Trail runners and electric mountain bikers keep the Alps in business

By Aurora Velez
Trail runners and electric mountain bikers keep the Alps in business
Copyright  euronews

In the Alps, 11 French and Swiss communes are developing all-year-round tourism.

Outside the ski season, trail runners and electric mountain bikers take on the trails and summits of Portes du Soleil, the world's largest cross-border ski area.

Eight French and three Swiss communes, including Champéry, are taking part in this European project, that aims to help people discover the natural heritage, and attract a new clientele in a time of climate change.

"We go from the Swiss side to the French side in one turn of the pedal," says Thierry Favre, Co-Director of Ride Switzerland.

A gentle sport

Florian Legrand tries these two new disciplines.

 "I'm not used to electric bikes at all. It's quite a gentle sport," he says. "You can do it here, for example, and it's something that's really simple and also allows you to see the mountains in a different way than just skiing. On the other seasons is something really complementary."

The total budget for the project is 1.5 million euros of which a little over €600,000 were provided by the European Cohesion Policy. 46.5% was funded by France and Switzerland.

In summer 12 ski resorts with 25 chairlifts are open.

On top of mountain bike routes, the Portes du Soleil summer renewal offer includes 55 cross-border trail-running routes, that you can follow on the project's app.

Florian tests number 41 with two champions in the discipline Gaël Sierre and Aurélien Bovard at the Col du Saix, near La Chapelle d'Abondance.

Summers getting longer and longer

All routes are free and discovering this area outside the ski season is attracting more and more people.

"If we take mountain biking this year," says project coordinator Benoit Cloirec. "We had 1.7 million trips. For those on foot, we had more than 800,000 people this summer who were able to navigate the area thanks to the ski lifts.

According to those who live near the mountain, summers are getting longer and longer. So while waiting for snow, the development of sustainable tourism is an asset for those with businesses in ski resorts, like the owner of this restaurant.

"There's uncertainty from year to year," says Jérémie Ollivier, CEO at La Croix de culet. "We noticed a huge drop in attendance with Covid. Now we've energy problems. So I think extending the offer to all seasons is important."

A breath of fresh air, up near the gods.