How One Mountain Biker Chases Maximum Stoke by Riding Down a Waterfall

Tignes mountain biking in France
Tristan Lebeschu

Tignes, France—an enclave of five villages in the French Alps near the Italian border—is best known as a ski town, and no surprise. After all, high above Tignes sits the 11,995-foot Grande Motte Glacier, one of a handful of spots in the Alps where you can ski well into summer.

But every year, as the temperatures rise and the slopes slowly melt, the town also turns into a hot spot for mountain bikers, as Nick Gowan can attest. The riding is so good that Gowan, who grew up in Scotland and has spent time in Antigua, Greece, and Turkey, decided to open an outfitting service here in 2009.

Tignes has no shortage of trails, but a waterfall captured Gowan’s interest perhaps the most. Its name: Le Voile de la Mariée, or the veil of the bride. Gowan knew that the glacial waters which flow down the waterfalls’ sloped, rocky sides would make for a precarious ride.

Still, he recalls, “I’d been looking at this waterfall for many years, wondering if it was possible.”

One recent June day, he decided to see for himself. He and French photographer Tristan Lebeschu spent time scouting the best route before Gowan dropped in. “It was a wee bit scary since it was so slippery,” he says. “There was a high chance of going for a swim.”

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