WBP Review: Angel Fire Part 2
25 Aug 2015
Angel Fire Bike Park: Part II (The Trails)
Not knowing what to expect from our 1st ever visit to Angel Fire, we drew heavily from the description of friends who’d been there before. Of great significance, was the fact that these ‘friends-in-the-know’ gave rave reviews for different reasons. Some spoke enthusiastically about the “huge moto-style jumps”, while others praised the abundance of “old-school gnar” residing on the mountain. We couldn’t wait to experience for ourselves what all the fuss was about! From a factual perspective, Angel Fire, is certainly blessed to be located in the Southern Rocky Mountains of New Mexico, which offers a relatively long riding season (May – Oct.) and possesses over 2,000ft. of vertical descent from atop the Chile Express Lift at 10,677ft. Varying terrain with plenty of rocks, roots, and dirt that consistently drains well is also a bonus. But, most importantly of all, is the fact that Angel Fire sits squarely on private land; thus, it is not dependent on the US Forest Service for approval to build new trail.
Upon disembarking from the Chile Express Lift, we were immediately pleased to notice signage directing riders to a beginner, intermediate, and an advanced trailhead. In the past, at some other bike parks, we’ve been a bit dumbfounded upon realizing that the only trail options from the top of the mountain are of the advanced/expert variety. In our opinion, it is absolutely critical that bike parks offer green (beginner) and blue (intermediate) trails as an option from off the top. Separation on trails between beginners and advanced riders is critical in preventing conflict and potential injuries. However, our only complaint was that Angel Fire’s beginner trail (Easy Street), started off as a fire road for about a quarter of mile until it became a ‘real’ mountain bike trail. The intermediate trail (Ziggy) was a masterful mixture of flow and tech that just kept getting better with practice. We just wish it continued on for longer! However, one only needs to cross over the service road, hop on the intermediate rated (Diesel), and connect with (Boulder Dash) for a top-to-bottom “blue run” that offers a seemingly endless progression of flow & jumps! Once properly warmed-up, we dropped in on the expert only (Upper Supreme DH) trail from the top, which, when linked to it’s little brother (Lower Supreme DH), became our choice combination of gnarl & jumps on the upper half of the mountain. On the other hand, no amount of ‘warming-up’ could have ever prepared us for the expert trail called (Upper Boogie). It truly is one of the most technical, rock-infested, insanely ‘chunky’ trails we’ve ever ridden! Honestly though, you really can’t call what we did ‘riding’…we more or less smashed, crashed, and torpedoed our way down the trail. Like riding over a dry riverbed filled with toaster ovens & microwaves.
Rhys Sanchez opts for the alternate stump-drop on Lower Supreme DH.
Seek out trail crew, bike patrol, bike shop mechanics, and local shredders for trail beta that’s good-as-gold…is our mantra! Especially at a large bike park like Angel Fire, local knowledge goes a long way when on a tight schedule and wanting to maximize your fun. We want to share with you some of the insights we gleamed from those Angel Fire Bike Park aficionados we spoke to. The intermediate trail (Angel’s Plunge) is a great early morning warm-up off the top, especially if it has recently rained. Although, rider be warned. It does require a moderate uphill pedal/hike-a-bike depending on your fitness and the type of bike you’re on. Another intermediate trail that’s not to be missed is called (Chutes & Ladders). Exactly as the name implies! Lots of great woodwork lives on this trail, including a ton of quasi-ladder drops (all are roll-able) and one awesome wall-ride. However, riders must heed the “slow” warning signs before many of the features or risk a big ‘huck-to-flat’! Aside from the obvious crowd favorite jump trails like (Hungry Hippo) and (Candy Land), the fantastically fun (Last Call) got votes for one of the best jump trails to end your ride down the mountain. Finally, if you’re an intermediate rider looking for a technical challenge that will allow you to progress towards the more advanced tech-gnar, look no further than the trail called (Duke). We felt it definitely earns a “dark-blue” rating on the color continuum. Speaking of the color continuum. Angel Fire’s bike park trail map organizes all its trails in order from easiest to most difficult along a sliding scale that is color-coded for clarity. Brilliant! Sadly, however, many people had not even noticed the color continuum or the trails ordered by difficulty on the map. Seems that accurate trail signage on the mountain is still what’s most important.
Step-down jump with a view! The Sangre de Cristo mountains never disappoint.
2015 has been the year of torrential rains across the Rocky Mountains during the bike park season, and Angel Fire Bike Park has definitely not been spared the wrath of Mother Nature. The trail crew have been somewhat overwhelmed by the rain damage, and rightly so. Despite these challenges, while were there, the advanced trail (Pinball) received a much-needed overhaul with improved drainage from the wizards of trail building at Angel Fire! With a limited budget and so many trails (37) on the mountain to maintain, they just haven’t been able to keep up like usual. However, we heard through the grapevine that Angel Fire might, in the future, be able to expand their trail system to include some of the backside of the mountain, putting another lift in operation, if rider numbers continue to increase that is. Also of note, is talk about remodeling the rarely ridden and only ‘Pro-Line’ on the mountain, appropriately named (Graveyard). Not once did we see anyone ride this short section of trail. It’s tombstone like boulders thrust up from the steep slope lying in wait to catch souls not possessing the skill to ride it! Apparently, it was built specifically for a pro-downhill race. In the near future, mere mortals may someday be able to ride it again.
The final feature on Upper Chillin'. Patrick West (Angel Fire Trail Boss) gets 'flat' for our camera.
On a more serious topic, we did quickly find some discrepancies between what Angel Fire’s map was telling us and the reality of our position on the mountain. With so many trail intersections and connector trails, the Trail Crew and Bike Park Patrol are keenly aware of the disparity and have plans in place to justify the trail map moving forward. Expect it to be dialed-in, at least by the 2016 season!
Iconic wall-ride on Chutes & Ladders.
Overall, our experience at Angel Fire was awesome! There’s so much vertical, trail variety and number, with something for every rider from beginner to pro. It was extremely hard to select just one favorite top-to-bottom run, much less single out a best trail on the mountain. If you’ve never been to Angel Fire Bike Park, then our advice is to go now! You won’t regret it. Just make sure to come for as many days as possible. You’ll need that time to ride the trails, progress with your skills, and stoke the Fire!
First Place female (Nikki Sears) railing the berm during the Local Downhill Race. A must-do, super-chill race series with killer prizes!