Mountain Biking in Belleville Valley: Review of Les Menuires MTB

May 31, 2024 BY Luke Rees

In August 2023 I went downhill mountain biking in Belleville Valley, France. Despite awful weather, during this review of Les Menuires MTB I had a great time in this French Alps bike park. You can expect great infrastructure and excellent downhill trails, that are very well suited to beginner and intermediate riders. While the area also provides plenty of trails for more experienced riders.

Review of MTB in Belleville Valley, France

This visit was part of a wider review of a Les Menuires summer activity holiday, during which we hiked and biked, relaxed and rejuvenated and ate great food. It was nice to return to the resort in the summer, having been snowboarding in Les Menuires a couple of times in the winter.

There is no getting around it, the weather during this visit was terrible. It rained for about two and a half of the three day stay. But with more than 30 years experience as a mountain biker in the UK, I have learnt that if you don’t ride in wet and muddy conditions you won’t get out much! So I donned my waterproofs, packed spare gloves and met my guide Jacques to make the most of it.

Mountain Biking in Belleville Valley

In 1998 the Belleville Valley – Les Menuires, Val Thorens and St Martin De Belleville – was declared a VTT/MTB area by the French Cycling Federation. They have kept improving lines and adding more trails ever since.

In the Belleville Valley there are 100km on downhill and enduro trails ranging from 1,400 to 2,800m. There is a good amount of green and blue downhill trails, with a little less of red and just the one black route which is not that long. So Belleville MTB is best for beginner and intermediate downhill riders.

Map of Belleville Valley MTB trails, Val Thorens, Menuires and St Martin

Contrary to this, the Enduro trails are mainly reds and blacks meaning they are suited to experienced riders and experts. As the name implies, enduro usually requires some pedal power on your part, although lifts reduce the effort. Enduro lines are often more natural, technical, single track compared to wider, manmade enduro trails. Due to the conditions I did not get to ride any of the Enduro.

The Belleville MTB trails link up with Meribel and the wider Three Valleys via the Pas Du Cherferie above St Martin. The entire Three Valleys has around 260km of dedicated bike park mountain biking trails. Unfortunately the lift from Meribel back to Belleville was closed during my visit, so I did not get to MTB the wider Three Valleys.

Being a winter ski area there are gondolas and chairlifts to whisk you uphill while mountain biking in Belleville Valley. There is even a free shuttle bus, with bike racks, that regularly runs between the three resorts. You will need to take this to reach the Val Thorens trails, unless you are happy to bust a lung riding a heavy downhill bike uphill.

Review of Les Menuires MTB

I picked up a downhill rig, all the armour and helmet at La Croisette’s Bike Hire, they rent a wide variety of bikes, including eBikes. If you ride often, be aware that in France the brakes are the opposite way around to the UK. After a little persuasion, it took the store less that five minutes to swap them, vastly improving my safety.

Review of Mountain Biking in Belleville Valley

The conditions were about as wet as possible – some trails were more like streams. Making even the greens were a challenge. The one red I rode was treacherous. In teaming rain all morning it was a challenge to see, with goggles misting up and being splattered with water and mud. But, and this is the key thing, it was still fun!

Morning MTB in Belleville Valley

We started with Gyrophare (DH4), an easy green linking trail from above Les Menuires to the St Martin area. For the most part it was easy, however, still and flowing water meant you often could not see the trail surface. Small berms rose above the puddle filled corners providing slightly more grip in the turn. Continuing to the St Martin Express, this green was ay times a challenge!

At the lift, Gyrophare becomes a blue trail – Bambee (DH3) – that takes you into St Martin. Usually I would find a blue easy and a lot of fun. It was clear Bambee would offer great flow, however poor visibility and being treacherously wet made it difficult. Speed was replaced by sliding, sweeping corners were skid risks, and airtime was aborted.

After taking the two St Martin lifts we rode Blue Lagoon (DH2), from the top down to the mid point. This is a fun blue trail with lots of good sized berms, which in the wet were tough.

Mountain Biking in Belleville Valley Review of Les Menuires MTB

Next we tried the red B’Hell’Ville (DH14). It has lots of big, tight berms and table top jumps that would be great in the dry. It also has some northshore features and gap jumps, all of which are avoidable. Unfortunately the conditions proved too much for me, I crashed once and struggled to carry enough pace in the wet to ride it safely.

To get back for a lunch appointment we took the green Easy Rider (DH1) back to Les Menuires. It is another linking trail that in the dry would be great fun for beginners, in the wet it proved to be a fun challenge. But after the steeper blue, and higher consequence red, it was nice to ride something that allowed me to relax.

Afternoon: Review of Les Menuires MTB

After lunch it briefly stopped raining! We began with the same Gyrophare (DH4) joining the end of Blue Lagoon (DH2) followed by Bambee (DH3). Being able to see I was riding less like a deer on ice. As my confidence built I started riding faster and even popping some jumps.

All was going well until coming out a blind corner there was a family walking up the bike only trail. In emergency stop and avoidance mode I skidded the front wheel in a puddle and slammed into the ground. The damp soil had a slight softening affect but I was very glad of the armour. Still I was winded and bruised.

Review of Les Menuires Mountain biking in France

Jacques had a massive go at the family. I haven’t heard someone shout in French since my GCSE teacher took offence at my 16 year old attempts to speak the language. Suffice to say it sounded both elegant and insulting, and the family were soon apologising to me and quickly getting off the bike trail.

My confidence was hit, so we decided against taking the E1 red enduro trail. Instead we sped down easy rider again and checked out the downhill trails into Les Menuires. I got my confidence back on the blue Kiss Cool (DH5) which is a typical blue. Then finished up on the red Bloody Mary (DH7) with the sunshine peaking out of the clouds. Not falling, but only just, I declared it my run of the day.

Having crashed twice plus almost falling many times, I was surprisingly tired. Typically I would fit more riding into a day, but being cold, wet, muddy, battered and bruised I decided to finish on a high. Plus it looked like it was about the rain again…

Review of Le Danchet Apartments Les Menuires

We stayed in the Le Danchet apartment block, which is on the slopes above Les Menuires. It is a mostly private owned, consisting of holiday homes that are rented out in both summer and winter.

Review of Le Danchet 624 in Lew Menuires, france

Our show apartment had been renovated to demonstrate what could be achieved to bring standards up to the level most guests expect these days. It’s fantastically done! Every room looked lovely, made great use of space and featured full length windows to showcase the views.

In the winter it would be an excellent ski-in ski-out accommodation. But at the end of the summer season it was deserted. During this review of Les Menuires MTB in Belleville Valley, the empty, echoing corridors felt eerie in the evenings. Walking back before 10pm we counted just four lights on in this massive complex.

But once in the apartment it felt welcoming. The lovely, well equipped kitchen, dining room and modern master bedroom make the most of the mountainous backdrop.

Review of Les Menuires Mountain Biking: Summary

I didn’t see the downhill mountain biking in Belleville Valley at its best. To be honest, at times I could barely see at all. But I had a lot of fun. The picture below is from a more general bike ride in the area, showcasing the beauty in a brief sunny window!

easy mountain bike ride from Les Menuires to St Martin de Belleville

It was the first time I have spent all day riding downhill in the rain for many years. On the plus side I don’t think we saw another downhiller the entire day. There were a couple of other people using bikes to get around, but it was so quiet that the lifts were stopped except when we needed them.

I have ridden in Saalbach/Leogang in Austria, Morzine/Les Gets in France and Park City/Deer Valley in Utah, USA, which are probably the best bike parks in their respective countries. Mountain biking in Belleville Valley isn’t as well developed, there are less trails but also less riders and lower prices.

Even in the wet, this review of Les Menuires MTB was fun and the trails would be excellent in the dry. I didn’t ride in Val Thorens or the wider Three Valleys. Plus I missed out one the enduro trails – usually I love technical single track, but it would have been dangerous in the conditions.

MTB in Belleville Valley: Conclusion

To conclude this review of Les Menuires MTB in Belleville Valley France, I’d say it is the ideal destination for beginner or intermediate downhill riders. It’s the perfect place if you’re new to mountain biking, or progressing from other MTB styles to downhill.

Review of Les Menuires MTB

There is also more than enough downhill MTB trails in Belleville Valley to keep intermediate to advanced riders busy for a few days. And exploring the Three Valleys and enduro trails would extend that to a week. There are also various huts you can stay in overnight offering touring options for those who are happy to pedal and like to explore.

I am not one for hitting gap jumps or higher risk features, but there is some of that in the area. However, if big air, big tricks and big risk is your thing then Belleville mountain biking is perhaps not for you. But for everyone else you’ll love it – fingers crossed you get better weather.

I hope you found this review of Les Menuires mountain biking in Belleville Valley interesting and helpful. For more information check out the Les Menuires website: www.lesmenuires.com

 
Alps, Belleville Valley, Europe, France, French Alps, Les Menuires, Rhone Alpes, St Martin Belleville, Tarentaise Valley, Three Valleys, Val Thorens
Mountain Biking
Bikepark, DH (Downhill), Enduro
Travel Articles
 

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