Mountain Creek Magic
8 Oct 2014
After another weekend of world cup action at Windham, the ECRT pressed on to another of the “big ones”. Located just outside Vernon Township in New Jersey, Mountain Creek Bike Park is barely more than an hour’s drive north west of New York City. And it’s another of those fun-time resorts that doubles as a water park as well (a la Bromont in Quebec), meaning there’s plenty of off the bike craziness to be had. Just not as crazy as it used to be, but more on that later!
(The route from Windham World Cup down to Mountain Creek)
Mountain Creek Bike Park (#MCBP) comes with a big reputation, and somewhat of an interesting history too! Probably not news to many of you, but we’ll cover the highlights…MCBP was originally Diablo Freeride Park, which started in 2003 and was run by a third party company who leased the essential facilities from the mountain resort. The bike park was struggling in 2011 with no real trail maintenance or new trails being developed. And then along came Hurricane Irene, which hit in August of that year and dropped 15 inches of rain in 2 days - that practically washed the whole mountain away! The damage was so intense, it was really hard to get the park going again. It was not safe to run the chair, and events had to be cancelled, including the huge Police and Fire Games that was scheduled for the next weekend. It didn’t stand a chance.
(Sunflower found on Mountain Creek property)
Eventually, they managed to get up and running again that season, but only to about 60-70% capacity. Now, the man at the helm wasn’t exactly a popular people person, and it would seem he’d just had enough. Things were showing signs of going bad before the storm, but Irene just sealed it. So, he walked away – or more like ran away, as he vanished without much of a clue, taking all the money paid upfront by riders for the following year’s season passes! Fortunately at this point, recognizing the potential, Mountain Creek Resort stepped back in and took over the running of the bike park. They even sucked it up and honored all those bike park passes that had been sold already for next season. It cost a bit, and was not technically their fault, but it was a great move as it helped to gain the trust of the regular riders potentially loyal to the Diablo brand and skeptical about what lay in store. So in 2012, MCBP was re-launched.
(One of many features found on the Alpine Trail)
There’s an awesome crew at MCBP, fronted by Operations Manager Marc Tremain and Sales and Marketing Director Hugh Reynolds. Marc has been with the mountain since high school and doubles as the Terrain Park and Grooming Manager in the winter. Then there’s a total trail and shop crew of 10. Head Trail Builder is George Ryan, and he’s the man who runs the machines, whilst also racing pro for Evil Bikes. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to hang out with George as he was off at Whistler Crankworx with Chad DeLuca from Highland (who you can check out in one of our awesome Highland videos!) But not to worry as the rest of the gang were perfect hosts. We spent a few days hanging out with Trail Crew Supervisor Tim Fields and the rest of the MCBP team - Jeff, Kyle, Evan, Matt, Audrey - (Tim’s fiancé and the Bike Shop Supervisor!), and Ionut – a Romanian student affectionately nick-named Jonny as no one can pronounce his real name! Check out their kick-ass trail crew t-shirts, or rather trail “crüe”, in honor of Mötley Crüe…
(Make friends with these guys)
(Iconic drop located at the base of the mountain)
These guys know how to have a good time doing what they love – just watch one of their promo videos on the MCBP YouTube Channel. And what they love to do is build awesome bike trails. They actually have a pretty big mountain to play with, a total of 840 ft vertical from top to bottom of the lift. The lift itself is something different. It’s like an open-air gondola (“cabriolet”) – with a little door that opens up on the side of each basket. Pull your bike up on the back wheel and roll it in to the ‘cabin’, hooking the front wheel and forks over the side. You then just stand there next to it as you go. Off the top of the cabriolet there are so many options, but you’ll probably want to start with either Ego Trip or Deviant, both very popular blue intermediate trails packed full of fun optional features.
(Ego Trip Trail)
There’s a natural resting point about halfway down the mountain, which you’ll see under the lift on your way up. This also marks the start of the awesome Alpine trail - a black diamond berm-monster with 2 different main lines, multiple cross-over points, gap jumps, and 2 huge wall rides! Mountain Creek is probably the most feature-packed bike park we’ve been to on the east coast since Highland Mountain, which gives you a good idea of the credibility of the trails here. For beginners, there’s really only one route down from top to bottom, starting on Greenhorn and leading in to Domboo. Greenhorn is excellent – one of the best beginner trails we’ve ridden, but things get a little steeper towards the bottom making it a little more tricky on Domboo. The Crüe know this though, and there are plans afoot to extend the excellence of Greenhorn all the way to the base.
(Wall-ride on Alpine)
We had some fun filming at MCBP – not without incident! After losing one day completely to weather, we hit the ground running in bright sunshine and blue skies on the following day. But out of nowhere, a huge thunderstorm bubbled up and the heavens opened – leaving us sheltering for 20 minutes under the very cool rainbow feature on the jump/flow-style trail called Salvation! The heli (quad-copter) also took a major beating – full speed in to a tree trunk while trying to follow a rider. It hit so hard the battery popped out – dropping like a stone without power to the blades! But it survived, and a lesson learned for trying to film fast moving sequences in the woods!
(The iconic rainbow feature found on Salvation Trail)
There are cross-country trails at Mountain Creek as well – accessed from the top of the gondola, so definitely options if your riding group are not all gravity influenced. And if you go your own way on the trails, then you’ll have to come back together for the water park at least! As we hinted at the start, this place has something of a legend about it - an old-fashioned water park that became notorious for a few injuries and was dubbed the world's most dangerous amusement park! The cannonball loop was the most infamous ride, equipped with a hatch at the top and the bottom to rescue those that got stuck! Obviously an infinitely safer iteration now, it’s a great place to cool off and splash around if you’ve put in enough laps in the bike park for one day.