Mountain Biking Guide - La Flegère
La Flegère is located above the village of Les Praz, higher up the Chamonix valley but on the same side as Le Brevent. Opposite from Mont Blanc, the area offers excellent views over the Massif and gets arguably the most sun of anywhere in the valley. The riding is mostly below treeline, but don't be fooled; there are trails here that are absolutely terrifying to all but the most accomplished freeriders...ask any local about the notorious 'Sentier des Gardes' for an unforgettable and very challenging experience!
La Flegère is home to two lifts, a large cable car that travels from the valley village of Les Praz, and a fast detachable chairlift called L'Index which goes to the top of the mountain. There is a pleasant café at the top of the cable car which serves expensive drinks and snacks. At time of writing, the Index chairlift is not yet equipped with fittings that let it carry bikes, so the riding is limited to the shots from La Flegère itself. Still, it's included on the pass and it is well worth a trip to the top and back without the bike just to take in the views from the top.
The cable car leaves from the village of Les Praz, which is a ten-minute ride along the river from Chamonix. Take the riverside trail from next to the Hotel Alpina in Place du Mont Blanc and follow it past the sports centre, up the river until the track runs out next to a main road. Turn right, go through Les Praz past Le Cairn hotel and the cable car station is on the left before the golf course.
Alternately, if you are starting from elsewhere in the valley, Les Praz is easily accessible by the SNCF train. The cable car station is visible from the train station, over the other side of the roundabout.
1. La Foria
Chamonix OR Les Praz
One of the more forgiving trails at La Flegère, but still a lot longer, rockier and technical than most resort trails in the Alps, La Floria is named for the beautiful flower chalet 'buvette' that it snakes through in it's lower section. The buvette is an ideal place to stop for a nerve-settling drink!
The trail is a technical downhill, mostly on hardpacked singletrack but with forays into technical rocky sections, dense roots and even a few sets of wooden stairs. Switchbacks are plentiful though mercifully not too tight; beware some fairly exposed corners which require care and attention to successfully negotiate. A long-travel full suspension bike (15cm+) is a must for this trail.
Exit the cable car station and immediately u-turn right onto a wide gravelly path. You can see a 4x4 track approximately 50m below you; make your way down to it and follow it downhill, taking care to go around or bunny-hop several drainage ditches. Pass under a chairlift cable (chairs normally still attached in summer), then in 70m look out for a junction that hairpins left off the 4x4 into a singletrack, signposted 'Les Praz' and 'Chamonix'.
The first section of this singletrack is steep and rocky; take care here, and on the next part, which is rather rocky and rooty. Follow the three switchbacks - a right, a left then another right. Congratulations – the worst is over! Cross over a 4x4 track, going straight over and back onto the singletrack signposted 'Les Praz' and 'Chamonix'. Follow this track, taking care on the staircase sections, and make a left at the next Y-junction, following Chalet le Floria signs. Ignore the left turn soon after (Sentier des Gardes – purgatory!) and stay on the main drag to the right. After five minutes' ride, the track forks again; turn right signposted 'Chalet la Floria 20 mins'. Go through a couple of streams, and when you arrive at the chalet, take care to dismount and walk through on foot. Stop for a drink and check out the views on the other side of the valley if you like.
Exit the buvette on the other side and pick up the 4x4 track. If you would like to return to the Flegère bottom station, take the second left turn down a singletrack which is signposted 'Les Praz'. Otherwise, stick to the 4x4 track for another five minutes to get to Chamonix. The track brings you out at a roundabout at which you turn left to get to the valley bottom, then right onto the main road to bring you back into Chamonix town centre.