BikeRadar’s Oli Woodman recently headed out to Morzine, France where he experienced a week-long stay with sports activity holiday providers Alpine Elements. Having previously visited Morzine for a riding holiday on a shoestring budget, he was blown away with the trip and can't believe he didn't choose to go the package route sooner.
With that in mind, here are eight reasons why your next riding holiday should be a package trip.
1. It takes away the stress of booking everything
You know the scenario: there’s an organised one in your group, the one who pulls the cash kitty together and holds everyone’s bank details. Book a package holiday and you’ll no longer need that person. Seriously though, from the moment your airport shuttle arrives to the moment it drops you back at the airport, everything will have been arranged.
You won’t have to meet Pierre to pickup the keys from the chalet at 3am, you won’t even have to wire money to him at an early date and you can spare the embarrassment of your ignorance of the French language. One of the greatest things about a package holiday is you get to place that stress in someone else’s hands.
2. You can bring your own bike anyway
A lot of people think a package trip means you don't have the option of taking your own bike, but that's often not the case. In fact taking your own bike is a great way to save money and let's face it – there's nowhere more comfortable than being above your own saddle. Be sure to bring plenty of spares and pay particular attention to parts that aren't going to be readily available where you're visiting.
A lot of people panic when it the thought of transporting their own bike but it doesn’t have to be the nightmare you envision it to be though, and neither should it cost you a bomb.
Dedicated bike bags are good but undeniably expensive. A good alternative is to ask a bike shop for a suitable cardboard bike box. All bikes arrive in these – and if they’re good enough for those guys then they’re good enough for you.
3. Or try someone else's…
If you don’t have a suitable bike or maybe you just want to try something different then there are still plenty of options. Alpine Elements, for example has a fleet of Specialized rental bikes with models ranging from green route-plodders to race ready downhill bikes.
To give you an idea of pricing, daily rental of a Specialized Camber trail bike would set you back £30 (US$47 / AU$64 at time of writing) while Specialized’s affordable downhill offering – the Status – would be £40 (US$63 / AU$85) a day. Reserved for the black runs is the Specialized Demo downhill bike at £60 (US$94 / AU$127) a day. Should you want to stick to the tarmac then Alpine Elements also holds road bikes from the big S and kids’ bikes are also available.
Each bike is available in a range of sizes and is subject to a daily maintenance regime, while shop mechanics will be on hand to ensure everything fits and is set up correctly. Also, those who need body armour or helmets can rent those from the shop.
4. The days off are sorted
A week of riding is every bit as ace as it sounds but the chances are you’ll probably want a break at some point. As part of a week with Alpine Elements each guest is offered an itinerary stacked with optional activities. From white water rafting to canyoning, hikes and even a local pub crawl, there’s something for pretty much everyone.
5. Suitable accommodation
Staying in the right place is crucial for a riding trip, and when it comes to accommodation the priorities can be very different for those of a non-riding holiday.
Take your room for example. It’s very unlikely to be a place you’re going to be spending a lot of time during the day, but you'll be extremely glad of a good shower and a comfortable bed.
While away we stayed in Alpine Elements’ Ridge Hotel, a two star accommodation only a short walk from the centre of the town of Morzine. The rooms are basic but ideal for the purpose, providing a clean and relaxing space to wind down after a solid day of riding. Another big bonus was the hotel jet wash which really sped up the post ride cleaning process.
We were staying half board, which we couldn't recommend enough – there's the choice of a cooked or continental breakfast each morning and a three-course evening meal from a set menu. Having food provided by the hotel also saved us a small fortune over the week – should you want to eat out in Morzine then budget around €20 for a lunch option. Similarly, those who enjoy a post ride pint (or four) will be glad of the hotel bar, which will see you paying around €5 a pint rather than the €9 (ouch!) we got charged at one venue.
6. Meet likeminded people
Staying at a package resort means you're likely to be surrounded by likeminded individuals. During our stay we encountered riders of all ability levels – from couples who enjoyed the fitness of riding to seasoned downhillers looking for their annual adrenalin fix. You may well come back home with more friends than when you left.
7. Local knowledge
You should never underestimate local knowledge, and one of the big advantages of travelling with a company like Alpine Elements is your access to just that. The staff members all live in this area, and most have found themselves out there through a passion for either summer or winter sports.
That means you'll get solid advice on everything from trail grading and bike choice to the best pizza in town – knowledge that proved to be invaluable during our stay. Plus, you've always got someone to contact should things not go to plan.
8. You may well be saving cash
This is a big one – a lot of people simply think they can get a better deal if they don't go the package route. However, flight spaces booked in advance, plus good relationships with local businesses mean that a package holiday will actually save most people quite a bit of cash.
Currently, a week long mountain bike package at Alpine Elements' Hotel Ridge will cost £486 (US$760 / AU$1,030) per person. That price includes flights and airport transfers, breakfast and a three course evening meal plus a lift pass offering access to more than 850km of trails!