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Kronplatz, bike paradise (even if you’re a slave)

By Ilaria Chiavacci

While cycling tourism is exploding in Italy, there is a bike park in Kronplatz that is a mountain biker’s paradise: here’s what to expect

“Don’t brake hard, keep the cranks parallel, get up on the pedals”: I mentally repeat these three, basic, instructions to myself as I ride in the Skills park at Plan de Corones. I don’t have a very good relationship with downhill since I split my shin open with my pedal harpoons, precisely braking hard and causing my mountain bike to buckle. This time I am in the Skills Area, “the one where the first steps are taken, where children learn,” I tell myself I can’t at least not try, and so I do. Thanks to the infinite patience of the instructor after rehearsing countless times how to deal with inclines and parabolics, I head for the Dragon Trail, the easiest mountain bike trail. With the slope I’m familiar, I’ve been snowboarding all my life and surfing as well, but having a mountain bike and not a board under my feet unnerves me, it’s a mental hurdle I have to overcome at all costs.

Plan de Corones, or Kronplatz if we want to say it in the German way, visually is a panettone that faces three mountainsides: Olang, Furcia Pass, and Reischach. You can spend days here without ever riding the same trail or bike trail. In fact, the area is working to become more and more of a hub for mountain bike addicts, so much so that it is home to Italy’s first bike hotel, the Alpin Hotel Keil with plenty of bike room, rentals and assistance. The bicycle is an incredible vehicle and is culturally embedded in our imagination as Italians. Road races, the great classics with their champions, permeate the collective imagination of our country. More recent history, on the other hand, is the huge and growing hype around other disciplines related to the bicycle universe, mountain biking and gravel in the lead. This ever-growing passion led, in 2010, the Plan de Corones ski area to create a multilevel bike park that could offer different levels of trails, from the simpler blue and green ones to those marked in black and with dizzying jumps and inclines. There are nine trails in all, but they double to eighteen if we take variants into account, for a total of more than 35 kilometers of trails. There are a total of three slopes of Plan de Corones dedicated to mountain bike trails, and they overlook: to the north towards Reischach and Bruneck, to the east to Olang and to the west to the Furchenpass.

Defining mountain bike trails is like designing ski slopes: they might seem to be the result of chance, or the whim of the mountain, but they are not. All the trails in the Plan de Corones Bike Park were designed with the goal of making the most of the terrain’s conformation in order to practice different styles, from flow to freeride, from the forest studded with roots to the wider open spaces, where parabolic curves and jumps dominate instead. Probably the most famous route is the Herrnsteig, which is also the first to be built in the area, in 2010. From the top of Plan de Corones, where you arrive by lifts equipped with racks to bring your bikes up safely, you ride to Reischach: it’s eight kilometers and 1,350 m of negative elevation gain, a challenging but fun course with different types of terrain to try your hand at. One hundred and twenty-four, on the other hand, is the number of footbridges encountered along the five kilometers of the Furcia Trail, a route that points toward the pass of the same name to the south. Instead, to the east are the more accessible Dragon and Gassl. The first, 2 km long, starts from the distinctive dragon’s mouth located near the summit and goes all the way to the forest line, with man-made structures that make the experience more attractive to both beginners and experienced bikers. The second, a nosedive of more than 6 km and 900 m of elevation gain, runs from the mid-station down to the valley, along the woods that line the ski slopes in winter. It is definitely more challenging, but it guarantees anyone a lot of fun in safety. They are also currently working on a completely new Gassl variant, which will soon be ready and make this slope even more interesting. From the village of San Vigilio, on the other hand, you can take the cable car to the starting point of the Piz de Plaies Trail, a 4-kilometer trail that starts at the top station of the gondola and goes all the way to the bottom of the valley, with several obstacles to overcome, both natural and artificial, parabolic curves and jumps.

Ten years of operation have allowed the bike park to grow steadily and steadily, focusing more and more on the quality of the trail network and services designed specifically for mountain bike addicts, with a view to attracting more and more high-end experiential tourism. Wandering through these valleys you can go from fast, flowing trails to more technical, slow and challenging ones, but you don’t necessarily have to be a pro to enjoy beautiful days here. In fact, the Bike park can count on two Skills Parks, one at the top of Plan de Corones, where my story began, and one at the top of Piz de Plaies: circuits where you can start to get familiar with the slope, obstacles, parabolics, on how to handle the cranks and brakes, mountain biking is about balance and the facilities in the parks are functional to train it even in the presence of obstacles, uneven terrain and jumps.

Continuing to repeat to myself my mantra made “Don’t brake hard, keep the cranks parallel, get up on the pedals” I tackled the Dragon Trail, I will avoid telling what and how many times I did not respect especially the first rule. Suffice it to say that, not only did I not come home with another hole in my shin this time, but I also had fun and can officially say I am a mountain biking beginner. Like all sports it involves a patient start, but already I can’t wait to try again-I feel confident enough to venture a little more.