A DH Racing Legacy to Build On
21 Aug 2014
After a washed out day due to the storm, we finally got to head up on the mountain and check out the trails. We began the day by joining the Trail Crew for their pre-opening sweep, to check the trails for overnight damage or obstructions caused by weather – especially necessary on this particular morning given the high winds and rain of the previous 24 hours. So we paired up with Kyle Meagen – the trail crew boss, Nick from Mount Snow Sports, and Allan Gallup - head guide at Mount Snow, for a roll down one or other of the trails to give them the all clear. And they were in pretty good condition overall. There were a few spots of standing water, but in general, drainage was good, and there was very little damage to see. The only exception was the black trail No.10, which remained closed all day due to some major waterlogged sections, but everything else was good to go.
The view from the top of the Canyon Express Lift - where the bike park trails begin.
There are two lifts operating at Mount Snow in the summer, but only the Canyon Express Lift is open for the bike park, a 4-man chair taking you up to just under 3,000 feet above sea level, with 985 feet of vertical back down to the base. It’s not a big bike park – there are only 10 trails listed on the map and 3 of those are XC loops or climbs. So, from a typical ‘gravity’ bike park, there are fewer options than at other locations. But the vertical is great, so the laps are a good length, and the trails are a good mix of fun and challenging terrain, so there’s plenty to ride! This is another place without trail names, only numbers, so it would be nice to see names created at some point in the future as it’s hard to get stoked about a number – always better to be bragging about how you shredded Dirt Merchant for example!
Mount snow has a rich racing history, and there’s a strong desire to return the bike park to the glory days, when they would host Grundig World Cup events, the US National Champs, and the NORBA race series for 19 years straight! The POC Eastern States Cup is a great start in that direction. Just check out the slide show from Vital MTB, rating the downhill track as the greatest DH course of all time…!
Greatest Downhill Courses: Mount Snow, Vermont — More Mountain Bike Photos
We spent most of our time on the 2 most popular trails at Mount Snow, the double black diamond high speed freeride trail (No.9), and the blue No.7 trail. There’s a statement on the trail map for No.7, “NOT FOR BEGINNERS” - it’s actually described as an “introductory downhill trail”. The intent here is to differentiate between those totally new to mountain biking as a whole, and those just new to the concept of downhill trails at bike parks. Either way, its certainly not far off, as it has a gentle gradient with smooth, undulating rollers through picturesque woods and meadows from top to almost the bottom. So it’s a really great trail to start out on if you’re new to biking. The trickiest part is actually the last short section on the fire road which runs out to the lift, as this is typical loose gravel and slightly steeper.
Phil laying it flat over the hip jump on trail No.9.
As for the freeride trail, we wouldn’t rank this as a double black in comparison to same-graded trails at other bike parks. It just doesn’t have the steepness or the technical gnar factor at any point, although that said, there are some big hits that would justify the grading if you hit them fast to clear them. Phil Kmetz joined us here for some laps and some filming, before we finished up on the bottom part of Trail 11 – their expert race trail and the famous rock garden known as “Yard Sale”, a super-steep shoot through the trees with multiple lines available dodging the boulder rocks and intricate root-webs that are looking to ruin your day!
For 2014, most of the trail development work is actually improving and resurfacing their existing trails, due mainly to a ton of early season traffic and some seriously bad weather. The rain also tends to fall in intense downfalls here, 2-4 inches in 24 hours rather than 2-4 days of steady light rain. This obviously does more damage – the flash flood type scenario. There’s a lot of rock on this mountain too, and not much dirt, so water flows downhill fast and often takes the brown-pow with it!
Phil again, in the woods somewhere on trail No.9.
Mount Snow operates under permits from the US Forestry Service, so they have to liaise closely with them on trail development, to ensure there’s no environmental damage and so on. It’s a process but it works. And there are new trails in the pipeline, and a new blue jump trail is planned for the 2015 season. The Mount Snow trail crew consists of many of the same team responsible for the Carinthia Snow Parks area – one of the biggest and best in the US. In fact, it covers the whole mountain face, with 8 full park areas packed with rails, jumps and pipes, plus a tree-skiing zone, all-natural terrain area, mini-pipe and the Mount Snow Superpipe. So, there’s a team with plenty of experience creating jumps, flow, airtime etc. – imagine letting that sort of expertise loose for the bike park…!
There’s a master plan for re-developing the whole resort - addressing the winter and the summer, so the bike park is certainly included in the plan. Phase one involves a $52 million investment to completely re-develop the Carinthia base area with a new 36,000 square feet base lodge with accommodation, retail, restaurants etc. Plus, it includes a 120 million gallon snowmaking reservoir called West Lake, in order to achieve 100% snow making capacity. This basically means they can make snow over the whole mountain! With all this development, the hope is certainly optimistic that the bike park will see the necessary benefits and investment along the way.
The view from the top of Mount Snow - off the deck of the Bull Wheel restaurant.
If you break for lunch, then take the opportunity to go for food at the Bull Wheel restaurant located at the top of the mountain. Although, it is only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Your bike park ticket gives you access to the Bluebird Express Lift, so head on up for lunch and some spectacular views. This is where the old DH races used to run from – right off the peak, but unfortunately this has not been possible for the last 5 years or so. Remember the Bicknell’s Thrush at Killington? Well it’s here too, or at least supposedly – not sure anyone’s seen it still, but either way, we won’t be riding off the top at Mount Snow any time soon.
If you’re looking for a post-ride beer there’s a bar in the hotel at the base selling Mount Snow Ale – seems only right to give that a try really. Otherwise, head to the main road and drive in to ‘town’, and if you’ve had enough of DBag then give The Last Chair a go - a good restaurant with an awesome kids play area. It’s run by a chap called Paul Donahugh – a former pro golfer and boxer believe it or not! A proper dude! And for all the latest on the bike park, keep an eye out for the Gravity Feed video series that Dylan at Mount Snow produces – here’s the latest to give you a taste…
Underneath the drop on trail No.9.
Below the Bluebird Express lift - J Knox walks the race course for the POC ESC with the USFS.