MTB Region Review: Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis

Last updated 11.08.2017DorisDoris

Mountain biking is obviously our passion, and it is great to share our passion with our six-year-old son. On our search for an appropriate “mountain bike playground” we ventured out to Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis where we test rode the family-friendly Bike Park – and where we discovered the ten kilometer long signature trail.

Mountain biking with kids is a fantastic way for families to get exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and spend quality time together. Luckily, our six-year-old son takes to the sport easily, but hey who doesn’t love the outdoors, dirt, and wheels? He has graduated from balance bike a long time ago and has fun riding on his own 20” junior bike – and he is hooked. Following some quick research for great places to ride, Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis promises to be the ultimate gravity playground in Tirol. With black expert trails running adjacent to blue beginner trails and red intermediates, it’s said to be a bike park the entire family can enjoy. Surrounded by the jagged Three-Thousanders of Samnaun Range and the Ötztal Alps, the three village resorts possess a stunning location on a sunny upland plateau high above Tirol’s Inntal Valley. The unique setting and the endless activities make it a dream destination for families – and with good reason. There are countless options for walking, whitewater rafting, canyoning and mountain biking. When it comes to the latter, Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis has upped the ante in 2013, greatly expanding its vast biking terrain with a new lift-served Bike Park. They say it’s a safe, happy place to bring the children so we loaded our child and our mountain bikes into the car and headed off to Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis to see for ourselves.

Welcome to the Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis Bike Park.

The Right Gear

Many regard downhill bikes as the pinnacle of what a mountain bike can do. Designed to plough through the roughest bike parks with full suspension, you throw them down a hill and they’ll take anything that comes and then beg for another run. Especially if you are looking for less pedalling and more downhill fun in a lift-accessed bike park. However, we opt for 160 mm of perfectly tuned suspension enduro bikes—these are bikes designed to hit the descents alongside their downhill bike siblings, only to be pedalled back to the top. These modern enduro bikes are really going everywhere with us, they are perfect for downhills , bike park runs and trail riding. That’s important to us as we are planning to explore the renewed Frommes Trail, too.

Getting There

Situated on an upland plateau, some 500 meters above Oberinntal Valley, Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis is readily accessible by car along A12 Inntal Autobahn and Reschen Federal Road. Driving up the switchbacks to the plateau is a breathtaking journey. Towering snow-capped mountains, lush green forests and meadows, and Inn River flowing down in the valley etch into our memory. Our destination is the base of Waldbahn Gondola in Fiss, location of the mountain bike park that opened here in 2013. Here you will also find access to the stunning network of mountain bike trails, including Frommes Trail.

We head for the base of Waldbahn Gondola. An escalator conveniently takes riders and bikes up to the gondola loading zone.

The gondola base is situated at the west end of Fiss, where the sprawling topography makes for an optimal foundation for a bike park. We are welcomed by nice signage and anticipation is growing upon spotting the Training Area and the Pump Track right next to the base, along with glimpses of the slopestyle area and wooden kickers. We leave our car on the spacious car park, where we meet René. The passionate mountain biker and photographer will join us with his camera. So let the adventure begin.

We are welcomed by nice signage and anticipation is growing.

Where to Stay

With more than 2,000 hours of sunshine a year and with taking adventure to places your family never imagined, Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis is rated among the top tourist destination in the Alps. Thus, visitors can choose from a wide selection of unique accommodations of all different sorts and to suit all wallets, from luxury hotels and family friendly homes to spacious studios and more.

Worth a special mention are the many places across Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis which are doing that bit more to cater for cyclists including providing secure lock up, washing facilities and tools and spares for a bit of bike fettling: Staying with a Mountain Bike-Friendly Accommodation will give cyclists the confidence that they are booking quality lodging that meets their particular needs. Maps and books are available for reference on cycling in the area and hearty food is served. Bikers are provided detailed information on local trails and routes, nearest cycle hire outlets and cycle repair/spares shops available.

As a designated Mountain Bike Destination, Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis offers a huge range of Bike Shops, Hire and Workshops. Specialist sport and bike shops where you can book guided tours, hire bikes and get technical service every day are available in all three village resorts.

The bike shop at the base of Waldbahn Gondola is the place to get suited up with the right protective equipment with your bike rental.

Before we are ready to hit the trails, we need to hire the appropriate equipment. Offering everything a downhill enthusiast could need, the shop at the base of Waldbahn Gondola is the place to get suited up with the right protective gear with your bike rental. As a family-friendly place to bike, the shop has added downhill mountain bikes designed specifically for kids to its rental fleet. From 20” junior full suspension bikes to high performance downhill and enduro bikes, they have something for everyone.

The Bike Park Shop has added downhill mountain bikes designed specifically for kids to its rental fleet.

Pauli is totally excited. It’s his first time riding a bike park—and his first time riding a full suspension downhill mountain bike. Aptly named “Frechdax” (‘cheeky little monkey’), this kid’s mountain bike is specifically designed for the mountain bike park and the little rippers that like to play there. To make his day in the park safe and fun, the bike is fitted to his size and weight by the experienced staff at the shop.

Pauli’s first time riding a full suspension downhill mountain bike.

Moreover, he is get set-up with the right protective equipment, body armour, knee and arm guards, gloves and full face helmet. Mum swaps her 120 mm all-mountain-bike for 160 mm of perfectly tuned suspension that’s perfect for trail riding, bike park runs and enduro racing and off we go.

Trails

Visiting a new bike destination for the first time, it’s always fun to see if it’s  true what they say on their Website and in brochures and leaflets. Will they actually deliver the heavily promoted “family-friendliness”? Well, we are here to find out…

Located at the Waldbahn Gondola base, Pump Track and Training Area are perfect grounds for warm-up runs and help Pauli to get on his game for the more technical riding during the day. He is riding his “Frechdax” and it leaves him grinning from ear to ear. Five minutes later, he seems to be warmed-up. “Dad, I have suspension now. I want to ride the big trails.” Well, never stop a child who wants to move on. So we are getting the tickets from the bike shop and take the escalator up to load the gondola.

Pump Track and Training Area at the Waldbahn Gondola base are perfect for building skills or getting warmed up before hitting the trails.

In the summer, Waldbahn Gondola is for bikes only – now that is something! The friendly staff helps us boarding the gondola and loading the bikes. In the gondola, we meet up with Bike Park Manager Christian, who agreed to take us on a grand tour of this gravity playground. Again, anticipation grows as we spot the trail network beneath us. Will the park really have a little bit of everything for everyone? For every member of our family?

In the summer, Waldbahn Gondola is for bikes only.

A huge orientation board is located at the top of the Waldbahn Gondola, 1,840 meters above sea level. The map lists all bike park trails and helps first-timers to get comfortable on your bike and learn what trails are best suited for your ability level. There’s only one question left: Which trail to ride first? Three boards are situated on the west side of the top terminal, a blue one, a red one and a black one. All trails within the bike park are designated by colour coded markers at the start of each descent and we notice that trail maps have the same basic difficulty designations that ski runs do: blue is easiest, red is more difficult, black is most difficult. Thus, it’s easy to work your way up to more advanced trails and features based on your progression, skill, and comfort level.

All trails within the bike park are designated by colour coded markers at the start of each descent, with easy to distinguish signing throughout the park.

The blue “EASY” Lines

Christian recommends us to start with the blue lines. We find three blue coded runs named Milky Way, Vuelta (which is more of a side trip to Milky Way) and Morning Glory on the trail map. These smooth trails are perfect for novice bikers wanting to get a feel for the sport and make for great family rides.

We opt to sample Milky Way first. It is the longest of the three blue coded trails and winds down to the base from the gondola’s top terminal. It’s a mellow run featuring many smooth turns. Dad rides in front, followed by Pauli and Mum as the tailender. Very soon, we all recognize that it’s a ton of fun.

Mountain biking with Mum.

The three-kilometer long gravel trail is perfect for getting used to your equipment. It’s a modest gravity fed trail with small jumps and gentle, sweeping berms in its lower section, helping riders develop their skills in a less intimidating and consequential environment. Pauli progresses with a smile on his face. Like all trails in the park, this mellow line ends just above the base area, at the entrance to the Slopestyle Area.

Without advance warning, Pauli branches off and rides towards the tabletops. My heart is missing a beat. In the next moment, he tackles the jumps with ease, as only a kid can do. At the end of the line, he turns around and simply cannot wipe the smile off his face. My heart starts beating again and Dad is as proud as can be.

Pauli tackles the tabletops at the Slopestyle Area and gets a feel for air time.

Bike Park Manager Christian is catching some air as well.

The Bottom Line after our first run: The Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis Bike Park is family-friendly.

After a quick sip from our water bottles, which are conveniently stored at the base building, we board the gondola again. This time we opt for combining the Milky Way side trip named Vuelta with the Morning Glory line. This 750-meter long blue run is an excellent introduction into downhill biking. Flowy, fun and challenging, the terrain gets progressively harder the further we get along the trail. There are wide switchback turns plus a couple of little wood features and obstacles riders will find in the bike park that become more challenging as you approach the end of the trail. Morning Glory is great fun for Pauli, our bike park rookie, and for us. In its middle section, the trail joins the Milky Way and takes us down to the base area once again. This time, Pauli is trying to hit the wooden kickers at the north shore type area. Stepping up the game a bit, the four introductory wood jumps are perfect for him to become comfortable with man-made features.

Flowy, fun and challenging, the “Morning Glory” terrain gets progressively harder the further we get along the trail.

The perfect place for Pauli to become comfortable with man-made North-Shore features.

The red “INTERMEDIATE” Lines

Having mastered two intense downhill rides, Pauli needs a break. Fortunately, deckchairs with views of the Slopestyle Area Right are located right beside the gondola base. We take the opportunity to explore some of the other trails Christian would like to show to us. After blue comes red: All three intermediate trails are clearly marked, with red coloured difficulty symbols and named Strada del Sole, Supernatural and Freeride Trail.

Bike Park Manager Christian tells us a lot of interesting facts about the Bike Park.

Up at the top, we opt for the Strada del Sole. This three-kilometer long trail is the bike park’s most popular ride.

In its upper section, the trail runs parallel to the Milky Way until reaching the huge steel bridge. It’s ideally situated halfway on the mountain to link-up with all trails. Towering above the dirt road, this giant structure is the core of the bike park, where all trails merge from above and spread out as colour coded trails.

Christian takes the access to the North Shore Area.

We take the red coloured exit from the bridge and follow machine-built Trail No. 11, which is apparently steeper than the red trails we tackled before. Snaking its way down through old-growth forest, it’s the perfect jump/flow trail that is loaded with more than 40 (!) airs. Like most every trail at the Bike Park, the features are optional, so I am not forced to ride a feature I don’t want to. That means I can get used to the fast trail that tempts the boys to let off those brakes. Fast and varied, with wall-rides and a spattering of wood features, this trail gets the blood flowing. Upon reaching the Slopestyle Area above the base, the boys opt for the medium line under the watchful eyes of Pauli. I try to tackle the second wooden kicker, which Pauli comments with the words “That looked funny, Mum.” We head for the gondola once again.

On our next descent, we take the fork onto the Supernatural Trail, where flow can be found right from the start. I try to let off the brakes as the boys speed down the mountain. I am astonished at how little they need to pedal around. This trail is built to show off your jumping skills. You need to carry some speed off of flow and pedal around the corners, which puts you right in front of perfect take-offs requiring a ton of air – this to be said in theory. To me, this trail is super flowing yet I still have to work my way up to it.

With wall-rides and a spattering of wood features, this trail gets the blood flowing.

The Supernatural ends on the upper section of the mountain in the so-called Puinz Zone next to the dirt road. A short connector delivers us to the Strada del Sole. This time I know that riding it requires some speed and commitment. Navigating the take-offs better, I start getting a feel for air time. I could go on like this forever.

To get the most out of our time at the park, we turn onto the red coded Freeride Trail in the lower section of the Strada del Sole. It was named after the popular “Freeride” Magazine and designed after the wishes and ideas of its readers. Fast and flowy, the trail has good-sized wood features and jumps, which are optional again, so I can opt not to ride a feature.

Down at the base we see Pauli getting ready for a new ride with his Dad. I enjoy my new-found freedom and decide to go for a last run with the boys before lunch break. Next in the colour code game is black.

The black “EXPERT” Lines

Sitting in the gondola, we recognize that we already have tired arm and leg muscles. We could need a break, too. We are not sure whether it was right to save the most difficult ride for the last. Shortly before arriving at the top, we can see the North Shore Area on the left. We need to go there as well!  Three short lines with varied wood features for that Canada feeling.

The North Shore Area: Three short lines with varied wood features for that Canada feeling.

Christian opts for some airtime.

I have been to Canada’s North Shore twice, the mountains that have a well-deserved reputation for world-class mountain bike riding. After all it’s where “Shore Riding” or “Free riding” originated. So I am seeking the challenge of the North Shore elements with ease. And yes, it works out quite fine, a bit wobbly at the start but it’s getting better. I can’t tackle the drop at the end, though. Well, I will become more advanced during my riding at the park over time.

Coming from the North-Shore-Line we reach the huge steel bridge again. There’s a link-up with the black coloured Hill Bill Trail here but unfortunately there is not enough time to master that technical, steep run. We will definitely try it one day. This time though we opt for the blue downhill and turn onto the trail at a fork.

It starts with a meadow to traverse before the technical elements and terrain progress. There’s steeper terrain with rocks, roots, and other technical sections. The 1.5 kilometer long trail features a mix of dirt berms, gaps and narrow, whip-fast singletrack through tight pine corridors. The grade is occasionally steep and the large rock drops and step-ups are challenging at times. Halfway down, the trail burns up my already tired arm and leg muscles. I arrive at the base, tired and exhausted—and in need to explain why my pants, guards and gloves are full of dirt. I have to admit that there was that mud pool I stumbled upon…

The Downhill Trail features a technical mix of dirt berms, gaps and narrow, whip-fast singletrack through tight pine corridors.

This downhill rig left me exhausted and in desperate need of a break—and of lunch. The snack bar at the base is just the right place to gather new strength. The sun is shining. It’s a bluebird day. Sitting in the shade, we watch Pauli doing laps on the Pump Track.

After five laps, Pauli joins us and we order our lunch from the market-style snack bar. The food is far from moderately priced yet it is exactly what we need right now. Fuelling up on hearty delicacies, we share stories of the morning’s adventures on the mountain. We listen to Christian telling us about future park developments. The past few summers have seen a flurry of improvements to the park as the crew takes things to the next level. There is never a dull moment here in Fiss. They are planning to install a ‘magic carpet’ conveyor belt for mountain bikes in the Slopestyle Area so that kids can do some laps at the Slopestyle Course and in the Training Area without having to push their bike up the hill.

The Bottom Line after our intense morning of riding: The Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis Bike Park is family-friendly in every way. A lot of places say this but this place actually delivers. This is definitely a bike park the entire family can enjoy.

Downhiller meets Princess.

In the meantime, Pauli is asleep on Dad’s lap. We wonder what he will be dreaming. He has had enough for today but we will definitely come back. Daddy brings the tired kid home while Mum goes for another ride. Fair enough.

Next Stop: Frommes Trail

It is with joy that Christian tells us what’s up next: He will take us atop 2,490-meter Schönjöchl Col, trailhead of the Frommes Trail. After all that park riding we are looking forward to roots, rocks, and stunning mountain views.

The full face helmet is swapped for an ordinary one and we load our bikes onto the manager’s pick-up truck. As Schönjochbahn Gondola is closed during our visit, we are offered this special shuttle service. It’s a bumpy ride to the top, stomach-flipping at times, but the anticipation of finally getting to ride this trail smoothes the long and winding trip up the mountain.

The car ride delivers us at the top terminal of Schönjochbahn Gondola at an elevation of 2,436 meters. This place has us hopping with joy with its nonstop horizon-spanning views of jagged ridges and colossal summits and over Inntal Valley below. After a short but stiff climb up a gravel road and 60 vertical meters, we reach the top of 2,490-meter Schönjöchl Col, trailhead of the Frommes Trail itself, where the view is so stunning that we dismount and enjoy it in silence.

Schönjöchl Col, trailhead of the Frommes Trail itself, has us hopping with joy with its nonstop horizon-spanning views of jagged ridges and colossal summits.

There is easy to distinguish signing throughout the park, even up here.

Frommes Trail

Starting from the summit of Schönjöchl Col and descending through some of the most stunning Alpine landscapes, Frommes Trail is the Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis Mountain Bike Park’s pinnacle experience. With a 1,000 vertical meter descent back to Fiss in ten kilometers, this long-distance, high-altitude signature ride is on the bucket list for all advanced mountain bikers. The natural, flowy trail drops riders onto exhilarating downhill through rock gardens and old-growth spruce and pine forest. Even up here at this altitude, there is easy to distinguish signing. Standing beneath the cross on the summit of Schönjöchl Col, we enjoy breathtaking 360 degree views. Christian gives us a brief preview of what to expect—and off we go.

The technical rider’s playground begins at the top of Schönjöchl Col.

Frommes Trail is rated S1 to S3 on the singletrack difficulty rating scale. It is important to have the proper knowledge and skill appropriate for riding it safely. You’re recommended to be an advanced rider to get in this way, as there are no blue trails down to Fiss (and it’s a loooong way down). The Ötztal Alps are vying for our eyes’ attention as we traverse mossy Alpine pastures on our way down to the reservoir. The trail has incredible diversity: fast downhills, technical sections and even a few switchbacks to climb up. Looping around beautiful lakes, we reach the summit of 2,248-meter Mateskopf Peak.

The flowy trail descends through some of the most stunning Alpine landscapes.

The summit of Mateskopf Peak, 2,248 meters above sea level.

From here, the trail snakes its way down along wide open meadows and eventually enters old-growth spruce forest. Intersecting, crisscrossing, tangled masses of roots litter the trail while boulders create a conundrum of lines choices. The perfect combination of sustained singletrack riding and flow makes for an amazing venture through the forest. The trail ends just above the village of Fiss. Wow, what an incredible experience. Barrelling down the ten-kilometer long trail from the summit to the base is simply awesome. The trail was built in natural style and satisfies every gravity hog’s hunger.

Frommes Trail is the pinnacle of Alpine riding.

The perfect combination of sustained singletrack riding and flow.

The Ötztal Alps are vying for our eyes’ attention, so we pull off to the side and take it all in.

A gentle dirt road brings us back to Fiss. Although this downhill spectacle left us grinning and begging for another lap, there is not enough time left. But as mentioned before, we will definitely be back.

Mountain Bike Park Tickets & Passes

Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis is not exactly considered a low budget destination. As always, quality has its price. Mountain Bike Park full day tickets are Euro 36.00 per adult, Euro 28.00 per youth (15-18 yrs) and Euro 18.50 per child (7-14 yrs). If you have a Super Summer Card, you will get your ticket at a discounted rate. It’s just one of the perks of being a guest card holder. Given all that is on offer, you could easily call this moderately priced, though.

Apart from full day and partial day tickets, Mountain Bike Park Passes are available in different varieties designed to provide maximum flexibility to suit park riders of all types. If you are planning to ride eight or more days in the park, you are strongly recommended to buy a Mountain Bike Park Season Pass (Euro 264.00 per adult). A Season Pass not only gets you the best value, but you also get the Gravity Card, which offers unlimited access to 16 European bike parks. If you want to access Frommes Trail by riding Schönjochbahn Gondola, you need to pay an extra Euro 10.00 for your bike to be transported (regular lift ticket also required). Quite astonishing you only have to pay extra for the uphill ride; riding the gondola down with your bike is free. Refer here for details on Tickets & Season Passes.

Events

The Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis Bike Park offers a non-stop line-up of events through summer. From weekly skill development sessions and women’s camps to annual events, there’s something for everyone. Undisputed highlight is the outstanding Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis MTB Festival, taking place each year in the first week of August.

The annual MTB Festival at Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis Bike Park is a weeklong festival celebrating fat tires and promising young talents. Each year in August, aspiring young athletes aged between 11 and 18 show off their prowess in a series of mettle-testing, muscle-busting bike disciplines in the Kona Rookie Games, including Downhill and Pump Track. The youngsters battle it out in the iXS International Rookies Championships to take the coveted title of Downhill Youth World Champion.

The six-day Rookie Camp for riders aged 11 to 18 is the perfect introduction to these competitions. Under the guidance of professionally certified coaches, teens can experience the thrill of mountain biking in a supervised and controlled environment. For more details browse the Bike Park’s Calendar of Events.

The Bottom Line

The Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis Bike Park works hard to make the area accessible to beginners and kids—and with plenty of family-friendly trails and rides, we declare “mission accomplished.” Apart from its stunning location on the sunny upland plateau, Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis Region has an immense range of outdoor activity options available, along with great amenities and friendly locals. With black expert trails running adjacent to blue beginner trails and red intermediates, the Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis Bike Park truly is a park the entire family can enjoy.

This truly is a park the entire family can enjoy. (Photo Credits: René Sendlhofer-Schag / www.bikefex.at)

If the Bike Park isn’t your style, there’s a wide range of cross country mountain bike trails waiting to be explored. There’s a reason Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis has the reputation of a world-class, pedal and family-friendly destination. Without a doubt, more than one trip here will be necessary.

Doris

Doris has enjoyed some of her most beautiful mountain experiences on two wheels, after moving to Innsbruck to pursue her passion for mountain biking.

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