Petzen- Flow Country
Length: 12 km
Altitude metres: 600 altitude metres
Ascent: Petzen mountain railway
Recommended bike: All mountain
Biking technique: ●○○○○
Biking fun: ●●●●○
Best time for travel: April - October
Possibility for a stop: Petzenstüberl
Flow Country: Endless Flow. “It’s like skiing.“ “No, it’s like flying!“ - Flow trails are the latest trend. Even beginners can experience the magic of speed. Flow trails have just one disadvantage: they finish far too quickly. To rectify this, a flow trail breaking all records has been built in Carinthia.
When arriving in the Lake Klopein region, you might wonder: Europe’s longest flow trail is supposed to be here? The main Alpine ridge, with its 3.000 metres high mountains and the deep-cut valleys, is already far behind here - that goes for the famous ski resorts with their glitter and glamour too. The Lake Klopein region welcomes you with a rural idyll: dreamy villages hide between vast corn fields, the famous lakes lay calmly everywhere in between: Lake Turner, Völkermarkt Reservoir and finally Lake Klopein - one of the warmest swimming lakes in the Alps. Surrounded by the blue of the sky and the gold of the fields, an impressive mountain massif sits in the east: the Petzen mountains. Appearing like a promise, their white limestone glitters in the summery heat on hot days. A country lane meanders through the villages in direction mountain base and then to the lower terminus of the mountain railway. It is there at the latest that you realise you have come to the right place: the car park is mobbed by campers, VW buses and cars with bike racks.
Around them are small groups of mountain bikers which couldn’t be more different: here a family with three children on hardtails, there a group of young men with downhill bikes, even an older couple with trail bikes is about to put their helmets on and to bike to the lift. At the lift desk, you have to decide: all-day ticket or single rides? “Take it easy“, a young woman with enduro bike advises, ”twelve kilometres are quite long!“ She tells us that she only started mountain biking last autumn and that she was quite done in after her first downhill run here. The Flow Country is the perfect practicing area for her: no roots, no stone plateaus. “I really can focus on the curves and step up a few gears here - this is the ultimate flow“, she explains.
The gondola lift comfortably takes bikes and bikers uphill to just beneath the summit. Then it is only few metres from there to the ridge and therefore to the Slovenian border. If you want to take the downhill single trails on the Slovenian side, then book a guide from Bike Nomad, the guiding agency just after the border: they have agreements with hunters and forest owners and know which trails can be used in which season. In contrast, the selection of trails on the Austrian side is child’s play; arrows indicate the way to the access point to the Thriller and flow trail - you cannot get lost here. And then we are off: the two metres wide gravel trail spreads first like a white carpet through a sparse forest that get denser as the trail continues.
After the first curves you realise: you don’t have to do anything here. With enough speed, the radii of the curves push you in a pleasant bank, waves and small, rollable tables invite to play and pull off. But there are some points where you need to be careful: The trail runs along mountain slopes with steep drops, heavily exposed points are secured with safety nets.
And it continues like that. At some point, time and space merge between the constantly alternating right and left turns. How far have we gone? It is impossible to say. Here it becomes clear what the young woman at the lift meant: just because it is twelve kilometres downhill doesn’t mean that it is not difficult. The thighs burn and the head needs a break every now and then. The reward is an increasingly better quality of biking, thus body and bike seemingly become one in the end.
Noticeable is the good quality of the banked curves. Many have been completely reshaped and are flawless as if newly built. A trail maintenance team of three to four trail builders are out and about throughout the season. With heavy machines and plenty of gravel, they tackle brake waves. The result: a route in a condition that makes some bike parks look out of shape. Once arrived at the bottom, there is no way you pass the Petzenstüberl without stopping. A refreshing drink, a small snack, a few anecdotes about the highlights of the last downhill ride - there is nothing stopping you from going ahead with the second round.
Length: 7 km
Altitude metres: 1.000 altitude metres
Ascent: Lift, Forest road
Recommended bike: eMTB, Enduro, sll mountain
Biking technique: ●●●●○
Biking fun: ●●●●○
Best time for travel: April - November
In the world of MTB, the Petzen is no longer an unknown mountain. The currently longest Flow Country Trail meanders here downhill across ten kilometres. Diddie Schneider has done some great work here. The by far more challenging trail is the Thriller - a natural trail, which meanders across 1,000 altitude metres into the valley. The ground is natural, the terrain hardly modified. The racers of the Enduro World Series 2018 managed top times of 16 minutes - we as normal bikers are aiming for around 30 minutes plus.
The lift takes us in comfort uphill to the upper terminus. Before that, we enjoyed the practicing area at the base of the lower terminus. The perfect opportunity for warming up which you should definitely use in the morning prior to the downhill run because the Thriller is a challenging trail even for experienced bikers. This is attributable to the natural character of the trail, leading downhill across roots, rocks, through hairpin bends and every now and then close to the fall line - and the mountain is very steep. A special feature here is the bedrock; because it consists of limestone which is typical for the Karavankas. This limestone gets very slippery when wet, just like the black soil resulting from the weather process. If you are not sure, pay attention to try conditions.
Blueberries and dark forests
Having quickly watched Michael Jackson‘s old Thriller video (a work of art just like the trail) in the lift, we start with the first few metres. Across stones and roots, through larger rocks in the open forest, the trail leads steadily downhill. First wavy, then steeper every now and again. The start alone brings a smile to our faces - we also call it flow. The trail merges with the so-called “Blueberry Trail“ - the soil is soft and guides us through a huge blueberry field. After this, the forest gets darker; fir trees stand very close to each other and swallow the sunlight ... a mystical atmosphere. And the trail continues - challenging and full of variety. We are glad to find a small serviced hut at the lower part of the trail. A short break, topping up the energy levels and off we go to take on the final part downhill into the valley.
The Thriller runs here parallel to the Flow Country Trail in the forest - an interesting couple, these two trails; so different and yet so fitting for this terrain. Before the finish, we ride across a wooden bridge into a classic dual track. Sentimental feelings creep up here: memories of times when you could still do dual races. Head to head downhill ...
Which of the trails on the Petzen is the best, is a matter of taste - depending on skill, you get a flow feeling on both of them. The small things like practicing area, dual track and a stop along the way is exactly what makes this huge limestone rock so attractive.