La Thuile in the interseason, the trail hotspot as you've rarely seen it
It was only when we were driving up the climb to La Thuile from the Aosta Valley that the significance of choosing to head to this world-renowned location at the start of June dawned on us. Late season, heavy snow was reluctant to melt, leaving a thick carpet on the peaks above us. The trails we had originally envisaged using would be up for discussion, a bit hit-or-miss. But it's a risk you take heading to a trail hotspot outside the high season window–many weeks before the bike park would actually open. As we rolled into La Thuile the abundance of closed shops, restaurants and hotels were another reminder that we were a little late for the ski season and equally a little early for the summer one.
We didn't let it affect us. Our aim was to see what trails we could ride and embrace being the first non-local riders of the season to hit the trails. The riders we'd invited out were British brother and sister duo, Laurie and Francie Arthur. Both racers, these two shredders were ready to tear up the trails here–well, providing we could get to them. Day 1 - Col Croce
Bikes built in the warm afternoon sun, shadows that are starting to lengthen and the air starting to cool off. There's a buzz of optimism in the garden of the Chalet Alpina. We focus our riding on the south-facing slopes, where summer has already got a strong grip, having seen off the snow. (Anything north facing was still owned by winter.)
After some impromptu trail maintenance on the push-up – cutting down trees that had fallen under the weight of the winter snow – we were ready for our first run, embracing the setting sun and under the ever watchful presence of Mont Blanc.
As we drop in we stop suddenly; alerted by the sound of snow dropping from a slope just ahead of us–marking summer's gains over winter for that day.
- - - - Day 2 - Picolo San Bernardo/Pian Veyle
Our second day starts early for a recon of where the snow is still sat with its cold passive dominance on the northern slopes. After a shuttle up to the summit of the Piccolo San Bernardo, we took in a planned downhill, checking out the side valley of Pian Veyle before cutting into the lower part of the bike park trails, followed by lunch in La Thuile. From there our plans were open, either look for something new, or take another run at the now cleaner, smooth-running Col Croce trails that we'd ridden yesterday.
As the late skiers head out for an early morning ski tour, we drop in to the confusion of the recently awoken, whistling marmots – our only companions up here – because thanks to this being the interseason we have the mountains virtually to ourselves.
It is from Pian Veyle that we get the best view of the battle between summer and winter, as all of the highest trails featured in the EWS are still under a thick blanket of snow. From where we're riding though, it's blissful in short-sleeve jersey weather. The urge to go higher to descend further doesn't subside, not ever, but knowing that we are some of the first riders to have tackled these trails this summer we are stoked to get what we can from this trip.
With the sun setting, we hit out for a lap of Col Croce to wrap up our day with nothing better than an Italian pizza, the 6-plus hours on the trail had given us good appetites.
- - - - Day 3 - Lo Tza
Our final morning is spent catching the sunrise at Lo Tza. A travel day for Laurie and Francie, plus Laurie's birthday, we want to make the most of our last hours in La Thuile, before the weather breaks as predicted.
With no real trails in this area, we rode what we could–starting out on a high pasture, which had just seen winter retreat, before dropping down in to the meadows of flowers below. Speeds were up, and the morning coffee kicked in.
A classic way to wrap up the trip, we left satisfied in the knowledge that we'd made the most of what was possible, beaten the critics and embraced La Thuile as few often see it.
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Thanks to Laurie and Francie Arthur for sending it!