PassPortes du Soleil 2013 - a First Time Guide

Words and photos: Julia Revitt

The 10th edition of the Pass’Portes du Soleil mountain bike event will take place on 28th, 29th and 30th June 2013. The host village this year will be Chatel and the usual assortment of stands, bike tests and music will take place from 9am to 7pm.

About the event

For those unfamiliar with the event, the Pass’Portes du Soleil is a chance to ride the 80km (50 mile) loop of the Portes du Soleil region of France and Switzerland, using the 15 ski lifts to make it around inside the day. The full loop is no small undertaking.

Riding all day above 900m and climbing to 2250m in altitude, with a total descent of 6000m, on a very wide variety of terrain is a test for any rider. Just looking at the injuries list from 2012 tells it’s own story (let this serve as a reminder not to get overzealous if you’re riding this year):

  • 13 collarbones
  • 4 dislocated shoulders
  • 3 wrists
  • 3 ankles
  • 2 knees

You can choose to ride it on Friday, Saturday or Sunday and start from any of the 9 different resorts of:

In France: Avoriaz, Châtel, Les Gets, Morzine and Montriond-Les Lindarets.

In Switzerland: Champéry, Morgins, Torgon and Les Crosets.

About the area

The ski lifts are open from 7:30 am to 6 pm each day depending on the weather. This is crucial to note; if you get to the furthest point for the day and one of the common afternoon thunderstorms takes place, the lifts may close. Having to climb back over some of the mountains can add hours to your day and is not recommended as it can be incredibly detrimental to your après-ride celebrations. Always be cautious of the weather.

This year the Pass'Portes event will be hosted by the town of Chatel, but many people will stay in Morzine and Les Gets - don't worry if you've booked to stay there as you can easily get over the mountains to Chatel.
This year the Pass’Portes event will be hosted by the town of Chatel, but many people will stay in Morzine and Les Gets – don’t worry if you’ve booked to stay there as you can easily get over the mountains to Chatel.

The super-popular Pleney ski lift in Morzine is shut for summer 2013 and a bus service adapted for carrying bikes will be running between the resorts of Morzine and Les Gets, which on first hearing is a little perturbing, but we hear that the service is set to be very efficient. Also the chairlifts of La Crusaz and Les Mouilles may carry bikes (dependent on the two chairlifts being certified for this use).

About the refreshments…

The usual fare of ham, baguettes and cheese is available at most resorts along with various drinks such as Rivella (in Switzerland – you’ll either love it or hate it). You can try to survive the day from this selection but I wouldn’t recommend it. You could be out for 10.5 hours in total, in blazing heat, freezing cold or both.

I would suggest taking some provisions with you and supplementing them with those on offer at the refreshment stands. This would be a good time to take advantage of technology and take some gels with you. They’re easy to carry, it doesn’t matter whether it’s hot or cold and they’re easy to eat. Torq do some with snazzy favours such as Raspberry Ripple (which somehow really does taste like a raspberry ripple ice cream), Rhubarb & Custard and Banoffee. The advantage of gels (apart from the practicality of transporting them) is that they deliver the nutrients you need quickly and efficiently. Torq gels contain maltodextrin, which is a sugar that is easily digestible, and electrolytes to help prevent dehydration (don’t forget to drink lots of water).

Bread, cheese and saucisson will be available at every stop. Just remember to go easy if you want to get around the long loop.
Bread, cheese and saucisson will be available at every stop. Just remember to go easy if you want to get around the long loop.

Make sure your hydration pack bladder/water bottles are full before you set off. You can fill them with water and supplement with gels or fill them with a sports drink and take less gels. High 5 make a range of carbohydrate and electrolyte drinks. I recommend using the High 5 Energy Source range of carbohydrate drinks to keep you going for the full day (take a spare sachet with you). The Fresh Citrus flavour is my favourite.

Water troughs are found throughout the route and are a great place to wash your face and refill your hydration pack/bottle – just remember to fill from the running water not from the trough itself unless you like bacteria and sheep fur in your drink! I’ve seen one or two mountain bikers taking a bath in them too…

The food available at the refreshment stands is not bad. You can have a ham and cheese baguette followed by a fresh orange at most of the resorts. I would recommend watching your portion sizes though (it’s easy to get carried away) as you’ll likely be setting off riding not long after eating and you want to be awake when you’re on your bike. Save the spaghetti for the end of the day!

Leave some room in your backpack and bring a food bag with you so that you can take some bread etc. with you from the refreshment stands – then you don’t have to stuff your face in five minutes flat.

The Portes du Soleil region is simply inspiring. Huge mountains, clear air...Rivella on tap...
The Portes du Soleil region is simply inspiring. Huge mountains, clear air…Rivella on tap…

Some of the refreshment stands may have alcohol on offer but I wouldn’t recommend touching any during this event. Also, be careful with fizzy drinks as these can cause stomach cramps especially when leant over the bike for long periods or during heavy exertion.

Pop some of your favourite trail snacks into your backback too:

  • Salted peanuts
  • Raisins
  • Dried apricots
  • Sweets
  • A couple of sandwiches

I really recommend trying out any new products/foods in advance of the big day to make sure you like them and they agree with you.

The essentials

As this is a mountain route and you will could be out all day you should take a few items besides food and drink:

  • Helmet (obligatory for the event)
  • Knee and/or elbow pads if you feel the need
  • Euros/Credit Card
  • Puncture repair kit/tubes and pump
  • Waterproofs
  • First aid kit
  • Passport (never been asked for it but you will be crossing French and Swiss borders)
  • EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) – very important!
  • Phone (if you have credit/signal and local emergency numbers)
  • Sunblock
You'll be riding alongside thousands of other keen/too keen mountain bikers. Take care out there and enjoy the amazing mountains.
You’ll be riding alongside thousands of other keen/too keen mountain bikers. Take care out there and enjoy the amazing mountains.

One small request from me – take your litter home with you – pretty please! Oh and enjoy the views and remember to have fun.

Click here for the Pass’Portes du Soleil 2013 website.

See you there…

  1. Mark Houghton

    Well I ‘endured/enjoyed’ the Passportes for the first time this year. I had tickets for the Saturday though and this meant rain, lots of rain and then lots more rain on top of that. Rain means mud and it was cold. However, it was a fabulous experience. Rode again on the Sunday when the sun was out and enjoyed it a whole lot more. A “must do” for any biker, though most seemed to not take it too seriously and were just having fun both in the rain and the sun.

X

Also in Where to Ride

MTB Travel Guide: Lake Garda, Italy

Read More