Mountain Biking with a Zing and a Zip in Vorarlberg, Montafon, Austria
By Max Hartshorne
I visited the Montafon region in the Vorarlberg state of Western Austria in June and a highlight was a 4-hour bike ride with some German tourists on state-of-the-art electric mountain bikes up steep Alpine roads and down rustic trails.
If you’re still a newbie when it comes to this newest trend in bicycles, don’t worry–it’s as easy to learn to use as a regular bike.
It just makes you feel a bit like a superhero when you feel yourself gliding up a path when the electric motors kick in, and you keep peddling.
Hard to Go Back
Once you take a ride on an electric bike, it’s very hard to get used to the old way of pedaling. The only problem with this is that if you want to ride with someone else, they’ll never keep up with your electric power when you get to a hill or any incline at all.
Montafon is a spectacularly beautiful region, ringed with jagged, foreboding mountains on all sides, and a deep valley with a glacial river running through it. It’s probably the world’s best place to try out electric bikes since even getting out of your driveway here is usually uphill.
Tourism Board Bonus
The local tourism board has made it even easier to partake of this spectacular activity.
They have set up a program where when you stay in one of some 200 hotels, resorts, and lodges, you can take your pick of guided activities, from a guided Alpine hike to a 4-hour, 45-kilometer electric mountain bike tour, or even a climb over a steep path on sheer rock using spikes embedded into the mountains to keep you safe.
You can choose any of these three activities during your stay in Vorarlberg, and the tourism board will pay for it all. Talk about win/win! Find out more about this program and others here.
For my electric mountain biking excursion, I joined a group of seven German visitors with a guide who spoke German and English, and we pedaled away on flat ground in the town of Schrun, via St. Gallenkirch-Gortipohl to the village of Tschagguns.
It was 9 am, the sun was shining, and we made quick time as we rode along the glacial Litz River, that winds its way down from the top of the mountains into this valley. With electric mountain bikes, everyone rides at a faster pace.
When we turned toward the mountains on the north side of the Valley, I knew this was when our electric bicycles would prove invaluable. The winding paved road had few cars, but a lot of hairpin turns, and it was like being superman….you felt the action of the motors engage as you keep peddling, and you easily scale even the toughest slopes.
Zigzag Road Up the Mountain
The road zigzagged up and around and every time we got higher, the view of the valley down below was more striking. We were looking at the glacier-fed Litz river that feeds into a big blue reservoir, part of which is used to generate electricity by pumping the water up and over the other mountain and then turbines are spun on its way back down.
At one point, when the view was so striking, I commented on Facebook that I was again stunned, staggered, and quite honestly, amazed by the long view down the Valley.
Montafon is located in the southern part of Vorarlberg, which encompasses the entire western side of Austria. Bludenz is the largest city, bordered by Switzerland. Schruns is the
town where I stayed and the Hotel Alpenrose is right next to the famous ski jump called the Schulsport-Zentrum, as well as imposing mountain peaks that sit right across a valley from the property.
You can tour the ski jump and when I visited, I learned from Elmar Egg, the director, that most of the jumping takes place in the warm season…jumping on the grass, not on snow! This ski jump has nurtured several Olympics medal-winners and is used all year long. You take an elevator to the top and imagine yourself swooping down that track at 75 mph. Wow!
Find out about the free mountain bike, rock climb or guided hike in the beautiful mountains of Montafon at their tourism website, Montafon.at