s a pumptrack at the bottom of the lift.
The pumptrack at the bottom of the lift is great for evening laps.

The pumptrack is perfect for evening laps once the bikepark has closed

Where to stay
With Châtel town center located 6km from its bike park, there's not a great deal of accommodation within walking distance, but a regular bus service connects the town to the bike park. The bike park also houses a large free car park which makes driving straight to the lift easy. So, what are the lodging options?

Just a couple of kilometers down the road is the 1861 Hostel, which was where we stayed. There’s a great vibe, bar, good food and affordable prices for private rooms or beds in shared dorms.

Otherwise, there are abundant chalets and hotels in Châtel, and staying in town means you can make the most of its charming center and range of bars and eateries. You’ll need to drive or catch one of the regular free shuttle buses to ride the park, but there is abundant parking space at the lift and buses run early till late.

We were staying at this local hostel which covered all of our needs at quite reasonable prices.
Our accommodation,1861 Hostel.

Events
July 25th - 28th will see the fourth edition of the popular Reboul Jam take place at Châtel’s bike park. This event is focused around the park’s slopestyle course, although in 2018 there was a downhill race. Despite that, the vibe is more a hangout and ride the entire park (thus ‘Jam’) than anything overly competitive. Gary Guyard told us of plans for further races and fun additions to the Jam in future.

The Passportes du Soleil – a huge non-competitive event and festival – will be based in Châtel for 2019. This means exhibitor stands, food, drink, and loads of likeminded riders hanging out in town. It’s a great opportunity to trial bikes, and Guyard also mentioned some test tracks being shaped in the town center for it – perhaps the start of trail expansion back into Châtel’s itself, where the valley’s original downhill tracks were situated some time ago.

The town has got a growing mountain bike community with a few rider owned bar s and restaurants including Bar Le Nazca.
The town has a growing mountain bike community, with a few rider-owned bars and restaurants, including Bar Le Nazca.

Other info
Ticket price (Full Portes du Soleil area): 1 day = €28; 7 days = €126. Children’s, Junior and Senior discounts available
Season: mid-late June to early September
Airport: Geneva (Switzerland)
Activities: Try the Deval Karts (wear a decent helmet!)
Bike shops: Several shops in Châtel, or for spares there is a small setup at the lift
Mountain food: Fantaski, situated at the top of the lower chairlift, is a popular rider hangout
Evening eats: Le Hors Piste serves a range of food from pizzas to falafels to deep-fried macaroni cheese
Watering hole: Nazca Bar, a lively hangout for locals and visiting riders alike

Chatel Bike Park mountain biking trails


Pinkbike would like to thank:
Chatel Bike Park.

To learn more about biking at Chatel Bike Park or to book a trip visit, Chatel Bike Park.


MENTIONS: @pinkbikeoriginals



Regions in Article
Chatel Bike Park


51 Comments

  • + 49
 6 years working as part of the trail crew and this is the first proper article on pinkbike about this great bikepark. Good to see someone has finally woken up and decided to give this gem some proper publicity! Great article and photos!
  • + 4
 going there in 2 weeks with my group and this makes me so exited! cant wait to ride these good shaped trails
  • + 1
 Is there any way that this park is open in late September- Early October?? Trying to plan a Euro bike park trip this fall and really would like to hit the Morzine area if the parks are still open.
  • + 2
 @Megatron10: No way, even if the weather is good they shut down everything with the 1st of September.
I think Champery is open as long as it's possible to ride there (maybe only the weekends). Also Verbier is near that region and is open as well for a longer time. Neuchatel is also open all year i think, the rack railway there is for public service and the trail(s) there are insane.
Here you get a Idea of what ist was like in September 2017:
www.pinkbike.com/video/481901
  • + 1
 @mariyo: Thanks for the info! Will definitely be looking more South like Andorra area.
  • + 1
 About to book a trip out there but haven’t decided where to stay yet. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated?
  • + 1
 @Megatron10: no this is the one and only huge downside of the whole portes du soleil area. it closes way too early (i think 9th of september) and there is no reasonable explanation. such an amazing destination but it is almost a rush to come here because the timegap is kinda small. all the different bikeparks are fully open in the whole area since last weekend. I am lucky enough to live 3h away from chatel but all people I know we all wish it opens a bit earlier and closes end of october like some higher altitude swiss bikeparks.
  • + 1
 @Megatron10: Chatel closes 1 September if I am not mistaken. Morzine (Plenay) is open an extra week. Champery will be open into October as usual.
  • + 2
 @nyhc00: The cheapest place is the youth hostel mentioned in the article. If you are coming over with a bunch of people I can get you the contact of a bike friendly chalet.
  • + 1
 @Megatron10: PS: if you come over off season (but also doable during the season) and don't mind pedaling there is a whole bunch of singletrack outside of the bikeparks well worth exploring.
  • + 1
 @mtbjelle: If you wish to see some bonus stuff i.e. nonbikepark trails just let me know Wink
  • + 1
 this park dont need to have ADs here, its easily BEST park in EUrope, people will tell itself, im not DownHilling elsewere...
  • + 1
 @matzx: Without publicity there will never be enough money to keep the resort open into September or have longer running hours during the day.
  • + 1
 @Megatron10: Man just try "les 7 laux" Bike Park, it's open till the snow comes,and it worth it Wink
  • + 1
 @SintraFreeride: thanks, as of now it’s definitely 2 going but possibly 3 of us in August.
  • + 3
 I own a chalet in the area hit me up for availability @nyhc00:
  • + 1
 @SintraFreeride: Would love to know where some of the nonbikepark trails are, found loads in Morzine but not round this area ????
  • + 1
 @howlin25: Near Chatel bikepark there are 3 nonbikepark trails. One is in the middle of the "Serpentine" called "Minced meat" and the others are two footpaths "Clandestine" and "Sous le vas"are close by. All are natural style trails. "Minced meat" is super steep and off camber. "Clandestine" is a techish but not steep singletrack and "Sous le vas" is hairpin on hairpin with roots. But the really great ones aren't in that area and some require some uphill pedaling to access. If you are interested in exploring the secret singletrack message me and we can set it up.
  • + 16
 One of the top riding spots in the world with Les Gets, Morzine, Champery, Morgins, and Avoriaz all nearby within biking distance..
  • + 7
 I love Chatel, I'm not particularly good and not particularly fit but i could, and have spent all day on Serpentine and People occasionally venturing off to some of the bigger table tops every now and then when I feel brave. Its a short ride to and from Morzine and there is plenty of exploring around the area if you just want to get off the main tracks. I cant get there this year as injury has taken its toll and its also my 25th wedding anniversary and the wife for some reason didn't want to spend the week waiting in the chalet for me after going out on the bike.
Still think they should of called it the "Vink Link" though.
  • + 2
 Me and the family were thinking of staying in Chatel this summer (we want somewhere in the mountains for a week). But it sounds like it is a bit too hardcore for us.

We won't have our MTBs with us, as we will be travelling from a weeks road racing at the European youth tour in Holland, and would need to hire. My teenagers have good skills but they race XC, and ideally we want something with a bit more green/blue and just enjoy the mountains, rather than hardcore reds/blacks. Any other suggestions?
  • + 3
 I would sugest going to Les Gets... It's way better for beginners... Or even Morzine, where you can go to Chatel or Les Gets by bike...
  • + 1
 There are many easy trails there too
  • + 1
 For a short trip you can take a look at lac blanc
  • + 1
 There are also lots of longer, natural trails between the Bike Parks Wink
  • + 4
 I think Morzine gives you the most central location for easier trails. You can head up to Super Morzine and find a good array of smooth trails with assorted tabletops and berms with a few larger features on reds and blacks.
If you go over the top of Super Morzine you'll find a couple of the most mellow tracks I can think of at the Seraussaix lift (Soylent Green and Stand High Patrol).
From Morzine you can head up the Pleney lift and go over to Les Gets which is also ideal for beginners. Lots of bermy tracks in the jump park area (Nauchets Lift) and all the tracks down the Chavannes are beginner friendly however the main red line is absolute murder for braking bumps.
  • + 2
 Stay in Morzine.
  • + 2
 Most of the tracks at Chatel are rideable whatever your skill level , Keep off the steep blacks and just take it at your own speed . In our group of riders the less capable ones tend to ride chatel more than anywhere else in the area .
  • + 1
 I consider myself a beginner as well but I went to Châtel for a day and found plenty of trails to have fun on. All and all it was an epic day.
  • + 1
 Strange that the article says that there is relatively little for beginners, but there is more than just the panorama on top. In the lower section there are more than enough easy trails such as serpentine, la people, Fluid and blues and rocks. I was there with my girlfriend when she was a beginner and she was not one of the overly brave ones. those mentioned tracks were absolutely no problem for her and other newbies.
  • + 4
 The best line in Chatel has to be this one.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2a_oRBXTwQ&t=65s
  • + 1
 What this article doesn't says is that the same lift pass can give you access from Chatel to so many incredible trails and view points and other places such as Morzine, Les Gets and so on there is a very cool vibe at night too, bars and some fantastic restaurants with lots of bike shops with parts if you need. So many good memories there.
  • + 1
 What dreams are made of! But if you're going to ride a pro line, my suggestion is to not "roll everything". Hire a guide and follow their speed. Awesome place, can't wait to check it off the list Smile
  • + 1
 Just finishing a week in Morzine and I have to say that Chatel has some of the best tracks I have ever been on and is certainly the best riding in the area. Steep rooty and well built well worth the trip up.
  • + 1
 Still my favourite place to ride bikes in Europe. Big Mountains, Big Sends, endless trails and good vibes. Coming back here year after year and I'm not gettin bored.
  • + 1
 I can concur that Chatel is the shiz! My favorite place to ride on PDS! No pic of the river gap on Zugou though! I'd have had that one in there
  • + 1
 i rode that few summer, always thought it would be great to ride it in winter in snowboard. That must be mental.
  • + 4
 Yup she's good, especially on the rare powder days it gets. Even boarding down some of the bike tracks is possible early or late season.
  • + 1
 Now to convince the wife....
  • + 1
 Great read ben and some sweet photos nice work cheers.
  • + 1
 Gotta be the best bike park in Portes du Soleil!
  • + 1
 Going there this week-end!
  • + 1
 Me, too..!
  • + 1
 I want to go to there
  • + 0
 I will be there in 3 weeks
  • + 1
 Wow! Looks amazing!
  • + 1
 Vink Line looks dreamy!
  • + 0
 You have to visit quickly, they are closing the season soon!
  • + 1
 no they aren't?
  • + 3
 @captyvatemedia: he was being sort of sarcastic because it is really fully open only 2.5 months more or less. starting from the past weekend and ends beginning of september.
  • + 1
 Wow! Very nice.

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