Pila in black & white – Where the peaks meet the light
Probably there’s no rider who has not heard about Pila at least once in his/her life, an incredible place which has played a huge role in mountain bike history in the west Alps. Pila is a small town in the north of Italy, nestled up in the mountains next to the France border. If you’ve already been there, then you will have surely stopped first in Aosta, the small town down in the valley below Pila. From there you probably took one of the most popular cableway among Europeans downhillers, the Aosta-Pila. Straight from the city center in Aosta you can climb up to more than 1800 meters and enjoy an incredible landscape, surrounded by the highest peaks of the Alps, such as Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa. The scenery that you witness up there is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful alpine landscapes a man can experience.
Despite the young life of the sport of mountain biking, Pila is a place full of history. A World Cup downhill race was held here in 2005, won by Sam Hill (check this video of him testing his bike in Pila) and Anne-Caroline Chausson. According to the bike park managers maybe Pila could host again a World Cup Downhill in the future, but this is another story. The terrain here is fantastic, it’s never muddy in the rain, kind of a loamy surface that make you think you’re somewhere in British Columbia. In the summer then, under a magnificent sun, the slopes become dusty beyond belief, but without ever losing their proverbial grip.
Some of the faster downhillers in the world often choose Pila as a base camp for their summer in Europe. On the trails of the Bike Park here, including the famous World Cup course, you will fall into an ecstasy of flow. The pick of the area is undoubtedly the trail called Rientro, something like “Go Back” in English, which is a connection between Pila and Aosta. The name it’s easy to explain, most of the local riders here leave in Aosta, so normally they go straight out the door with the bike and then up to Pila with the cable way. They spend the whole day riding in Pila and then they “come back” home after a gorgeous day of riding trough the Rientro. On this trail there’s a very special section called the “Sam Hill’s Slope”, a must for those who wants to improve their downhill skills. The Sam Hill’s Slope it’s pretty much the gnarliest, steepest and most enjoyable bit of trail that you can ever imagine. Sam Hill shot here a video back in the days of the glorious Iron Horse team, and this is why this place it’s connected to the King.
If we go trough all the videos that were shot here in Pila the list would be way too long. This is a magical place, a spot that every rider who loves gravity should know. Last summer we were here, along with the AB Devinci Team, that in Pila has its base camp, to do some tests for our first downhill fork, the Nero. The idea was to collect only B&W images, in order to capture the contrast of light and shadow that you can experience in this wonderful place. The images we brought home were too good to not want to share them with everyone out there.
Do yourself a favor, take a look at your calendar and check what is the first holiday slot available for next summer and do not hesitate to book a nice week in Pila. Among incredible landscapes, phenomenal trails and glasses of excellent wine, we are sure that you will not regret the choice.
All photos by Alex Luise