Photography & Words: Samantha Saskia Dugon
Situated in the heart of the Italian alps Val di Sole is renowned for its place on the World Cup circuit, but the area has much more to offer than a world-class downhill track with an entire trail network offering downhill runs, bike park laps and big enduro days.
I arrived into the town of Commezzadura the day before shooting began and was welcomed with warm weather and clear skies. After taking some time walking around and scoping out the local area, I could see lots of riders coming down off of the hill with a sprinkling of dust over their bikes. After some time spent being a tourist and scoping out the local area on Trailforks to get an understanding of what I could expect, I met up with Vittorio from the local tourism board who organised the trip and got the lowdown on where and what trails I’d be riding and shooting.
Day 1 / Val di Sole Bike Park and Trail La Preda
I set my alarm and hit the hay after a beautiful sunset at the end of a perfect blue sky day. What I woke up to, however, wasn’t the same glorious sunshine as I’d seen the day before, unfortunately rain was pouring down and showed no intention of easing off. This, however, did not dampen our spirits or stop our plans. I headed to the Centro Bike Val di Sole to meet my guide for my trip and discuss our plans given the damper than usual weather. Our first stop was to be the Val di Sole Bikepark,
indistinguishable with its big road gap into the final straight right next to the Val di Sole hillside sign, we layered up in waterproofs and headed up towards the Funivie Folgarida Marilleva lift and straight into the Gondola, eager to get some bike park laps in. The rain kept easing and coming back throughout the day with fog patches making the woods take on a dark and magical atmosphere. We took our first run of the day chilled as we got to grips (literally) with the wet terrain, we headed down the most popular track on the hillside; Golden Eagle. Receiving a perfect local user rating on Trailforks of 100/100, it’s safe to say that I was excited to ride it and it lived up to its expectations and had all the bike park gold you could want; jumps, tall and smooth berms along with small technical sections that could be jumped or ploughed dependant on your preference but didn’t hinder the flow. With the track being 3.5km long and over 550m of vertical descent there’s a lot of fun to be had.
As we were making our way down and stopping for some photos, I kept catching some glimpses of the downhill track, mainly because the large roots that glistened with a coating of rain kept turning my head like a magpie.
As they weaved down the hill next to each other, we took the opportunity to head over and take a peak. I imagine the downhill track is tricky enough in the dry, but in the wet it was a whole other ball game. With large slippery rocks accompanied with roots and smaller, looser and equally as slippery rocks on top of some of the slickest dirt I’ve ever ridden (despite the fact that I hail from Wales), it made for an interesting and skill testing ride, you’d definitely want your most grippy tyres on going down this track. But, once you let the bike do what it felt it needed to and you loosened up your body position, the track became a whole lot of fun.
After some fun and sketchy moments over the rocks on Black Snake, we headed back onto the Golden Eagle trail and railed some berms back down to the bottom gave the bikes a quick wash before jumping straight into the Gondola for another run. This time we tried something a little bit different, with loamy terrain and more enduro feel to it, we headed over to ride the White Wolf track. Longer than the Golden Eagle trail with 4km of track, you get more of a feel of weaving through the trees and can tell that it’s not as manicured as the Golden Eagle trail when you turn a corner and kick up a load of loamy goodness. Even in the pouring rain, this track held its grip and provided lots of “whoops” and laughs all the way down.
After a morning spent sliding around and getting a lovely thick coating of Italian mud on both ourselves and our bikes, we chucked our shoes and helmets on the drying racks in the local bike shop and headed for some much-needed lunch.
With copious amounts of Italian bread and olive oil lining our stomachs and fuelling our legs, we headed back up the mountain to ride the La Preda trail
, one of Val di Soles more enduro focused trails. We got a lift up in the van with Centro Bike Val di Sole as the top section was closed to due previous bad weather and trees down, but you can usually access it from the top of the Daolasa – Val Mastellina Gondola, you get to traverse across the mountain and down into the woods where you weave through the greenery and surf the dirt.La Preda
With rain pouring from the pads of my helmet, we called it a day and headed back into Val di Sole to dry off and prepare for another early start, this time, we’d be heading up the road and higher into the mountains in Passo Tonale.
Day 2 / PontediLegno – Tonale Bike Park
Come our 2nd day of riding, the weather was looking a bit fairer and blue skies were starting to appear again. We packed our bikes into the van and got drove up Passo Tonale where we would be riding at PontediLegno-Tonale Bike Park
With trails for all kinds of riders, PontediLegno-Tonale Bike Park is the perfect place to warm-up ahead of your time in the Val di Sole valley. With 3 trails on offer; Tonale Easy Riders, a blue line over 3km long with smooth and flowy berms to the bottom, perfect for easing any riders into alpine mountain biking. Upper Way; A red trail over 2.5km long featuring road gaps, rock boulders, and drops, at the bottom it merges into the blue line back to the lift. The shortest of the tracks is the Black Shadow, an alpine black graded trail with large wooden Northshore features, drops and plenty of opportunities for gaps.
After spending most of the day playing on the trails, we headed back down to the valley to Val di Sole and packed up.
After only 2 days here I was surprised at the variety of terrain and tracks they had on offer, with plans in the pipeline for expanding the trail network, I will certainly be back to explore the valley for longer next time and check out the fresh trails.
Bikeland Val di Sole Mountain Biking Trails
Local KnowledgeGetting Here:
You can get to Val di Sole by car, train, bus or plane. Find out how here
.Bike shops and repairs:
Not got all the equipment you need for a bike trip? The valley has numerous rental points and stores
to satisfy all your bike needs.Lessons and tours:
Want to learn from the pros of cycling? Bike Centres in Val di Sole
have everything you need for a cycling holiday.Food and Drink:
Val di Sole cuisine is based on simple dishes that use secret recipes dating back to grandmother's era. Typical mountain dishes made with dairy products that still have the aroma of hay, the fragrance of fresh grass and the smell of pristine mountain air. You can try traditional Val di Sole cuisine in the numerous restaurants, hotels, and agritourism in the valley. Don’t miss to taste the most famous and traditional cheese of Val di Sole: the Casolét
, a listed Slow Food product made with raw ingredients and whole milk.Where to stay:
The Val di Sole Bike Hotel and Chalets
, where bikers' needs are definitely a top priority! Each facility provides secure bike storage, changing rooms and laundry area, regular maintenance service and repair shop, bike wash, knowledgeable staff and bike info corner, special menus for bikers, and free internet. Match your biking vacation with some well-deserved rest in one of our certified facilities!
Leisure time plus quality relaxation right in Val di Sole, the land of biking!
For more information, visit valdisole.net
Pinkbike would like to thank:Val di Sole Bikeland