What are the hallmarks of a mountain biker’s ultimate family holiday? Easy answer: riding as much as physically possible. But when adult commitments and parental responsibilities put the brakes on your riding time, you may want to consider the Dolomites Bike-Weeks in the idyllic village of Olang in South Tyrol.
We have no shame admitting that the biggest priority in our early twenties was shredding. All the trails, all the time. The radder, the better. But our lives have changed and we’ve grown up. Indeed, for some of us, the arrival of families has led to an obligatory shift in priorities. The elements needed to keep a family’s happiness in check (particularly on holiday) are quite different to those you seek on a trail riding trip with mates. Our test rider Gregor knows this only too well – after the arrival of his son Anton, Gregor and his wife Adi have had to rethink those very priorities. That’s when they happened upon the Dolomites Bike-Week in Olang.
They quickly decided to spend a week in Olang, during the Dolomites Bike-Weeks. When they weren’t tucking into local delicacies like Schlutzkrapfen, or ‘gramming the picture perfect mountain lakes, they split their time between the Kinderwelt and the bike park, road riding and mountain biking, relaxing and riding in a bid to tip the scales towards the ultimate #familybikebalance. They succeeded! Here are their highlights:
Dolomites Bike-Weeks – what’s it all about?
As the name suggests, the Bike-Weeks mark a four-week period during the summer where cycling in the Dolomites takes centre stage. From mountain bikers and road riders to recreational cruisers, there’s something for everyone, including daily guided rides catering for three levels in each discipline. But before you get alarmed at the thought of being unwittingly enrolled into a rigid, predetermined programme, don’t worry – choice is king here.
Anything possible, nothing obligatory – Dip in and out of the Bike-Weeks programme.
The Dolomites Bike-Weeks is not your standard organised bike ride. There’s no set schedule to follow and no fixed group you have to meet. As a guest in Olang, you’ll simply be privy to a wide-ranging menu of rides that you can hop in and out of as you wish. Fancy a road ride? Go for it. Legs starting to feel the burn? Take a day off, or opt for an eMTB recovery ride. All of the organised rides are led by professional guides, and, being situated in the Dolomites, you can expect your culinary desires to be well and truly exceeded. South Tyrol’s cuisine is awash with local delicacies with great indigineous names like Schlutzkrapfen ravioli, Spinatpressknödel (spinach dumplings) and the messy, but fit-for-an-emperor Kaiserschmarrn pancake.
Olang – a destination for the whole family
Right in the middle of Val Pusteria/Pustertal, the town of Olang has around 3,000 residents and delivers all the ingredients for the ultimate family holiday. Its hotels run the gamut from budget to luxury and there’s no shortage of restaurants. The Kids World – the Kinderwelt – is a giant outdoor playground that’ll capture imaginations. What’s more, each guest gets access to free public transport across the region as well the option to attend any of the town’s events (either for free or at a heavily reduced rate) thanks to the so-called HolidayPass. You can also find time to discover South Tyrol’s lesser-known gems such as the Toblacher See/Lago di Dobbiaco which is equally as beautiful as the Instagram-famous Pragser Wildsee but far less overrun with tourists. Reaching the lake can be done in a number of ways but Gregor, Adi and Anton decided to pedal along the family-friend bike path. Once they had exhausted themselves skimming stones and eating ice cream, they returned to Olang for free on the train with their HolidayPass.
The HolidayPass doesn’t just come with a list of local opportunities, it also extends the range of what’s possible. Outbound by bike, return by train – no problem!
The Kinderwelt – a massive adventure play park
The sprawling Kinderwelt in Olang is a place that can light up any child’s eyes. Just next to a babbling mountain brook, this natural adventure play park winds its way along the stream, revealing an archipelago of diverse adventure islands as kids move through it. From the giant water park to picking a line up the climbing wall, there’s something for every taste. Even as adults, Gregor and Adi struggled to tear themselves away from the action. Fortunately Anton provided a convenient excuse to stay a bit longer.
The Kronplatz – culture, cuisine and a damn good time
The Kinderwelt is one form of adventure play park, but the Kronplatz is something else entirely. The mountain is a familiar ascent of the Giro d’Italia and pedalling up to 2,275 metres is a popular option, though you can also take the cable car. Once at the top, expect breathtaking panorama views of the surrounding peaks, like the Marmolada and Drei Zinnen.
But the excitement doesn’t end at the postcard perfect views. For mountain bikers, there are descents in three directions – towards Olang you’ve got the GASSL flow trail, which takes you down 1,125 metres of descending with unavoidably high stoke levels. Towards the south, you’ll find the Furcia Trail, which offers a host of detours and diversions onto other trails too. In the north, you’ll find the Herrnsteig trail – the oldest and most well-known of Kronplatz’s downhills and one that’s continually being refined with new, trickier segments. Great riding guarateed!
Family holiday means making compromises. Do you prefer biking, culture or adventure? At Kronplatz the only compromise is, to do all three in a row!
Not just a hotbed of trails, there’s no shortage of culture on the Kronplatz either. Take the Messner Mountain Museum designed by Zaha Hadid. A stunning feat of architecture perched on the mountain top. Or the new AlpINN restaurant, which ties together a laid back atmosphere with fine food. You won’t need to dress up for dinner either – this region is very au fait with sports attire. After all, it also has to deal with the neon brazenness of skiers each winter.
In the heart of the Dolomites
During the approach to Olang, the landscape outside the car window will entrance you – rocky mountain peaks, lush meadows and cascading waterfalls. But it’s only when you’re out on the bike and moving at a slower pace that you can truly appreciate its beauty. On a road ride to Lake Misurina, Gregor sat up and soaked up the view over the lake that staged the speed skating competition at the 1956 Olympics. From here, you have what is perhaps the greatest view of Drei Zinnen. Despite lasting hours, the ride that Gregor had picked from the programme seemed to pass in a bit of a blur and before he knew it, his group was being led back to Olang along the smooth tarmac of the Dolomites. As the switchbacks unfolded ahead of him, Gregor was already envisaging a way to get Adi and Anton up to Lake Misurina too. He knew that they’d love it as much as him.
As you may have gathered, Olang isn’t a far-flung, remote destination, where adventure is synonymous with extreme risk-taking, but fortunately, most bike-mad families aren’t looking for that. Diverse and different days usually make for a good holiday and we can confirm that Olang delivers exactly that. Dear Olang, we’ll see you again next year. Hopefully, by then, Anton will join us on the trails. And if not, it doesn’t really matter because you’ve already brought the #familybikebalance into alignment.
For more information about Olang and the Dolomites Bike Weeks head over to: kronplatz.com