Gnar and Tech at Attitash
28 Jul 2014
After 2 stops in Vermont it was off to New Hampshire for bike park number three, over the Crawford Notch mountain pass and down to the small town of Bartlett and the resort of Attitash, deep in the heart of the White Mountains. One of the smaller resorts on the tour, the first impression when you roll up is of a jam-packed playground for families, with kids everyway, a prominent Alpine Slide, Mountain Coaster, and various other fun-time features. Pretty good for big kids too – and then you remember there’s a bike park buried in the middle! And geek fact of the day… Attitash means Blueberry in the native Abenaki Indian language.
The route to Attitash Bike Park, with a bit of a detour.
There was a slight detour on the way over to pick up a new spring for Trey’s fork, and we discovered one of the coolest looking bike shops we’ve seen. Disguised as a typical New England home, the guys at Green Mountain Bicycles in Rochester know everything there is about 2 wheel contraptions and have an awesome looking workshop that’s accumulated bike bits over 25 years! Worth a visit even if you don’t need anything – go and ride their double decker mountain bike!!
Just part of the amazing Green Mountain Bikes workshop.
The main guys making things happen at Attitash Bike Park are Cory Madden and Nate Waterhouse, so we hooked up with them on the first morning to hit the trails and get a guided tour of what’s available. The 4-man chairlift – the Flying Yankee Quad, takes you up to mid-mountain which gives you about 860 ft of vertical to use on the way down. There are only 2 grades of trail – the blue intermediate standard, and the black trails, termed ‘most difficult’. And pretty much all the trails are sections of trail linked up by ‘connector’ trails on fireroad – you can’t put a lap in on any single trail from the top to the bottom of the lift.
The Attitash base area from overhead.
This is a hard-core place to ride a mountain bike, and riders all over Vermont have affectionately termed the place Atti-crash! The trails are super technical, often steep, with plenty of rocks and roots, and you just cannot afford to loose concentration for a second. Every trail we rode was a relentless assault on the arms, but at the same time, awesome fun. These are difficult downhill trails, un-groomed, classic mountain biking. And they definitely win the award for trail name originality, with Shiznitobam Whipwhapsnap taking the number one spot but run close by trails like Oaf Huck, Your Sister, and Bear Love, which has a story attached that’s just not for print – go ask Nate for the details! They also have an issue with trail signs getting nicked, so there were a number of occasions where we’d have been lost without the guys showing us the way. One tree had the screws left over from 4 old signs – all of them swiped by scoundrels. If it’s you doing it then cut it out! And if it’s your first time at Attitash then get some advice from the guys in the shop before heading out – they’ll tell you, and probably even show you, the best trails to link up in a single lap.
Ray Syron lines things up on the Pinners Parade Trail.
After shaking our way down a few morning laps, we hooked up with some of the local Attitash crew for some shooting in the afternoon. They’re bred tough, hard and fast in this part of the country. One of the main trail crew Alex Couture, was a junior on the Giant Pro team from 2009 to 2011, with Danny Hart no less, so had plenty of stories from racing the big World Cup venues in Europe like Schladming, Leogang and Val di Sole. Currently recovering from an injury, unfortunately Alex couldn’t ride, but Ray Syron and Ben Emery stepped up and we got some great stuff. Ben was relatively new to downhill riding – like first-season new - but did an awesome job of trying to stay on Ray’s wheel, all too often resulting in some sort of minor wreck. But he always bounced straight back up again like he was made of rubber! Just could not be broken.
Ben Emery in the berm with the heli cam in hot pursuit!
Ray is on the Evil Bikes Pro Team, and was deep in to the Pro GRT race series. In between events he heads back to Attitash for training and to work on the Trail Crew here. He was also fresh from an interesting experience driving back from the POC ESC event that we’d just come from at Killington. It was getting late and he hadn’t been watching the fuel gauge. He was about to run out of gas, so pulled over in a gas station around 1am and went to sleep in his truck, to wait for the place to open in the morning so he could get on his way. He was woken up a couple hours later with the truck rocking back and forth, so leapt out thinking someone was trying to steal his bikes. Only to come face to face with a huge black bear, perched with front paws on the truck bed, doing its best to get at the cherries and peanut butter in Ray’s rucksack. Rather than argue about it, he just got back in the truck.
Ray around the rock on Pinners Parade.
Keep an eye out for the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ feature at the bottom of the Nothing Yet trail. It was given that name for a reason – the wooden ladder bridge runs out and you have to clear the remaining gap, but you can’t see the gap until you’re on the bridge! Always worth checking on a first run down any trail! There are plans already being implemented to develop the trail network to the top of Bear Peak, the mountain that sits next to Attitash, with that chairlift giving even greater vertical. There are a couple of established all-mountain trails over there, which you can ride now, and a new downhill trail has been started. They hope to open that in August and even stage a race event on the course in September.
One of the more tricky rock drops on Lower Busted Toe.
There are no beginner trails on the mountain, although the XC trails down by the Saco River on the other side of the road at least provide an option if you’re just starting out. The guys are well aware of the need for something in the bike park though, and they even have beginner trails marked out, but an excavator is desperately needed to make it happen. With limited resources, and a mountain that has taken a beating from the weather over the last few years since hurricane Irene, there are just other essential mountain activities that take higher priority for the resort, so realizing these trails slips out a little further. Really they have done so much, with so little, for so long. They have some really superb technical trails, some good vertical, and the trail crew knows what they are doing. With the increasing exposure from hosting 4 POC Eastern States Cup events this season it’s surely only a matter of time.
Out of the wood towards the end of Easy Cheese.
Big Shout out to Ray
We recently found out about a pretty major crash that Ray suffered a couple of weeks ago in paractice for his next race. Initially thought to be just a few broken ribs, the Docs eventually discovered a ruptured spleen when Ray returned to the hospital in some pain. So a big shout out and get well soon mate – back on the bike in no time – and probably sooner than you should be!!