Alpenbikepark sits with one foot in the city of Chur, Switzerland and the other foot on the steep slopes of the Alps. Though the park isn’t as well known and others in the region, it holds some of the most creative trail features and lines that I’ve found in Europe. With nearly 1,000 vertical meters of elevation change, this gem surrounded by chocolate and cheese shops should be on your list of downhill destinations.
The city of Chur is located directly south of Lichtenstein and about a 1.5-hour drive from Zurich. To find the central starting point for Alpenbikepark, all you have to do is drive into Chur, look for the cable car, and follow it to the parking lot. It is a Spartan environment with nothing that gives you the sense of what lies above on the mountain. The lone employee is a cashier who sells daily adult lift passes for 39 Swiss Francs which is pretty expensive, but everything seems expensive in Switzerland.
I was told that the cable car holds 45 people and runs every thirty minutes but it actually departed as soon as it was full of bikers and hikers. We were able to squeeze about 15 bikes plus people on each trip up and I can imagine that waiting times could become an issue if it gets busy. The good news is that this cable car is only required to access the lower part of the mountain which is a substantial 600 meters high. Once you reach the end, you can either ride down on one of two trails or you can board another semi-modern four-person gondola. The second gondola takes you up about another 400 vertical meters to the beginning of three more trails.
The top of the bike park affords gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains but has limited facilities like at the base station. Clearly the point of going to Alpenbikepark is to ride your bike. If you want to hang out in a “chill-zone” and spend your afternoon drinking beers and watching other people shred, I suggest heading over the hill to Lenzerheide which is much more socially oriented.
The trails on the upper part
From the top of the mountain, it is not readily clear where the trails begin. If you spin in a circle, you will see a sign and a break in the trees which is where all three trails begin. As soon as you drop in you realize that the mountain is pretty steep. The trail builders have done a great job of bench-cutting a twisty line across the hill that is fun but not overly intimidating to novices. The three trails diverge early and while all are challenging, there are multiple lines near or around features.
This trail really is an expert trail as the jumps are massive and there are many of them. Let off the brakes and hold on tight for some serious airtime. Tight berms in the woods keep things interesting the entire way down
This is an intermediate trail with numerous line choices and some steep rocky chutes. There are large drops and a really cool step-on-step-off feature. If you are looking to build up your confidence on drops, you will find a nice progression zone with your choice of three different sized drops.
This novice level flow trail is loads of fun with switchbacks snaking down to the middle station from the top of the mountain. From the gondola, you can see the trail twisting through the trees. This is not just a forest path with a couple signs, it was designed with care and creativity to make it exciting.
Let me first say that the three trails from the top of the mountain are incredible. If you like jumps, drops, and tight, twisty, steep lines – this is your mountain. Wow, these builders have been busy! One way you can tell that the park has been well designed is that the big jumps don’t really feel that big. If you ride the trails with the appropriate speed, then the jumps are not particularly technical. Just let off the brakes and flow down the trail and into some of the biggest bike park hits that I’ve seen in Europe. It is also great that they have kept many of the jumps as proper double-jumps rather than creating lines of tabletops. It is absolutely necessary to check out the jumps before you hit them or you may find yourself coming up short on a large double.
There are often multiple takeoffs of variable sizes for the features so the trails are not only fun for advanced riders. If you are comfortable with small and medium jumps then you can have just as much fun. Each of these trails can be ridden by novice riders, however, I would be reluctant to bring my eight-year-old son on anything other than the Brambrüesch trail. Bike handling skills are a premium here and willingness to get a little loose is required. I would also suggest bringing a proper downhill bike. One of my friends rode his slopestyle bike with no problems, but he was absolutely pushing the limits of the bike. The speeds, exposure, and size of the features justify extra suspension.
The trails on the lower part
The lower part of the mountain actually has more elevation change than the upper part but it is has a very different feel. The lower trails can be tight singletrack, fire road, or nice wide freeride flow. When you reach the bottom you wind through town and back to the parking lot. It feels a little strange coming out of the woods and riding down the city street along with cars and pedestrians, but that is what adds to the unique feeling of Alpenbikepark.
Hold onto your hat because as soon as you drop into this expert level trail things get interesting. The first few switchbacks are quite steep and surprising as they dive towards the city center. Later the trail becomes a more traditional DH trail with fast singletrack through tight woods sections.
Stadli is the intermediate trail down from the middle station and it really is a fun trail. There are several medium sized jumps that create a nice flow all the way down. As the trials on the lower part of the mountain intersect several times, you can mix and match your favorite route down.
Food and Drinks
Taking a break for lunch is a funny situation because of the wide variation of choices. You can get a kebab or pizza at the shop across from the parking lot or you can follow signs up at the top to an Battaglia Hütte and get yourself a schnitzel. We chose to get a schnitzel and beer since it was a beautiful day and we wanted to relax a bit. In classic Swiss fashion, though, the schnitzel and fries cost a steep 21 Swiss Francs. At that price, we made sure to clean our plates and then felt like hell during our first run back down the mountain as the food bounced around in our stomachs.
One of the nice things about Alpenbikepark is that it is near to both Bikepark Lenzerheide and Bikepark Brandnertal. These three parks together would make for a great regional bike park vacation. If you do a little research, you can also work some high-alpine enduro rides on off-days so that you don’t overdose on DH. We are normally trashed after a couple of days of riding bike parks, so it is nice to have some swimming, hiking, and enduro rides nearby to help recover.
The bottom line
Alpenbikepark is a no-nonsense bike park for people who want to challenge themselves, go fast, and hit big jumps. The location makes it easy to get to and the infrastructure allows for fast rides back up to the top. The price is a little expensive, but the quality of the terrain and the amount of laps we were able to do in a day was worth it. The difficulty of the trails merits a full downhill bike and all of the associated safety gear. Although I didn’t know much about the park before my trip, I am enthusiastic to get back next season when it reopens. The relatively low elevation of the resort allows it to open earlier than many others in the Alps, so keep an eye on their website and look forward to a great time at Alpenbikepark!
Location, Opening Hours and Prices
Location: Chur, Switzerland
Price: Adult day ticket 39 Swiss Francs / Student 29 SF / Kids 20 SF
Number of trails: 5
Lifts: Cable car and 4-person gondola
Hours: 8:30 am to 4:45 pm
- Preseason 7. – 28. March 2016 (depending on snow conditions)
- Weekends opened 14. May – 12. June 2016
- Daily opened 18. June – 23. October 2016
- Weekends opened 29. – 30. October 2016
- Long opening hours on friday evening: June /July till 21:00, August till 20:00
Photos: Evan Phillips, Alpenbikepark