The alarm rips me out of my slumber at 6:30am. I’m still trying to figure out if the previous 48 hours had all happened or if it was all part of the dream I had just been having. My eyes were heavy with tiredness but the excitement of yesterdays riding gave me the energy to drag myself out of bed and get myself ready for our 8am shuttle to Cavaione, today I was finally getting to ride a trail that had been on my to-do list for a number of years and I wasn’t going to let something silly like an early morning get in the way of that.

The night before the owner of our hotel took time to go over the maps with us and explain the intricacies of the route we were about to do, along with many less well known options. Bruno spoke of the valley and the trails in the way a family member speaks of a loved one. This area was his home, where he had grown up and you could see he loved the area and wanted to show us the best of it. Fuelled by Bruno’s enthusiasm we made our way through the last of the rain the few kilometres down the valley to Brusio and our Shuttle.

Bruno pointing out some of his valleys hidden gems. 

Col d’Anzana
The little bus wound it’s way up impossibly narrow mountain roads with our bikes hanging off the back. Due to the weather being “bad” (I’d define it as mystical) the driver wasn’t expecting his next reservations to show up and drove us further up than we had initially booked for. The weather hung on the mountains giving us the feeling that it was a month later. After getting out of the bus we had 400m to ascend on the bikes and the mixture of the wet heavy ground, early morning and slightly tired legs made it quite heavy going. We took many breaks on the 400m ascent to enjoy the peace and the scenery around us. Here, high above the Puschlav valley the mixture of morning mist and strong autumn colours gave the place a magical feel that made the early morning and “bad” weather all seem worthwhile and something very special.

Autumn colours popped out of the mist and gave the area a magical feel. 

Eventually (I won’t say how long it took!) we reached the pass and imagined what the view might look like on a clear day. The light breeze, sweat from the climb and quite cold temperature started to make us feel chilly so we decided not to take stay too long and instead we crossed the border into Italy quickly starting the descent to where it might be warmer in the woods.

Climbing through the mist and autumn colours

The entry to descent had me slightly disappointed. The trail showed the evidence of having had many bikes through it in the past and reminded me of the (in my opinion) slightly over rated “Brazillian” trail in Wallis, which has suffered a lot due to the amount of traffic it’s reputation has brought it. My disappointment was eased after about 100m as the trail turned left and commenced a high bench cut traverse over the valley towards Lughina. We could only imagine what view this trail offered as it brought us along the mountain with a series of short climbs and flowy descents. We passed two hunters and I briefly wondered how do you say “please don’t mistake us for deer” in Italian.

Riding through the Autumn colours on Col d’Anzana. 

Soon the trail started to descend properly on what could only be described as a mountain bikers dream. The trail was flowy and the moisture from the mist had made the rocks just a little slippery. I could hardly contain myself from letting out a loud yahoooooooooooo as I negotiated a series of flowy corners linking an uncountable number of switchbacks together. The mist giving the whole experience that special feeling you get when it’s just you and some close friends sharing some of natures best treasures.

Into the woods and through the mist. 

Suddenly the trail took a dive towards the valley and the underground got much rockier. A warning sign further up had given us the option to take a road down if we didn’t like this… But this was what we were here for. The moisture had made the rocks quite slippery and the trail had taken on a whole new characteristic. Gone was the flow of the previous section, now we could enjoy the challenge of selecting a good line and trying to ride the trail as cleanly as possible. After another hour of descending and my GPS showing 1800m total descent we arrived in Tirano with just enough time to get some sandwiches and jump on the train to Ospizia Bernina.

Playing in the Switchbacks

Bernina Ost
I’ve ridden and guided the standard Berninapass route a number of times. I’d often seen the alternative route on the other side of the pass road on the map, but never had the chance to ride it…  Until now! Bruno had told me that this option was much better than the widely known one and knowing the standard route quite well I found this hard to believe, but was happy to get the chance to make my own comparison. When our train passed through La Prese Bruno jumped on to be our local guide for the afternoon.

Bruno, Esty and Eva enjoying the Bernina Ost trail. 

As we got off the train at Ospizia Bernina it started to rain again, but I didn’t care. The song “Red Travelling Socks” from the Bernina Express segment of the mountain bike film “Vast” started to go through my head and singing away to myself  we climbed the short distance from the train station to the pass road and soon found the trail entrance. By now the weather was secondary I was in the mountains with friends and was about to get shown a new trail through the eyes of a local. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Bernina Ost started a bit rocky and dropped into a little side valley that made us feel very removed from the world before heading back towards the pass road which we crossed and went into another side valley which took us loosely in the direction of Livigno.

Autumn really is my favourite time for Mountain Biking. 

As we descended Bruno pointed out trails, valleys and junctions which all disappeared into what appeared to be trail riding Nirvana. I tried to make a mental note of each of his comments with the intention of coming back here and trying every single one of these alternatives he pointed out to us. “If you go left here you can go into Val Camp and with a short hike a bike you can then descend into the next trails section we will ride” Bruno told me. I wondered how I was going to remember all these options and for once was  glad that I was recording the route on my GPS so that I could go back to the track later and make proper notes for future reference.

The trail changed in nature a few times as we laughed our way to the valley floor. Every Alp we passed Bruno pointed out something special about it. Showed us where his friends lived and what restaurants are good if we come back. Half way down we ended up chatting to a local friend of Bruno’s who proudly tells us how his son climbed Piz Bernina for the first time at 10 years old. We were here in the mountains getting the true local experience. Real mountain people who are proud of their valley and want to show it to people in all it’s beauty.

Eva’s smile says it all. Trails worth smiling for. 

As we neared the valley floor and gently pedalled our way back to Sport Hotel Raselli in La Prese we had that feeling of tiredness that you only get after having a great day outside with good friends. Bruno provided us with a room to shower and we sat down for a great meal before sadly having to get into our cars and drive back to the real world. We all agreed that it had been an amazing day and we were going to be back to explore some of Bruno’s local tips in the valley as soon as possible.

Bruno in action. 

The Poschiavo (Puschlav) valley is one that offers much more than the widely known standard Berninapass descent. It’s one of those places I’d actually love to keep to myself. Somewhere that I can go with friends and enjoy riding in the unspoilt beauty of the valley. I do think it’s one of those secrets that is shortly before being widely discovered though and anyone who likes their mountain biking a little bit away from the well known and highly frequented areas it’s somewhere to go and visit now before it really does get discovered by the mainstream.

Nearing the valley floor. 

The Day Before:
The plan for the weekend had always been to go to the Poschiavo valley, but we had left making any definite plans until after the Mountain Bike Congress in Chur where I gave a talk and guided a tour. After my talk Bruno and the director of tourism  from Poschiavo came to me asking if I knew of their valley. They were pretty happy to hear that not only had I heard of it, but that I was actually planning on going there the next day… But first I really wanted to visit an old favourite trail which I had not ridden in many years. I won’t bore you with a long description, but maybe some of you might enjoy the photos below. Feel free to leave a comment if you want any more info.

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