Mountain biking in La Clusaz
Mountain biking in La Clusaz

A Family Mountain-biking Break in La Clusaz, French Alps

A gloriously sunny Saturday in the Aravis mountains – a fabulous Alpine playground in the ‘Prealps’ just west of the main mountain range – and we’re pinching ourselves at our luck at being in the spellbinding resort of La Clusaz for the inaugural edition of its Bélier VTT mountain-biking festival.

‘Nowhere else but in France would you find a biking trail with a cheese-tasting stop-off and a track-side serenade by a happy little band of accordionists!’

We’re already fallen in love with La Clusaz with its traditional chalets and other charming wooden architecture and its blissfully short transfer from Geneva airport (something that makes it a great choice for a French skiing holiday with kids). But now, as we soar down the slopes on our mountain bikes, cow bells tinkling around us, paragliders swooping over us, we’re hopelessly smitten. 

The Bélier VTT – a new sister to the popular hiking event of the same name – includes the family-friendly Rando Animée, a fairly challenging, gnarly 9km route that takes in food stands and entertainment along the way. Nowhere else but in France would you find a biking trail with a cheese-tasting stop-off and a trackside serenade by a happy little band of accordionists!

Mountain biking in the Alps is the best fun with kids. Even just putting your bikes on the side of the chairlift or inside your cablecar is a thrill, but the descents are spine-tingling combinations of jaw-dropping views, lungfuls of fresh air and the kind of exercise that earns you your fondue, tartiflette, raclette or other cheesy delight in the evening.

One of the best places to eat in the Aravis is up among the Reblochon farms of Le Grand Bornand, La Clusaz’s neighbour, where the intensely rustic La Cheminee serves up generous platters of local cheese, charcuterie and super-hearty potato fritters against a dazzling backdrop of lush green meadows and snow-capped peaks best savoured from its alfresco terrace.

In fact, the dairy produce that comes courtesy of these rich pastures is so highly revered in the area that the village of Le Grand Bornand itself has become a paean to its bovine producers, with cow art dotted throughout its streets, from graffiti to sculptures. Le Grand Bornand is also a great place to watch artisans at work in their studio, including potters and master saddlers.

But perhaps the loveliest thing about Le Bornand is its 2021-opened La Source, an inspirational family attraction celebrating the mountains, their animals, their plants and their people through witty outdoor play installations and creative activities. It’s the kind of place where you can come and play outside as a family for hours; we loved happening upon the book ‘hives’, riding the bicycle-powered merry-go-round made from an upcycled metal cauldron and exploring the sensory garden with its Alpine herbs and other plants.

Back in La Clusaz, we head to the Espace Aquatique des Aravis to ease our weary muscles. It’s just added a hammam and sauna at the time of our visit, but we can't tear ourselves away from the sparkling outdoor swimming pool with its heavenly views of the peaks – because it always comes back to the mountains here. And, of course, the cheese. What time is dinner?

In 2023 the Belier VTT takes place on 10-11th June.

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