WBP Review: Angel Fire Part 1
18 Aug 2015
Angel Fire (Part 1): The Vibe.
Our original plan this summer was to end the Wild West Road Trippin Tour at Whistler Bike Park, for Crankworx, but after the third person in a 48-hour period of time had asked us if we had been to Angel Fire ‘YET’, we knew it was time to pull out the map and change our direction. 2015 marks our 4th summer of touring bike parks in the U.S. and Canada. Somehow, Angel Fire had been evading us the last three summers. Surprising to us, it was not that far from Crested Butte C.O. (Evolution Bike Park), which was our last stop. Not only was the drive less than 300 miles, it was scenic and traffic free. So we busted out the miles in one short day, and we arrived in Angel Fire a full day earlier than expected. We had no idea what was going to be on tap for us there, but let’s just say we felt the need to extend our 5 day trip to 11 days, and the only reason we left is because we needed to start writing this article in the past tense. We have a lot to say about Angel Fire Bike Park, its vibe, and stuff to do in the surrounding area, so breaking up the article into two, only makes sense.
Located just 21 miles East of Taos-New Mexico (a hip little town), Angel Fire sits on privately owned land and offers bike park riders a massive vertical descent 2050ft. The road to the bike park from Taos has many tight turns and twists, and takes a large truck-camper like ours about 45 minutes to make it over the mountain pass to Angel Fire. When we arrived, the first thing we noticed was the availability of dry camping just a short bike-ride distance from the chair lift, for only 15$ a night. The best part is…100% of the proceeds go towards trail building and maintenance at the park! Here’s a shout-out to progressive thinking! Who doesn’t want to support something like that? There are 2 port-a-johns, a hand washing station, and non-potable water to clean your dishes. Oh, and we never spent a night alone, as we made friends and there was an instant bike park community! To that, we say thank you! For those RV’ers requiring more creature comforts, such as full electrical hook-up, cable tv, and hot-tub access, then the brand new for this year, ultra-posh Angel Fire R.V. Resort is about 4 miles down the road. We did have the opportunity to stay there as well, but they are still ‘working out the kinks’ regarding certain policies and restrictions that could affect your stay. We mention this only because the per night cost to stay there may be too much for the likes of some of us ‘dirt-bag’ mountain bikers. So, if you must have your cable tv and hot-tub soak, then do some research as there may be some regulations regarding the type and model year of RVs accepted at the resort.
One of the biggest hip-jumps we've ever seen! Heed the signage or end up in the 'Hungry Hippo's Mouth'. (Riders: Patrick West & Matt Lemma)
Much like Colorado, New Mexico had also been experiencing crazy thunder and lightening storms all summer. With a heads-up from a local Angel Fire shredder, we knew to arrive at the base area ready to ride by 9am. Otherwise, we’d risk getting shutdown before we even had the chance to sample many of the trails. As most every park rider has experienced across the world, when mother natures invades, you don’t want to be stuck high on the mountain. The first couple of days that we were there, the lift was on ‘lightning-hold’ at around 2pm for about an hour each time. We didn’t exactly count the minutes, but the lift eventually got turned back on. However, the first day, when the lift stopped, we popped into the local bar/restaurant and never made it back out, and here’s why…The Sunset Grill sits just adjacent to the lift station. They offer burgers, wraps, fish tacos, GOOD beer and margaritas! One could easily just call it a day when you show up there. This is the go-to hangout! The friendly and welcoming staff is not afraid of dirty butts on their chairs. We would be lying if we didn’t admit that this place turned into a daily habit for us. So don’t say we didn’t warn you, when your credit card bill comes in.
'Chutes & Ladders' is a locals favorite. It definitely does not disappoint, whether railing the wall-ride or taking a nap. (Rider: Matt Lemma, Napper: Natty G)
Modern downhill mountain bikes take a serious beating at bike parks, and Angel Fire ‘gives no quarter’ when it comes to inflicting the beat-down on man & machinery! Luckily, if you have a mechanical, the bike shop staff at Angel Fire knows how to get your bike back on the mountain in a flash. We’ve not experienced such knowledge and expertise of the bike shop staff anywhere before…outside of Whistler that is! And, if your rig is thrashed beyond repair, or you don’t own a DH bike, they’ve got you covered with multiple high-end rental bikes to choose from. They don’t mess around when you rent a bike there! They take it very seriously because they want you to have a safe ride and have a great time on the mountain. The bike shop didn’t have that ‘herding-cattle’ feel to it like so many other resort bike shops do. They really take the time needed to properly personalize the bike to your height, weight, and riding style. And, with the bike shop right near the lift, you can hop in with any issues, and they will take care of you on the spot. The bike shop employees are not just some kids who found a summer job, but highly qualified bike mechanics who know what they are doing and care about your experience at the bike park. Trey and Natty both left their bikes in the care of Clay Kimsey (suspension guru!) who did a thorough once over, pointed out, and took care of some lingering issues related to a summer of slaying bike parks.
Patrick West (AKA "Trail Crew - God, Bike Park - Jesus")
Worth mentioning is the fact that Angel Fire Bike Park sits on private land, and thus, does not require US Forest Service approval to build new trail. Hallelujah! This unique aspect of the bike park allows the trail-crew to make necessary changes to the trails and build new trail at much more than the usual snail’s pace. While other bike parks in the US have to beg & plead to the Forest Service for permission to put shovel-to-ground, Angel Fire just does what needs to be done (within budget restraints of course). The mountain at Angel Fire is big! So, there’s lots of potential for growth, and with the continued increase in rider visits, there’s talk of expanding trails to the backside of the mountain with the opening of an additional lift. Bam!
'Lower Supreme DH' was one of our favorite trails. Matt Lemma hits the gateway feature with speed.
Don’t be haters, but we have reached what most experts would say is our word limit for a web article. We are just mountain biker/park riders, after all, trying to tell it like it is…sorry we digress, but stay tuned for next week’s Angel Fire article (part II), where we delve into trail specifics, conditions, and whether or not we plan to come back? (Insert winky face or a ?@#% yeah, here) (part two here)(report card)
Matt Lemma "gettin' that candy"!
Things don't always go as planned. "Haz-Matt" Lemma's bike...post 'whip the tree with your back wheel, huck-to-flat, monster G-out, carnage...!