Meet Ninja, a local Italian man with a taste for adventure. Alongside ski and snowboard instructing, he has recently got his hands on 4 ‘Fat Bike’ mountain bikes and joint with his guiding qualification, Ninja wants to show you the world of Winter Mountain biking in the Dolomites. Offering two different tours; one in the morning called the Wake-up tour (9-11am) and another after dark called the Stars Tour (8-10pm) there is a chance to explore the area in a very different way. No great deal of experience is needed as there are different routes which can be taken but expect to venture through the trees, past a frozen waterfall and take advantage of a late dinner overlooking the Sompunt lake.
Stars Tour – 16.01.2014
Ninja had agreed to take us out on the Stars Tour this particular evening and as the church bells cried out at 8pm I was feeling excited and a little apprehensive about the 2 hours ahead of us. To kick start the adventure we were shown how to ride the bike to avoid falling in the snow, especially during a turn. I’d like to point out that it was due to my pure enthusiasm that sent me hurtling across the car park and as I looked up from the ground Ninja’s expression plainly read “what an earth have I let myself in for?”
Helmets on and light beams at the ready, we set off from Sport Kostner on a mission to cycle the 5km to La Villa and back. The route started off nice and gentle along a tracked path beside the river and as we got used to the feel of the huge tyres, Ninja made sure to cycle alongside us in turn to ensure we were feeling OK. Soon enough the gradient changed and we slowly made our ascent up through the trees where the track began to narrow, becoming slightly more technical. All the while we were being instructed on proper gear usage up the hill, something I really appreciated with my lack of mountain bike experience. The track naturally stopped as it reached a ski piste and the only way to re-join was to carefully cycle across it! Suddenly the need for such large tyres became evident – any slight tilt to the handle bars sent the bike sideways and the grip of the snow meant pedalling became 4 times as hard.
By this point I regretted wearing so many layers but the climb to the top of the woodland was well worth it. The full moon was now hidden by the clouds and instead we enjoyed the large snowflakes that were falling as we reached a beautiful frozen lake known as Sompunt. The restaurant perched by the side stays open late and although there was an option to have dinner we decided to enjoy a hot chocolate as we watched people curl on the ice outside. The owner was obviously familiar with Ninja and so his somewhat bold request to take the bikes on the lake was gladly granted – yikes!
I never thought I would cycle in heavy snow, let alone take a mountain bike onto a frozen lake and once again my enthusiasm caused me a bruised bum. The trick was to pedal slow and keep the bike as straight as possible, letting out a little whimper if you felt it was applicable. I can only imagine how the whole scenario must have looked from afar.
The snow continued to fall as we started to head back the way we came. Hands hovering on the brakes, we allowed some speed on the narrow woodland track, relying on our lights to show us the path in time – the entire downhill ride was exhilarating.
Arriving back at the shop, feeling deservedly worn out we were presented with a sticker to prove to our friends that we have indeed successfully winter mountain biked in the Dolomites, Ninja style! New, fun and generally unheard of as a winter sport, this is an experience everybody should have a go at.