If you have already experienced the joys of family mountain biking, you’ll know that few activities are as universally popular. Over the years, mountain biking (originally reserved to the fit and fearless) has become very accessible. Thanks to the infrastructure developed in les 3 Vallées, the sport has become another way to discover the mountains. There are plenty of gentle itineraries which, in a few hours or a day, allow you to discover untouched landscape and amazing, varied views. You’ll come across lakes, summits and paths zigzagging through shady forests…  

As with skiing, the lifts allow you to save your energy and concentrate on the pleasure of riding mostly on the flat or downhill. Knowledge of the resorts gained through skiing can be “transposed” for mountain biking in summer. Which is lucky, as the two activities are very complementary! While your little ones are having fun, they are improving their endurance, balance and coordination, developing their lung capacity, and using all their muscle groups…

Méribel, mountain biking on gentle slopes

A day outing can be organised just like a day on skis : if you don’t have your own equipment (bike, helmet, knee and elbow protection), you can simply rent it at the foot of the trails and you can pick up a pass for the lifts – not forgetting a picnic in your backpack! And when the moment arrives to find a quiet spot to enjoy your sandwiches, let the children decide where, it’ll be one of the highlights of the day (and a pleasure enjoying the mountain views without freezing fingers…).

Among the routes recommended for family outings, two easy enduro trails (shared with walkers) have perfect layouts: from the top of the Tougnète lift, ‘Les Villages’ circuit offers just 100m of uphill for 890m of downhill. This 10km trail leads to Les Allues, where you can catch a bus back to the resort. On route, you’ll pass through several villages where you can explore typical Savoyard chapels and communal bread ovens. Another possibility is ‘Les Combes’ itinerary which starts at 2,430m and offers pure downhill to the very pretty Tuéda Lake in the nature reserve of the same name. The panorama over the valley as you enter the Arolla pine forest is superb!

It's all about progression

If you are drawn to adventure but unsure of your capabilities, the secret (just like skiing) lies in progression. For carefree riding, there are only two aspects to take into account: technique (especially for downhill) and fitness (so you don’t run out of steam on long or uphill rides). 

- Regarding fitness, the answer is simple: either take the lifts up to an all-downhill trail, such as those described above, thus reducing effort, or check that the uphill sections are minimal. Alternatively, choose a very easy Enduro trail (green or even blue). For example, Méribel’s ‘la forêt de l’Altiport’ trail, reachable by bus, runs mostly through the trees. The downhill sections are gentle and the uphill parts are quite modest (195m) which you can opt to do on foot – no one will punish you!

- As for technique, if you are a beginner or you want to brush up your skills before setting off, make your way to the Ludizone, an area dedicated to improving. Here, you can call on the services of an instructor and even the youngest children are welcome as they can enjoy learning on a BMX bike! For everybody else, a few useful tips will help you start off, or make progress or just brush up on technique. And for your peace of mind, instructors are available to accompany you on your first family outings.

Méribel Bike Park for all the family

If you are feeling confident and want to venture further from the resort centre, it’s time to move onto the cross-country trails. As with cross-country skiing, the trails are laid out in circuits which you undertake at your own speed. Cross-country is suitable for families and the ‘Lac de Tuéda’ itinerary is one of the easiest, with only 75m of uphill on a 3.2km loop starting from Méribel-Mottaret.

Finally, sporty and more experienced families are spoilt for choice! There are enduro circuits and more arduous cross-country trails or even downhill for those who want to learn or improve their skills – there’s a huge choice! Or you can leave the teenagers having fun while you try the trails specially designed for electric mountain bikes! Or parents can park their bikes and settle comfortably on a café terrace while keeping an eye on their little terrors. Or let them get on with it! The four patrollers who make their rounds of the bike park in summer will help out if there are any difficulties…