The markers denoting action heroes aren’t easy to define, but there’s something in how we feel right now that sums it up–lights up, camera roll, it’s time for action. The trail shoots us out onto a fire road and we give a final tug on the brakes. That descent, filled with pure movie-style sections and awe-inspiring views of the Brenta mountains, had been something else. Today was clearly going to be one of those days with a decent tally of high fives – for young and old.

Names like Peter Pan, Blade Runner, Easy Rider, and Apocalypse Now might send you straight to the cinema, but instead of picking which film to watch first, I’m stood next to my buddy Markus in the Dolomiti Paganella Bike Area, spoilt for choice when it comes to the question of which trail to ride first. There are more than 20 to choose from, each delivering the same stoke as their action-packed name hints at, and running the gamut of ability levels and family-friendliness – all this just an hour north from Lake Garda. From technical trails with awe-inspiring views over the Brenta mountain range, to mellow flow tails that could easily be awarded a prestigious film festival Golden Bear for their movie credentials, it already seems like Paganella is Oscar-worthy.

In fact, aside from cinematic awards, bears are a pretty hot topic here – and not just because of the Bear Trail, which opened in 2015. (It’s worth mentioning that in just under 60 km it packs in more than 4,000 metres of descending, making it a serious enduro adventure.) No, in this case, we’re talking bears because of the protected wilderness here in the Brenta range, where a number of brown bears are still somewhere in residency.

Willy Wonka flow trail
Sweeter than anything to come out of a chocolate factory

Willy Wonka? We pause, taking a moment to digest. Isn’t he the mad guy with all the secret recipes in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Intrigued, such a name makes you wonder whether there’s something sweet or sour lying in wait on this brand new flow trail? For some background on the potentially mouth-watering trail, this one is in the Andalo Zone in the bike park and wasn’t built until the end of 2017. As you take the gondola up from Andalo and get out at the middle station Dosson at 1,460 metres above sea level, you’ll already be frothing over the substantial portion of flow you’re about to get served. About as wide as pavement, it’s a lesson in well-built trails with countless berms, tables and rollers.

Our sweet tooth got immediately hooked on this particular flow trail recipe and we couldn’t get enough of it. Interspersed with mellow sections acting as a welcome sort of endorphin-relieving sorbet, the risk of a soul-crushing sugar slump has been eliminated. We also discovered that words like ‘steep’, ‘extreme’ or ‘damn, not another queue’ clearly don’t feature in the list of ingredients here. And with flow like this, it’s well suited to any age rider – tabletops can be rolled over or, alternatively, airtime enjoyed. As we rolled out the trail at the bottom we were stoked and slung up a hand for another high five before pedalling straight back to the gondola. Can sugar highs really last this long?

Big Hero flow trail
Small and great heros

A gondola and a chairlift are getting the bikers up to the Molveno Zone from Molveno. It’s linked to the ‘zones’ of Andalo and Fai with a network of lifts and trails. From here we’d decided to check out the Hero flow trail that starts up at 1,530 metres of altitude. Intended as a sort of entry-level flow trail, we watched on as young teen threw a perplexed look at his parents, clearly thrown by the sign that said: ‘Do not pedal! Do not brake! Just pump and have fun!’

His parents, clearly au fait with this sort of trail riding, grinned and explained why such contradictory advice actually makes total sense for a trail like this. They set off, as if on board a roller coaster, cruising over the berms and waves, a never-ending stoke right down to the valley floor. Their excitement gets us pumped too and we tune our suspension and follow them down after giving them a head start. We pull up almost immediately though; shaken out of a blissful flow-induced stupor by the insane view over the glistening Molveno lake. It looks like it was stolen from a Hollywood film set – clearly no better place to stop for a break.

After gorging on the view the great vibe continues to the Pradel gondola at an altitude of 1,350 metres a relaxed ride up from Molveno. We bump into the biking family once more at the Albergo Del Brenta, right beside the Pradel gondola station, where the parents are enjoying a well-earned espresso with a delectably golden tinged crema, while their offspring – clearly stoked with what he’s just ridden – orders a refreshing Aranciata, the beverage of choice a budding action hero. From the upward turn of their mouths it’s easy to discern just how much fun they had on the Big Hero. Ricky, the son, is keen to head over to the pump track with a skills area on the edge of the Molveno Lake – we arrange to meet them there later, an opportunity to hone everyone’s bike skills.

On the pretty technical Blade Runner trail with number 22 we carve our way down towards Andalo. This is the end of the day’s downhilling for the family, who can either take a gravel track or the cable car to get back to Molveno; the rest of the designated bike park trails are verging on too technical for Ricky.

Making the most of the daylight, we meet up with the trio once more for a quick early evening session on the pump track. Fortunately, our lodgings at the Alpenresort Belvedere in the centre of Molveno aren’t more than a few pedal strokes away so we keep the same vibe. After a lot of pumping but full of stoke for the next day, we manage a substantial dinner before drifting off to sleep – standard for any action hero, right.

About Dolomiti Paganella

Where

Dolomiti Paganella Bike is in Italy’s Trentino region, about 60 km southwest of Bolzano. Centered around Andalo (1,040 msl) and Molveno (864 msl) on the Eastern side of the impressive Brenta mountain range, it’s a popular winter sports destination.

Travel

The Paganella plateau can be reached by car, or train and bus. Depending on the snow level, their summer season can start as early as March and run right through until October. Its climate is fairly mild and the altitude means that riding never gets oppressive even at the height of summer.

Distances

Paganella is 30 km from Trento, 60 km from Bolzano, 180 km from Innsbruck and 260 km from Milan.

Bike shops, rental and service

These four locations not only do bike hire but also repairs and servicing: Andalo (Andalo-Doss Pelà lift), Molveno Lido (at the tennis courts), Fai della Paganella (Santel-Meriz lift) with a shop and Molveno (Molveno-Pradel lift) with a shop.

Lift tickets

For €24/day a BP ZONE regional ticket gives you access to all the lifts within the zones of Fai, Andalo and Molveno.

Bus shuttle

The so-called BiciBus has seven different routes and links the Brenta region with both Trento and Lake Garda. If you stay in a Bike Hotel, you will get a card that gives you access to free travel and discounts.

Guiding

The Dolomiti Paganella Bike Academy offers skills courses and guided rides for all (and any) abilities. They also tailor family-specific or e-MTB rides too.

GPS

A free app from Outdooractive lets you download all the trail maps as well specific GPS routes with images and additional information. The app works on android devices and iPhones. At the bike rental locations in Paganella you can also rent a GPS device with a pre-loaded routes.

Where to sleep

Mountain bikers will be well accommodated at specific mtb-welcoming Dolomiti Paganella Bike Hotels. If you don’t fancy the luxury of the four-star superior Alpenresort Belvedere Wellness & Beauty in Molveno, there are hotels, B&Bs and campsites for every budget.

For more information head to dolomitipaganellabike.com

Words: Andy Rieger Photos: Valentin Rühl