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Trails of La Thuile

The reaction of our rented chalet’s owner did not come as any surprise. The common consensus for the timing of the final test of our TRAIL collection was that we were pretty optimistic.

“You’re here to ride the mountain bike trails,” he repeated incredulously: “Is it not a little early?” The calendar has just flipped forward into June, but we are at around 1,700 metres above sea level, building up our bikes. The chalet is all wood with classic touches of cosiness that you get in the Alps–the stags’ heads, the chequered tableclothes and candles. Set up above Valle D’Aosta, this renowned Italian ski resort is bordered on two sides by France, lending it a distinct mix of French and Italian cultures.

“You realise that many of the areas used by the Enduro World Series are still under metres of snow,” he continued his well-intentioned counsel, but we had already gathered this information simply by looking around, craning our heads and driving through a snowstorm to get here.

We remain, however, unfazed; the purpose of our trip is to test our apparel and we are confident that the temperature delta between the almost completely closed resort and the high mountains is ideal. From summer to unpredictable spring/fall conditions, it is all on offer–the only travel we need is that of the vertical kind. And for our TRAIL riders — British siblings Francie and Laurie — La Thuile is the ultimate setting, as they both like to enjoy the fruits of their climbs and truly send it on the downhills.

Guiding companies in the area also forewarned us about the remaining snow on the highest areas. But we stuck to our our plans. Experience has taught us that hitting the trails straight after the winter snow has just melted means you get the rawest, gnarliest and most real version of the trails, which, unsurprisingly, can get crowded in the high season.

With backcountry skiers enjoying the late-season snow at the highest points, we headed out to hunt down the trails that had already returned to the realm of mountain bikers after their winter slumber. The record late snowfall did mean that the highest section of this internationally known riding location, and many of its north-facing lower slopes, were still unrideable, but those that were open gave us a rawness in how they rode. Temperatures were high in the valley and the sunny, southern-facing mountain sides were bathed in sunshine — this was shorts, jersey and our all-mountain hoody weather.

Lifts were still closed this early in the season so we hiked up to long descents. We started early each day, filling a backpack with coffee and breakfast. In the late afternoon, there was time for sunset shredding before evening pizza. And after the long winter, the whistles of marmots confirmed that summer really was on its way.

Laurie and Francie expressed initial disappointment at the closed bike park, but the wilder, more unkempt trails on the opposite mountain side had a different sort of charm. Who needs hot laps when you’ve got a rugged descent dropping 2,000 metres? Sometimes breaking out of the normal routine and heading to locations at different times offers you a new take on where to ride.

We found a whole host of amazing trails, tested our products in so many different conditions, and appreciated the peace and quiet of the low season–only interrupted by the marmots, our ragged breath on the climbs, and the whoops on the way down.