Bikepark Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis, Austria | The Best of Both Worlds
Back at the end of August last year we left the chaos of the Eurobike tradeshow in Germany behind and headed for Bikepark Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis...
Back at the end of August last year we left the chaos of the Eurobike tradeshow in Germany behind and headed for the mountains… the Austrian Alps to be precise...
From Dirt Issue 147 - May 2014
Words by Mike Rose. Photos by Ale di Lullo.
When I say ‘we’ I mean myself, fellow Dirt journalist James McKnight, and we were trucking with Mitchell Scott from Kona and a driver. We didn’t really know what the plan was as we squeezed into a packed people carrier (horizontally if I remember) and ate ice creams. I felt ridiculously relaxed kicking back and watching the world go by. We drove for a few hours through breath–taking scenery headed for a group of small villages called Serfaus–Fiss–Ladis, surrounded by the Austrian Otzal Alps and the Swiss Samnaun range. I knew nothing about the place.
As we climbed up out of the late afternoon shade of the valley floor there was that great feeling you get of gaining height, of clean air and bright light. We were there for a Kona Process press camp at a brand new bike park that nobody really knew anything about… and we had no idea what to expect.
As we settled down for food at the hotel we were staying at we met Benny Pregenzer (one of the resort managers in Fiss), a tanned, charismatic character in a light brown leather bomber jacket who had a glint in his eyes. Fit and healthy, he’s been living the ‘winter life’ for years, Australian ski resorts in our summer (their southern hemisphere winter) and then back to Europe in our winter. With him was Stefan Falkeis, younger and quieter but with an air of efficiency, he was to be our main point of contact for the next few days and he had the answers to all of our questions. Both of course were keen mountainbikers, so they knew the score.>>
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The park is based around the Waldbahn lift station (1,420m – 1840m) and was designed by Austrian company Trail Solutions with the help and input from many of the skilled and talented locals. In the autumn of 2012 they all walked up and down the hill over and over again, assessing the terrain and making plans. Once everything was decided (this included graded DH trails, a pumptrack, slopestyle area and kid’s park) the challenge was to build it in less than two and a half months.
When we rode everything felt new, and I mean that in a good way. It was comfortably busy (it was a Saturday), with no huge queues and no hold ups on the tracks, but there was a chilled buzz about the place… and it was great to see that there was a real mix of people and a lot of women riders too. It was cool. Now I know that graded and surfaced trails aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but bear with me. As mentioned, this is a new build, so the trails were freshly ‘laid’ but SFL has more to offer than just this (but I’ll come to that in a while). The trails drop 420m (1,378’) over 2.5 to 2.9km (as a guide Fort William has a vertical drop of 555m over 2.8km), and there are three main lines: a blue, red and black. Blue is easy and fun, ‘ideal for beginners and families’ but great as a warm–up for more experienced riders. The red I could ride all day, it has got a bit of everything. On both of these man made trails the jumps are well paced and well spaced, the berms all do their job admirably, holding you in and firing you out. They are fun, they put a smile on your face and you can do them over and over. There is also plenty of woodwork on show… drops, berms, raised bits of track.
So that is it, bike park done, but there is more to SFL than that… you are in the Austrian Alps after all. If you go up high then a whole new world of opportunity opens up. Stefan was our guide to take us on a true alpine mountainbiking experience, very far removed from the groomed bike park… we were heading for the Frommestrail. We took the gondola from Fiss and made our way up to the Schönjoch lift station at 2,440m (this is not included in your bike park ticket, you have to pay extra). The change in temperature was noticeable (especially later one when the group had a couple of punctures up high), so we popped into the café for coffee and the surreal experience of listening to an Austrian brass Oompah band at 8,000 feet (it might have been a bit more pro than that actually, and it was a Sunday)! I should also point out that Stefan had no worries about leaving all of our bikes outside unattended… this place was pretty safe.
So after a short ride uphill we reached the summit cross of Schönjoch at 2.500m (8,200’) altitude, which would be the highest point for this trail. We then made our way down from treeless rock strewn openness, then into the usual mixture of coniferous and deciduous woodland. Open trails, tight trails… mud, root and rock. This was a proper mountainbike descent that took us all the way down to Ladis and its Laudego Castle at 1,200m (a drop of over 4,200 feet). It was a great trail, with a bit of everything in it, but this descent barely scratched the surface of what is available. We were told that we could have taken any number of different tracks to make the ride shorter or longer if we had liked. Or at the top station we could have gone off in a completely different direction and looped around one of the nearby mountains to finish at the top of the bike park.
So SFL is a complete mountainbike destination. Maybe not for a week long holiday just yet, but a couple of days in the park and then a couple of days in the mountains would be a perfect short break or a great stop off on a Austrian tour.
What the Serfaus–Fiss–Ladis team have done in such a small period of time is phenomenal. There is a real drive and passion within them and they are aiming for perfection. The bike park is great fun, you can quickly and efficiently get up and down the hill, but venture out and you can go wild. You can have the best of both worlds.
2014 opening times: June 7thuntil October 19th
Day adult ticket: €33 (£27)
There is a well stocked bike shop, and because it is now a Kona BikePark there are plenty of Kona bikes for hire. There is food and a free bike wash
Some of the local hotel do offer tours up to ride the Frommestrail and other trails, but the bike park itself plans to offer guiding in the future.
We stayed in the beautiful Hotel Chesa Monte (www.chesa-monte.com), which was far to nice for a couple of grubby mountainbikers, but if you fancy a treat, great food and an amazing underground spa network then this is THE place. Check out the tourist board for plenty of other quality affordable accommodation.