Some questions have a different answer depending on whether you’re coming on a Les Arcs holiday week, or a backcountry trip (Cathedral of Flow and the Tour du Mont Thabor trips). These are shown in table format. For all other questions, the answers are the same regardless of which holiday you choose.

Click on a question:

How much on-bike climbing is there each day? How fit do I need to be?
Will we use chairlifts?
Should I bring knee/elbow pads?
How do I know if I’m good enough?
What should I bring?
What tyres would you suggest?
Which airport should I fly to?
What bike should I bring?
What if my bike breaks and is unrideable? Is there a mechanic? Do you stock any spares?
Do I need insurance?
What if I need to cancel?

How much on-bike climbing is there each day? How fit do I need to be?

Les Arcs weeks We will maximise our use of the funicular and chairlifts but there will be times when we’ll need to pedal to get to some of the further-flung trails. We’d suggest being comfortable to do up to 500m of ascent (1-1.5h climbing) on the bike during each day. We won’t often do as much as that, but the fitter you are, the more energy you’ll have to enjoy every last inch of the great singletrack on offer!
Backcountry trips Wherever we can, we’ll take the sting out of the ascent with a van uplift, but you’ll also need to be happy with up to 500-1000m of on-bike ascent each day as some trails cannot be reached by vehicles. There will be some sections of hike-a-bike. You’ll need to have a decent level of fitness to get the best out of the week, but we never rush the ascents – our focus is on enjoying the long singletrack descents down the other side.

Will we use chairlifts?

Les Arcs weeks Yes! As much as possible!
Backcountry trips No. We’ll gain as much height as possible via a van uplift to get us on our way.

Should I bring knee/elbow pads?

Yes! By their very nature, the trails in the Alps are more technical, longer, and more engaging than a lot of what you might be used to back home. For this reason alone we’d strongly recommend kneepads, but the decision really is yours. If this is your first visit to the Alps and you’re not sure, consider bringing both and making a decision once you’re here.

How do I know if I’m good enough?

Whilst a holiday with us is not suitable for beginners, you need not be the fastest rider in the world to enjoy a holiday in the Alps. A good level of technical ability (or being happy to get off and walk with your bike on the harder sections) will ensure you do have fun. You’ll encounter plenty of technical trail features, including steeper sections of trail, big and small rocks, roots, and of course switchbacks, so being happy to tackle these and rise to the challenge of riding long engaging singletrack descents is a must. For a Les Arcs week or the Cathedral of Flow tour you should be a strong Intermediate standard, or above (i.e very comfortable on red trails in the UK).

On the Tour du Mont Thabor we will encounter very technically demanding trails, therefore you MUST be ADVANCED or above. 

Ability levels are classified as follows:

  • Beginner: You prefer riding on wider paths such as farm tracks and fire roads. You sometimes ride narrower trails/singletrack as long as it’s not too steep, rocky or rooty.  Your favourite trails are the green and blue trails at a trail centre. A holiday with us is NOT SUITABLE FOR BEGINNERS.
  • Intermediate: You enjoy riding singletrack, and would always pick that over  fire roads or farm tracks given a choice. You’re at ease riding rocky and/or rooty sections. If you find it too difficult, you’ll walk through those parts, although you do relish a challenge. You stick to the red trails at a trail centre, occasionally tackling a black.
  • Advanced: You are keen for technical challenges, you’ll always head for the hardest routes at trail centres, and you can’t remember the last time you got off to walk a section – it’s that rare. Chances are, this isn’t your first trip to the Alps.
  • Expert: You’re capable of reading tricky terrain on-sight, and as such you can pick good lines and hit technical sections with finesse and style. You love a good challenge!
  • Pro: You’re an accomplished racer, guide or coach and can ride literally anything.

What should I bring?

You’ll more than likely think of a few extras, but here’s a list to get you started:

  • Spare brake pads
  • A spare rear mech hanger
  • 2 or 3 inner tubes
  • All of your usual trail tools
  • First Aid kit – always a good idea (although of course we also carry these)
  • Any specialist tools peculiar to your bike/parts.
  • A good sized day pack – we’d recommend around 20l, to fit extra layers/coat/food/camera etc and a 2-3 litre bladder.
  • Sun tan lotion
  • Camera

Wondering what riding clothes to bring? Once again, a handy list to get you started:

  • 5 sets of shorts and riding tops, and don’t forget your short liners!
  • Gloves, including extra warm ones just in case the weather turns.
  • A waterproof and some extra base layers – if it does rain, it can get cold very quickly up high. It’s always good to be prepared!
  • Any knee/elbow pads you want to bring.
  • Sunglasses

What tyres would you suggest?

We’d recommend a tyre with a sidewall akin to Schwalbe’s Snakeskin, or the Maxxis EXO sidewall. Even on tubeless, a single-ply tyre will suffer puncture after puncture, until you’re ready to throw it off the side of the mountain!

Which airport should I fly to?

Les Arcs weeks Geneva Airport. Book flights arriving and departing between 10:00 and 16:00. Get in touch for advice about transfers.
Backcountry trips Geneva Airport. Book flights arriving no later than 14:00 and returning home no earlier than 16:00 due to the transfer time to and from the airport. Airport transfers are included on this trip if you fly within our recommended times.

What bike should I bring?

A 160mm (26″/27.5″ wheel) or 140mm (29″ wheel) modern trail bike will serve you very well. If you’re still cruising on something a little older, you’d do well to have a think about your stem and bar length. Because of the amount of descending we’ll do throughout the week, it’s worth considering a 50-60mm stem. This will bring your weight back a little, reducing the pressure on your arms (good for helping combat the dreaded arm pump!). We’d recommend bars no narrower than 740mm for the additional control they’ll afford you.

What if my bike breaks? Is there a mechanic? Do you stock any spares?

Les Arcs weeks We will have basic spares such as tubes, gear cables, brake fluid etc available for purchase in the chalet, as well as plenty of tools for you to use. There are two good bike shops down in Bourg St Maurice. If you’re prone to breaking things, consider bringing a few spares of your own to cover as many eventualities as you think appropriate. Emergency spares in the shops here are typically quite expensive compared to prices back home.
Backcountry trips We will have a few basic spares such as tubes, gear cables, brake fluid and bleed kits, and a basic tool kit. We’re pretty handy at bike fixing too, but due to the remote nature of the area, we won’t be close to any bike shops. If you’re prone to breaking things, consider bringing a few spares of your own to cover as many eventualities as you think appropriate.

Do I need insurance?

Yes. You need insurance which covers you specifically for mountain biking in the Alps. You should in particular make sure that it covers you for rescue from remote areas (for example, by helicopter) and repatriation back to your home country. Please do not rely on your EHIC (or equivalent) card as it will not cover the cost of a mountain rescue.

What if I need to cancel?

Cancellation notice is required in writing. Charges may be made as a percentage of the total holiday cost as follows:

Point of Cancellation Charge
over 8 weeks before travel Deposit
4-8 weeks before travel 50% of holiday cost
0-4 weeks before travel 100% of holiday cost

We strongly recommend taking out a holiday insurance policy at the time of booking, so that if you do have to cancel, you are able to recoup the cost of your holiday.