Mountain Biking Guide - Les Grands Montets
Les Grands Montets is a year-round resort located next to the village of Argentière, between Chamonix and Le Tour. It is on the same (sheltered) side of the valley as Mont Blanc, so views over the massif aren't as great, but the tradeoff is steep, glacier-carved terrain with some excellent options for all levels of rider.
The 'Grands Montets' themselves are the peaks at the top of the resort, above the glacier. This is slightly deceptive for us bikers as the riding here is exclusively off the midstation at Lognan. Terrain higher than that is glaciated, ice-covered and hence unrideable. At Lognan, there is a cafe, bar, good sun terrace, free drinking water fountain for hydraton pack refills, and those all-important public toilets!
A large cable car leaves from the resort base on the outskirts of Argentière village and takes around seven minutes to get to Lognan. If coming from Chamonix, it's probably best to take the Petit Balcon Nord trail if on an XC bike; those on heavier rigs will definitely prefer taking the train to Argentière and riding the two minutes to the Les Grands Montets base.
If taking the train from Chamonix, get off at Argentière, cross over the train tracks and veer right onto the 4x4 track running paralell with the tracks. Before you hit the main road, turn left into the apartment complex, go past the kids' play area and over the bridge into the Les Grands Montets parking lot.
The Lavancher is an excellent route, suitable for practically anyone with moderate confidence handling a full-suspension mountain bike. Advanced level riders could consider taking a hardtail down the route, but at minimum, a full-suspension XC bike is recommended.
From Lognan, come out of the cable car station and make your way around the bowl towards the Plan Joran restaurant (closed in summer) on the 4x4 track. With the Plan Joran restaurant on your right, pass under the Plan Roujon three-man chairlift and traverse along the 4x4 track. Take care in this section as there are quite a few deep drainage ditches running perpendicular to the track. Ignore the singletrack that cuts off to the right after the first rise, and stick on the 4x4. Head up the next rise, where there's a wooden half-trunk bench on the right. Drop your saddle down and get ready for a long, flowing downhill.
Follow the rocky track as it curves to the left and pass beneath the 4-man 'Pendant Retour' chairlift. Then, immediately after the track curves right, pick up the singletrack to the left of the bend. Follow the rutted singletrack as it opens up into a pasture. Shortly afterwards, follow the signpost right to 'Le Lavancher 1hr 10' and 'Les Tines 1hr 35'.
After five switchbacks, take care on the steep rocky section into a switchback right. At the junction, ignore the 4x4 track to the right and turn left toward the steps. Negotiate the steps, and follow the flow of the singletrack as it turns into a 4x4 track heading down toward the village of Le Lavancher.You'll come out at the top of the village; from here you can follow the tarmac road back to valley level to catch the train back up the valley, or you can make a left onto the singletrack of the Petit Balcon Nord to bring you back down to Les Praz, and then Chamonix.