For the first time in over a year, I went for delicious pizzas with a team of friends in Canazei, having a quality relaxing time between the first and second round of the Enduro World Series. We all warmly greeted the brilliant scientists who brought us vaccines so that we could hear the clinking of beer bottles again. The restaurant was packed with locals and we thought this must be the right place to eat. We weren’t wrong. You can often tell who the inhabitants of mountain towns are. They look really relaxed compared to tourists, with skin kissed by the great outdoors.
In the middle of the meal, someone came over and asked us to shout “Team Willy” after saying a certain word. We obeyed and his trail builders table burst out laughing gleefully after the whole restaurant echoed that phrase. They were celebrating their track boss, Willy Basilico, and the fact that they managed to put together a successful enduro race after shoveling snow and cutting more than 600 trees from the tracks. Like many trail builders, Willy’s team works more like a family than a business. The sweat they all pour into the local singletrack doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.
Willy has skied in the Val di Fassa, and above the town of Canazei in particular, for much of his life. He knows some of the steepest freeride lines between the rocks of the Dolomites. So what is a powder dog to do in the summer? Mountain biking, of course. In 2007, after several years of riding unfamiliar local trails, Willy and a group of friends came up with the idea of making Canazei a mountain biking destination. They started with the downhill tracks they already had, and it all exploded from there, eventually hosting Superenduro and EWS races.
Today, the handful of long nature trails around Canazei make up the best horseback riding in the valley – for people who like the tough stuff. If you look at the map and select your vacation destination based on the largest collection of black diamond trails, that location should be at the top of the itinerary. There is a popular mountain bike tour called Sellaronda in the area which uses ski lifts to take riders from the different valleys for 60 km and 3,900 meters of descent. All of the trails on this beautiful tour could be described as “streams” except those in Canazei. I did the Sellaronda with a group of six quick friends, and we all agreed that the trails in Canazei were by far the most fun.
The catch is, not everyone wants EWS level natural trails. Like La Thuile and a few other places in the Alps, Canazei is currently not a mountain biking destination for everyone. The easiest singletracks over town are suitable for experienced intermediate riders, and everything else is too steep and technical to suit many tastes and skill levels. Team Willy certainly sees the potential of their magnificent mountain home and aims to add beginner-friendly trails in the near future which they hope will invite a wider variety of riders. With a short season in 2021, the number of cyclists has increased by 125% and the need for more trails is evident. Willy says part of the surge in popularity is due to the EWS drawing attention to its court raids. Don’t worry though, the spirit of the natural terrain will remain. Main trails like Titans, Ciasates, Electric Line, 9.09, Tutti Fruitti, Infinity, Animal House, Double U, Zacan and Viel de Gabia will continue to be maintained by hand.
Similar to the story of the Paganella Bike Park, Willy and his team research the most sustainable methods possible to build these beginner trails. This means adding sufficient drainage, planting native species along the trail to keep the soil in place, and only using an excavator when necessary. Willy says they will use a mini excavator, being careful to disturb the natural environment as little as possible. He says the Dolomites ecosystem is fragile and the government is showing strong pressure to preserve the region’s wilderness.
To keep the singletrack as natural as possible, the Willy team is also looking for a non-slip solution to be placed on all wooden decks. They are currently using fencing, but there are many ideas in the works to roughen the wood and add sand to the surface. We will report on any creative solutions they find.
In addition to the new trails suitable for beginners, the team plans to build climbing trails and loops, as well as trails that will be fun to climb on e-bikes. Tourism is the main source of income in Val di Fassa, so they will designate these trails as mountain biking specific to avoid conflicts with other visitors. The region already has an extensive network of trails reserved for hikers, and the Canazei MTB master plan has been designed to leave these to pedestrian traffic.
All trails, including a huge off-road loop that will encompass existing natural trails, will be accessible from other ski areas and valleys, so vacationing cyclists won’t need to get in the car for lunch. a different valley. Community governments in Val di Fassa are also working to create better methods of transportation throughout the valley, in order to reduce smog and noise pollution. Some ideas include a train or gondola all the way down the valley to move visitors between towns. The main road up the valley is one of the most popular routes in the Alps for road cyclists, so having fewer cars on the roads will make everyone happier and safer.
We will report on new tracks after next year’s Enduro World Series race in June.