Epic mountainbike and ice cream holiday in Aosta and Pila.

Mountainbiking in Aosta. (overview)

Aosta in the Italian alps is a well known mountainbike destination, you could easily spend multiple weeks riding here without getting bored. It’s not just a mountainbike spot, it’s also a complete holiday destination for your non-cycling family members. It’s one of the few places where you can take the gondola up from the city and arrive in a bike park.

It’s a nice bike park with mostly flowy trails, but not the cookie cutter kind.
There a also some steep blacks and a typical race track with two very technical sections.
And then we haven’t told you about the best part yet, the long descent back down to Aosta. Which means you can easily do more descending in a day, than most people can pedal up in two weeks.

Since you’re lodged in between giants like the Mont Blanc and the Gran Paradiso, you’re guaranteed stunning mountain views whenever you look up.

Mountain biking in Pila/Aosta

Pro’s

  • The Freeride track
  • Ice cream and pizza
  • One lift ticket for the valley at a good price
  • Aosta with all of it’s history and other tourist attractions.
  • Athough there are usually some brake bumps the trails are expertly build.
  • The surrounding nature.
  • Uncountable XC/AM and enduro rides outside of the bikeparks.

Cons

  • Brake bumps
  • The Aosta valley is narrow and busy.

The village

Aosta has a rich history, dating back to before roman times. There are still a lot of roman buildings preserved like the city gates and walls and the large arch of Augustus. Due to it’s strategic location lodged in between the steep mountainsides blocking the access to the Great and Little St. Bernard passes to Switzerland and France it has always remained of importance and it’s still a large vibrant city.
This is most noticeable in the main shopping street. Where amongst others you will find an abundance of pizza and ice cream. But to find the best ice cream you will have to leave the main street for gelateria Pazzo.

Pila is the ski resort above Aosta. There is a gondola that brings you from just outside the Aosta city centre up to Pila. There are some bars and restaurants near the lifts in Pila, but aside from that there are mostly apartment buildings and not much else going on.

The area offers everything a tourist might require, but is especially well known for it’s hiking, rock and alpine climbing and the Gran Paradiso National Park.

The Gran Paradiso National Park is well known for the protected Alpine Ibex roaming free.

Hotels and apartments

There are plenty accommodations, both in Aosta, Pila and further in the valley. But since the valley is narrow, most will be in an busy urban environment , albeit with beautiful mountain views. But not really in nature, if that’s what you’re looking for, you need to be in one of the side valleys.

Booking.com

Campings

There are several campings in the main valley and in the quieter side valleys or you can park your camping car next to the lift building in Pila for free.

Campeggio Soleil et Neige In a beautiful natural location halfway down the freeride track, so in an ideal spot for mountainbikers. BUT the toilets and showers are the oldest and least maintained I have ever seen. And it’s not cheap either. It could be the best campsite in the area with the right management.
Lazy bee This campground has been upgraded since I was here. There are new bungalows and showers, it seems the prices have gone up a bit as well.
The large pitches have remained, but the noisy train tracks aren’t going to change.
Camping Arvier This campground is halfway between Aosta and La Thuile in a village called Arvier.
It is a medium to large campground, but it doesn’t feel crowded. With large pitches, a small swimming pool and well maintained, clean, warm showers.
Camping val di Rhemes is located as the name implies in the Val di Rhemes, which a side valley of the main Aosta valley. It is in a charming and quiet mountain location with no traffic noises, however the pitches are on the small side.  The sanitary is modern and clean. It’s slightly cheaper, then the campings in the main valley, but you will spend more time in the car.

Of the campings I have tried in the area Camping Arvier is my favorite thus far, but any suggestions are welcome! (In the comments below)

Mountainbike trails

The Aosta-Pila bikepark, called bike stadium, has two different sections. Underneath the Chamole chairlift in Pila you will find a regular Italian bike park.
One Blue track (Azurra) to warm up, a couple of fast and flowing red(Rossa) trails, machine build, but not overly polished.
For the blacks there is the choice between the classic world cup track, which is a wide and fast race course with some rollable jumps.
The IXS track is more difficult with some rock gardens you really have to commit to.
Of to the side, there a two short black trails, that have a steep and natural feeling, with chutes and roots.
But the main trail Pila is known for is the epic Freeride descent down to Aosta.
I starts right next to the Chamole chairlift and descents 1170 meters over 8km’s of trail. (+/- 15%). (Bring some extra brake pads)
There are so many variations that it’s almost two separate trails. Some variations are just that, variations. others are more difficult options. Overall the trail is red without real technical difficulties other then some steeper parts. The black variations are usually steeper and narrower trails.
Most notably the Sam Hill track, which almost goes straight down, through ruts and over roots.
When you get to the bottom of the freeride track, ride down to the main road, turn right all the way to the round about then turn left over the bridge. Then back to the parking of the gondola or go eat some pizza.

If you’re lucky the Couis 1 lift is open and you can make the Pila-Aosta freeride even longer with the Desarpa trail for a total of 1730 meters altitude difference. Ask the lift personnel at the Chamole lift whether the Couis lift is open. It’s an old lift so even when it’s open it doesn’t move very fast.

Most of the trails will become slippery after rain, then dry out to compact and grippy for a brief period, before they turn into talcum powder like dust.
Awesome to drift through!

50to01 // Summer Waves // 50to01
Watch this video on YouTube.

50to1 crew exploring Aosta during their roadtrip, bike park riding starts at 4:15, Freeride track starts at 6:20.

Which bike and tires for Aosta?

Most trails are pretty rough, either with brake bumps or rocks and jumps, so I recommend a heavier enduro. There is not a lot of pedaling, just from the bottom of the Freeride back to the gondola, so a full DH rig should be fine as well.
The Freeride is long and continuously steep, so on a lighter bike my first upgrade would be the largest brake discs it will take with finned brake pads.
There are some tricky rock gardens on the IXS downhill combined with the long bumpy descents and the berms inviting you to go all in, means your tires will get a beating. So you will regret not getting tires with a proper DH casing.
The trails will be slippery either with mud or dust, so you will slide, maybe a bit more then you intended. So I recommend knee and elbow guards.

Cross country

If you prefer to pedal up, there are more than 500km’s of XC trails in the Aosta valley.

Books and maps

This guidebook by versantesud has 61 trails in the Aosta valley, you can order it, but it also available (in italian and english and sometimes german) in most local bookshops. The routes range from xc on forest roads to enduro rides.

GPS

Valle d’Aosta mountain biking trails

trailforks

Mtb trailmap

Trail map Bike park Pila Aosta
Click the map to download the complete trail map from the Aosta-Pila website.

Bike shops/ guiding/ Mountainbike rental

There is a rental and repair shop at the Chamole chairlift, they rent out nice transition DH bikes.
There is no shop at the bottom of the gondola, only in the main shopping street.

With the waymarked bike park trails, trailforks and the versantesud book, there is more then enough info to go explore by yourself. But if you want to be sure to find the best trails, with the help of a guide and a shuttle, then Aosta valley freeride is highly recommended.

Tips and tricks

The bike wash is at the back side of the ticket office for the gondola.

There is one lift ticket that is valid in the Aosta region for multiple (non consecutive) days. If you plan on riding Breuil-Cervinia or La Thuile, this will be cheaper then buying separate day tickets.

There is a large supermarket right next to the gondola

Other useful links

Nearby

Breuil-Cervinia and La Thuile are so nearby that you can use the same lift ticket. Breuil is not very well known, but certainly worth a visit. There is one long flow trail and several enduro trails, with one starting on the glacier at 3480m.
La Thuile is the benchmark for steep and natural trails and definitively a mekka every mountainbiker must visit.
Verbier is just on the other side of the Great St. Bernard pass. Although you sense the culture differences in the way the trails are build, the setup is similar a bikepark with flowing trails and some long enduro trails down to the valley floor.
If you go over the Little St. Bernard pass you will get another riding experience in Les Arcs and Tignes.

Similar

Like I said above Verbier has some similarities to Aosta, but in the end nothing really rivals the Aosta-Pila freeride track.
However the Rock&Flow track in Krvavec comes pretty close.
Val di Fassa also has a regular bike park up top and an epic long descent to the bottom.

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