All Change for 2016...
ALL CHANGE FOR 2016 as Andorra Altitude V2.0 launches and we say goodbye to Chamonix for now...
Our Andorra Altitude holiday has been carefully refined from year to year, and we have now reached a perfect balance of mind-blowing riding, superb trails, easy transfers and great prices. And now our natural trail riding incorporates DAILY uplifts to get you higher and further into Andorra's huge mountains than ever before - we are even publishing data on exactly how far you can expect to descend! Why uplifts? Well, most people want to spend the majority of their time descending, so all our riding in high season will have a high start and a low finish..sure there's still the odd small climb, but all routes now feature MINIMUM of 75% DESCENT!
Our 6-times-a-day free transfer service from Barcelona airport brings you directly to the door of our fantastic, bike-friendly 4-star hotel at the heart of the small town of La Massana. Nestled deep in a beautiful wooded valley, the town sits at the foot of enormous mountains in every direction â€“ you can descend over 1000m from the peak of nearby Cubil to the hotel door, without turning a pedal. Our accommodation is based 10 seconds from the main lift station, and is surrounded by lots of great places to eat and drink. It is Andorraâ€™s busiest & best positioned summer town, full of fellow riders enjoying Vallnord Bike Park, host to the 2015 MTB World Championships and now an annual World Cup venue.
Uplifted Natural Singletrack
Andorra is the most difficult place you can imagine trying to navigate without a guide â€“ there is no official mapping, and the ones which do exist all contradict each other, and are very inaccurate. Additionally, almost every valley below 1800m is covered in thick forests, so you canâ€™t even see where you are! However, itâ€™s this which makes Andorra almost unique in Western Europe â€“ our trail network is almost deserted, other than by a few locals and guided walkers. Thereâ€™s no lack of trails once you know where to find them, but they simply donâ€™t get much use. The only busy trails tend to unrideable walking routes up in the craggiest areas, where you wouldnâ€™t want to be with a bike anyway! This means that almost wherever we ride we barely see anyone at all. We take you to phenomenal singletrack in every corner of this tiny country, yet we have genuinely had weeks where we have not met another trail user! You are going to be amazed, not just by how good the riding in Andorra is, not even by incredibly beautiful and unspoiled it is: mainly you are going to wonder â€śwhy the hell have I not ridden here sooner?â€ť!
We have gradually evolved our Andorran Holiday over the past few years - it has become a trail riderâ€™s dream, with perfect natural singletrack unfurling under your wheels at every corner! A rough idea of what to expect is below, but we tailor each week to the group we are riding with, in order to give you the best possible holiday. We gradually increase the difficulty of the riding so you go home full of confidence and new-found skills. During the course of your week we will show you a fantastic array of the very finest riding to be found anywhere, such as:
Ridgeliner: Uplift: 1600m Climb: 400m Descent 15km/ 2000m
A new addition in 2015, this super-high altitude route is simply one of those trails you see in movies: high, craggy scenery, once-in-a-lifetime views, a ribbon of singletrack unfurling along the crest of enormous, spiny ridgesâ€¦yet at the same time it is mostly surprisingly mellow, and unexposed - so long as you have a head for heights! Even the final descent with views over cliffs to a valley hundreds of metres below doesnâ€™t have any nasty edges anywhere near the trail and is only occasionally technical. However, itâ€™s an awesome route for a picture â€“ one of those which you show your friends to really make them jealous! We begin the ride with a van uplift to the top of the highest road in the Pyrenees at 2408m, before spending the morning making our way to Soldeu via the â€śLawnmowerâ€ť descent. This follows a simply beautiful valley across meadows, down into teh trees before some easy switchbacks deliver us to Soldeu. After a bit of lunch we head back up on the ski lifts to 2550m before the final huge descent â€śThe Edgeâ€ť to Canillo, 1000m and 10km below! This descent really does make you feel like you are in an MTB movie - you follow teh spine of the ridge for a few kilometres before the trail starts to dive through the trees on easy singletrack. Don't switch off - about halfway down there's an incredibly tough rocky feature that only one person has ever managed to ride succesfully! From here onwards it's simply beautiful - 5km of singletrack swooping down through the forests all the way to the valley floor....
Snowline II: Uplift 750m Climb: 400m Descent 12km/1150m
This trail originated back in May 2013 when unexpected heavy June snow forced us into new territory, and we have reworked it as a regular fixture in 2015 when we found the amazing new â€śHelter Skelterâ€ť descent, which fits into the old route beautifully! A van uplift drops us high above the valley at Canillo, from where we make our way gradually north along the valley wall, sometime descending, sometimes climbing, before reaching the â€ś21 Questionsâ€ť descent (21 switchbacks of varying intensity!) to the valley floor. After lunch we jump onto the gondola and head back up to the top of the treeline and head for the entrance to the insane â€śHelter Skelterâ€ť â€“ a furious descent on the finest loam you have ever seen, all of super-narrow singletrack. Itâ€™s almost lacking technical features, but it does have a few corners â€“ SEVENTY TWO of them!! Thereâ€™s barely a switchback in sight, but lots of steering - almost everyone simply adores this trail, which drops us onto the â€śThe Basementâ€ť. This technical, contouring singletrack gradually loses height all the way back to the bar where we meet the vanâ€¦
Locals Only: Uplift 500m Climb: 250m Descent 10km/750m or Full Day Ride with climbing
The original classics have not been abandoned amongst all the new riding, and they donâ€™t get any more classic than this! We can either run this as part of a double uplift day with O.C.D. (see below) or you can make a dayâ€™s riding out of it if you fancy a gentle pedal up to look at the views. This descent is an all-time, nailed on classic â€“ it has absolutely everything you could wish for. It begins super-fast and flowing on almost entirely non-technical singletrack down a wooded ridgeline, punctuated by a great little feature we can â€śTech 1â€ť: a very rideable, but somehow tricky looking rock section which has a dropoff that is *just* rollable! After this thereâ€™s more loamy flow, through a little gorge with natural jumps before bursting out into a beautiful meadow overlooking La Massana. After the meadow is one of the best bits of trail we have ever seen, anywhere â€“ it is very fast in places, yet punctuated by another rollable drop â€“ â€śTech 2â€ť and finishes on a rocky slab technical section â€“ â€śTech 3â€ť. Itâ€™s fast, furious and weâ€™d challenge anyone of any level to not absolutely love it!
O.C.D.: Uplift 750m Climb: 250m Descent 12km/1000m or Full Day Ride with climbing
Starting high at the top of the treeline this trail goes Off Col Dâ€™Ordino, hence the name, and begins by plunging 600m down to the village far below. En route youâ€™ll find one of the fastest bits of singletrack we ride anywhere, gnarly rock and root staircases, switchbacks and even quite a lot of slickrock! The highlight is the bottom half, which follows a superb piece of singletrack that winds its way through multiple stream crossings and over several small wooden bridges. We call this section â€śSoggy Bottomâ€ť, not because itâ€™s muddy, but because almost every week someone misses a bridge and ends up falling into the stream. The rest of the group usually help out by pointing and laughingâ€¦ After several more km of slickrock, gorges and an off-camber slab thereâ€™s the option to do a short climb/push to â€śTechNeepâ€ť which is a phenomenal descent that gives you another 400m of descending. Itâ€™s tough on the push up, but the reward is amazing; perfect flowing woodland singletrack with huge views to the valley below, before culminating in a set of 15 fantastic switchbacks which bring us out handily close to a sunny village square full of bars! We used to call this day â€śTechfestâ€ť, but we have renamed it as it has become slightly easier over the years â€“ but donâ€™t let that fool you, itâ€™s still very involving indeed! Again, this is a ride that can either be uplifted and along with â€śLocals Onlyâ€ť, or undertaken as a day ride.
Locals Only, OCD & Rochefort Uplift Day Uplift 1750m Climb: 600m Descent 27km/2350m
Itâ€™s possible, as an option to add both of the above rides together & do a monumental amount of descending! We can even throw in the option of another trail, â€śRochefortâ€ť (named by our French-born guide Keev, as it you can literally translate it as hardrock!) which adds in a further 600m of natural downhill singletrack! To run this day we need to charge a 10E supplement to cover the significant amount of extra driving involved, but itâ€™s well worth it!
Jordiâ€™s Way: Uplift 1300m Climb: 500m Descent 13km/1800m
Jordi is a good friend of StS, born and bred in Andorra and is always out riding in this beautiful country and occasionally comes across new singletrackâ€¦and this year he came across something entirely new, and thoroughly awesomeâ€¦ Thereâ€™s two main ways for us to access the main descent of this route: we can either use the first half of â€śSnowline IIâ€ť, or we can use a gorgeous scenic trail which mirrors it on the opposite side of the valley that we call â€śThe Balconyâ€ť. This second option also lets us throw in a quick optional descent of â€śHelter Skelterâ€ť too! We jump onto a couple of lifts, which take us all the way to the highest point of the Soldeu ski area at 2562m. From here itâ€™s 10km and a simply huge 1300m to the bottom, following a stunning valley which swoops along a ridge before plunges through gorges, crosses rivers and drops into the treeline about halfway down. The descent has everything: flow, gentle singletrack with enormous views, steep sections, switchbacks, rock gardensâ€¦it will tick off a bit of everything! Amazingly overall itâ€™s a pretty mellow descent, but it will leave you completely satisfied â€“ itâ€™s a beautiful day in the mountains.
Off Piste Uplift 3350m (minimum!) Climb: 0m Descent: 29km/3350m (minimum!)
This giant uplift day explores hidden natural singletrack around the fringes of Vallnord, and completely eradicates climbing by using the gondola next to your hotel all day long! We will show you a great selection of hidden trails â€“ even riders who know Vallnord Bike Park well have not spotted most of these natural descentsâ€¦which is amazing, considering some of them actually intersect the man-made routes! We build our way up through the course of the day, so we start off with some less tricky trails, and later in the day weâ€™ll take you onto some harder trails once you are warmed up! â€śNu Skoolâ€ť: there used to be a well loved trail in the bike park called â€śOld Schoolâ€ť, but this was very sadly lost when the new Commencal track was built in 2015. However, as a response some of the locals got busy in the woods and have improved and modified a walking track which is similar, but on a different part of the mountain! It is sometimes steep, but often more gentle and very flowing â€“ it crosses bike park trails 3 times before spitting you out back in Massana. Back up the lift and weâ€™ll show you â€śGulley Runâ€ť, which starts in the same place, but takes a mostly different route to the bottom, passing through several miniature gorges, and then takes a totally different route back to town and even incorporates the old end of Route 66. This was removed from the bike park in 2015, and is an amazing bit of trail. Most people think it was destroyed, but itâ€™s still there, hidden in the woodsâ€¦ â€śHidden Valleyâ€ť uses the same upper section as Gulley Run, but about a third of the way down shoots off in another direction, unexpectedly bursting out of the dense trees into, well, a valley which is hidden! Thereâ€™s some very tight switchbacks down here, and the views are fantastic. The final trail of the day will probably be â€śFTCâ€ťâ€¦which is a trail of extremes: large chunks of it are flowing, non-technical and very easy. However, to access these sections you need to ride some of the toughest bits of singletrack we guide on in Andorra. It can be fantastically steep, sometimes on slickrock, and there are drop-offs, switchbacks and rock gardens. Why is it called FTC? Well, you will find yourself hanging off the back of the saddle; â€śFlossing The Crackâ€ť as our riding buddies used to call it back in the early 90â€™s!
Big Cat: Uplift 900m Climb: 100m Descent 20km/1000mÂ or Full Day Ride with Climbing
One of our original trails, often used as an early-week ride as it has long, non-technical sectionsâ€¦punctuated, of course, with some bits that will test even the most hardened riders! We can either uplift this route, or we can do it as an all-day epicâ€¦which makes for a very long gentle climb. However, thereâ€™s a road right to the top â€“ from which point thereâ€™s 20km of descending back to La Massana. Ben from MBR loved this route â€“ it featured on the cover of the magazine in fact â€“ and it descends down what is often described as â€śAndorraâ€™s prettiest valleyâ€ť. There are several specific areas in this ride; almost immediately as you start the descent you encounter â€śRocky Horrorâ€ť. Honestly, if you can clear this then you are doing a damn good job: itâ€™s not steep or scaryâ€¦just really, really tough! Further down thereâ€™s the famous â€śEndorâ€ť section, where you speed through the trees on perfect, loamy singletrack full of turns and switchbacksâ€¦we have said it many times, this is one of our favourite bits of trail we have ever ridden! So much so that we sometimes head back up the adjacent road and do it a second time!
Skyfall: Uplift 1300m Climb: 400m Descent 18km/1700m
The first of our â€śnew generationâ€ť of trails in Andorra, we first started riding this regularly in 2014. It is an absolutely jaw-droppingly beautiful route, and many of the pictures we upload are taken here! We start the day by uplifting to the top of the same road we use for â€śRidgelinerâ€ť, starting the ride at 2408m. We follow the same outward section for the first few km too..but rather than taking the Lawnmowerâ€ť descent back to Soldeu we stay high and head across to the top of the infamous Skyfall descent. We are at very high altitude here, and the technicality of the singletrack reflects this too â€“ but it gets less demanding as you come back towards the valley floor! The first section is steep and switchbacking on a loose, rocky surface and this drops you to a beautiful mountain lake where we often have lunch. We continue downwards into a huge bowl, still above 2100m â€“ this second section is studded with grippy, round rocks â€“ itâ€™s all about momentum maintenance if you want to clear it. It can be done! Donâ€™t worry; from here it gets a lot easier â€“ thereâ€™s a short push to get over the corner of the mountain, and then the second half of the descent begins. From here it is far less steep, and becomes more and more flowing the further you go. Entering the treeline the rocks give way to pine-needles and loam â€“ and it is endlessâ€¦ it just goes on and on all the way to the valley floor! Every so often thereâ€™s a technical section to deal with, but the contrast to the earlier sections is amazing. Once we reach Soldeu we hit a trail we mentioned earlier â€“ â€śThe Basementâ€ť â€“ but from this point it is twice as long. This trail undulates itsâ€™ way down the valley for several kilometres, losing roughly another 400m along the way. Thereâ€™s some large descents, some short ups and some crazy features: at one point you have to cross a wildly swinging suspension bridge over a riverâ€¦and later youâ€™ll find yourself clambering through a ravine holding onto guide chains! The final descent starts with a switchback that has only ever been ridden twice before plunging back into Canillo for an end-of-ride â€śhops based recovery beverageâ€ť whilst we wait for the van to collect us!
No.1 Trip Advisor Hotel, with Bike Facilities
We changed accommodation a couple of seasons ago in order to be absolutely in the centre of La Massana. As mentioned earlier this is Andorraâ€™s most vibrant and lively summer town â€“ itâ€™s not an out of season ski resort, it is a fully functioning small town filled with shops, restaurants and bars. The locals are incredibly bike-friendly and you are guaranteed of a warm welcome â€“ especially in the hotel, which is family run, despite being very new, and is ranked number 1 in TripAdvisor.
Click here to see more information and images of our fantastic Andorra accomodation
The hotel is right next to the lifts at Vallnord, so we have direct uplift access to the top of the mountain â€“ over 1000m above - genuinely 10 seconds from the front door! The town has loads of facilities â€“ there are several great bike shops, bars that offer everything from sunny terraces to live music, food to suit any tastes and a great atmosphere wherever you go. We will be on hand to make sure that you find the best of them, of course!
As mentioned the hotel is extremely bike friendly â€“ and has the most secure bike store you will ever see in a hotel! It is located underground, and to get in reception have to open the outer door by remote control, and then you go underground where the bikes are stored in a locked steel cage. The store has bike racking bolted to the floor, so you can even lock your bike to that too if you wish. Our guided guests also have access to our tools, workstand and track pump etc, which are locked away separately in a side room for your exclusive use. Bike washing is very easy too â€“ La Massana has multiple bike-wash stations around the town, which are very rarely crowded â€“ you will normally not need to queue to use them.
Not just a great location - Andorra is CHEAP!
Location-wise, this accommodation offers us an opportunity to really mix up our routes, making use of our unparalleled local contacts â€“ we will sometimes ride direct from the door, and at other times weâ€™ll load your bikes into vehicles and head further afield too. Andorra is incredibly mountainous, but we donâ€™t spend much more than 20 minutes or so in the van at any time. We often do point-to-point rides where we start and finish in different locations too. La Massana sits in the junction of several huge valleys, and mountains tower all around. This means that there are several amazing descents which return you right to the front door â€“ most of which descend around 1000 vertical metres!
Another benefit of La Massana is that you can jump on a very cheap bus almost outside the hotel and be in the capital city â€“ La Vella - in less than 10 minutes. The city is famous as one of the premium duty-free shopping destinations in the world. There are hundreds and hundreds of shops, from big-name brands to department storesâ€¦even bike shops! Prices are quite a bit cheaper than the UK â€“ and you will find that the dozens of electrical stores will even let you haggle if you need a new gadget. Also in the city you will find Europeâ€™s largest Spa baths (The Caldea) which are enormous, great fun and are always well-loved by everyone who visits them â€“ itâ€™s not â€śjust for girlsâ€ť - we couldnâ€™t get the boys from Dirt to leave!
Eating and drinking in Andorra is remarkably cheap â€“ think Spanish prices, minus VAT â€“ so to give you a few examples: a large beer is around 3E (ÂŁ2), tapas is available from 4E (ÂŁ3) per dish, a full-sized pizza in a nice restaurant is 9E (ÂŁ6), main meals in most places start from around 10E (ÂŁ7) and if you go to the very best restaurant in town and eat the very most expensive dish on the menu you will still only pay around 25E (ÂŁ19)!
Spending a week in Andorra really does not mean spending a lot of money â€“ you will be very hard pushed to find a better value-for-money riding destination anywhere in Western Europe! You will probably spend half as much money here as you would compared with the Alpsâ€¦unless you go into the bike shops and get excited, of courseâ€¦
Tags: mountain bike holiday Pyrenees, mountain biking holidays, mtb vacation, downhill Vallnord, Andorra