Travel Guide: PYRENEES BIKEPARKS-GRAND VALIRA
Mountainbiking in the Pyrenees has been the poorer cousin to mountainbiking in the Alps for some time. This could be set to change now with the World Cup races in Andorra raising the profile and firmly placing the Vallnord Bikepark on the map. With two other bike parks, La Molina and Grand Valira both within close proximity, there’s a great holiday destination for UK riders in the making starting just a couple of hours drive from Barcelona airport. All three parks have had high profile involvement of varying levels from the likes of the Misser Bros, Gracia and Oscar Saiz, so we went to check them out and see what the Pyrenees could throw up to the casual rider.
Grand Valira is actually the brand name of the whole ski area (Europe’s biggest) that includes: Soldeu, El Tarter, En Camp, Pas de la Casa, Porte des Neiges, Grau Roig and Canillo. In the summer time the Bikepark is opened in the Soldeu sector, but runs under the brand name of Grand Valira. What else can I tell you about Grand Valira? Well you wouldn’t have
known it at the time, but it featured in Earthed 3 – Europa, the section with the MSC team. The Bikepark is managed by Oscar Saiz, who knows a thing or two about downhilling, having competed on the World Cup circuit for the past 16 years!
Oscar is a pinner and a really nice guy, he is wise enough to know that to build a successful bike park you need to have lots of trails that are fun to ride and simple enough to be ridden by both novice and intermediate riders, whilst naturally still throwing a few cheeky black trails into the mix that would test a rider of his calibre. They have built up a great park which caters for beginners through to experts; their main emphasis has been on making the trails
fun for newcomers to the sport, and it is these mellow trails that are some of the best; flowing and fast with sweeping berms. Obviously with Oscar’s years of experience from the World Cup series he knows how to build a more technical downhill too, and although L’avet the main black run trail was basically unrideable when we were there due to the deep snow, we gave it a good go and several trips over the bars later and a lot of sliding on my arse, it’s safe to say that it is pretty damn steep and would be awesome to ride now in the summer season.
The red runs are wider machine–built trails through the forest with mellow corners that are loamy and real fun to ride off the brakes. New for ‘09 will be the 4X and Bikepark/slopestyle area, which will have a number of jumps and drops all designed under the experienced eye of Oscar.
From the fun and accessible–to–everyone Parabolica (berms) trails 1 and 2 that featured in Earthed 3, to the more all–mountain descent ‘Nou Obac’ and then the fun jump trail ‘Roller Coaster’, and finally the steep and challenging L’avet run, there is a great mix. I think any rider of any ability could come here and have a really fun few days shredding the park.
We stopped in the El Tarter sector of Grand Valira which is about 2km down the road, but to truly ride in/ride out, stay in the Soldeu sector, there are heaps of hotels there, expect to pay around 60 euros minimum per person.
Although not a gourmet’s paradise, there are several restaurants in and around Soldeu, mostly offering good value, a mix of international flavours, including French, Spanish, Catalan, Italian and of course Andorran. For pizza, the Fontanella is particularly popular and the Xalet Sol I Neu is well known for quality and value.
Soldeu is famous for its winter nightlife though through the summer, in truth, it is pretty dead; your best bets are Fat Alberts, The Pussycat or Aspen’s.
There are two lifts serving the Bikepark, the Soldeu Gondola and the Solana Chairlift.
One Days Lift Pass: 20.00 Euros
Three Days Lift Pass: 48.00 Euros