Photo Epic: Taking Advantage of Peak Riding Season in Italy - A Yeti Tribe Story
Summer is peak riding season, and while most of us try to get out on the trails as much as possible while the weather is sunny and warm, life often has other plans. Whether it's your five best friends all getting married over the course of two months, holidays with the family and kids, or the strains of a career competing with your free time, summer is peak season for many aspects of life. But when the opportunity arises to bag an epic ride, we all aspire to grab the opportunity by the horns.
A few weeks ago, Yeti/Fox Factory team racer Shawn Neer, and Yeti Ambassador/school teacher/MTB journalist/father Lee Trumpore found themselves with that rare bit of extended downtime, conveniently in Italy's Aosta Valley. Sure, Shawn gets to ride his bike full time and travel the world, and most of us would leap across our desks to trade places at any given moment. But let's not over-romanticize the life of a pro – riding is typically for training purposes and not pleasure. It is, after all, a job where hill sprints and road rides often take precedence over an epic day out with friends or beers during the après tailgate party at the trailhead. For Lee, it was the tail end of a four-week whirlwind covering various World Cup mountain bike events as a journalist and photographer – a job that sometimes offers far less opportunity to ride than most dream about. Needless to say, after spending a month watching other people ride bikes for a living, he was long overdue for a few epic rides of his own. And what better place than the Alps of Italy, where the pace of life seems to slow down a bit and the emphasis leans more towards living than simply making a living.
In the northwest corner of Italy and under the shadow of Mont Blanc lies the Aosta Valley. Situated behind the posh and glitzy resort town of Chamonix, France, and adjacent to Verbier, Switzerland, it is a region overflowing with alpine trails often overlooked by tourists. Vast interconnected trail systems take riders up and over the high peaks and thousands of meters to the valley floors below. While it's not uncommon to see busloads of day-tripping tourists pour over the surrounding passes, few of them venture far into the Aosta Valley. On some days it feels like you have the place to yourself.
Once the snowpack recedes leaving trails in prime condition, the peak season in the high alps is an epic but brief one. When all the stars align and life hands you a window of free time to explore, you better get your priorities in line to maximize the fun.
Shawn and Lee’s list went something like this...
- Always start the day with a proper shot (or three) of espresso, and don't forget to stop for a few more through the day. It is Italy after all, and it would be downright rude not to. If you've had too much caffeine, switch to red wine.
- Sure you could pedal to the top, but this is the Alps, and the whole region is one big ski lift. So pack light and cheat a bit for the first thousand meters. There's still plenty of climbing and hike-a-bikes to be had from there. Keep the climbing to descending ration somewhere around 1:3.
- Ride in the mornings when it's cool, and take advantage of the long summer days to head out for another ride again in the late afternoon. It's hot during the day so embrace that Italian lifestyle of leisure and relax mid-day. When an entire country stops for lunch, you should too.
- If you do head out in the mid-day heat, be sure to pack a few beers to enjoy at the top, and don't worry about them getting warm as there is always some snow for a natural chilly bin.
- Gelato is a suitable replacement for energy bars so stop often and have as much as you'd like. For best results order a cappuccino or espresso and pour in over the top to make an affogato.
- Don't stress about being weighed down by water. In the Alps, there are springs of crisp and clean mountain water flowing from fountains in every village.
- Stop often to look around. You are in the Alps and it is beautiful. Keep looking because next week you will miss the view when you return to reality.
- Most importantly, be sure your rides take you past a mountain lake where you can cool down by going for a quick swim. Bonus points if you can find one with a built-in glacial slide.
- Peak Season is a short one, so you best get riding.
Riders: Shawn Neer & Lee Trumpore
Photography: Dave Trumpore
Supported by Yeti Cycles