ECRT 2017: Sunday River
27 Oct 2017
It didn’t take much arm-twisting for us to set our sights on Maine. Neither one of us had ever been to Maine before, so it only made sense that we would put a few riding stops on our list, including Sunday River. We hadn’t heard much about Sunday River before, other than the basic info on the WorldBikeParks website. It doesn’t seem that the resort does much in the way of promotions for their bike park. Because of that, we really didn’t know what to expect. And, when we don’t know what to expect, our expectations tend to be set pretty low. So imagine our surprise when Sunday River ended up being one of our favorite stops on our East Coast Road Trip #ECRT this summer! We’re also going to take a gigantic step forward by saying that the trails closely resemble what we love about Squamish…and Whistler B.C. Gasp… (cats out of the bag, you can’t hide from us!) It’s not a large bike park of course, but we could tell the trail builders had an eye for not just awesome trails but also a great appreciation for the natural beauty of the terrain. They know how to incorporate boulders, trees, and waterfalls into the trail systems; something that is often times lacking at many bike parks and trail centers in the U.S.
(Rider: Paul Marshall — on the most popular trail "Rock Star" with a great variety of features and visually stimulating terrain)
(Riders: "Shreddie" Ed & Paul Marshall — on "Borealis" trail, which takes balance and skill on tight singletrack with northshore ladders)
First of all, let’s start out by saying this bike park was not for the faint of heart. Sure, a novice rider can make it down the mountain, with just a dab or two and with some pretty views of the surrounding landscape. But really, Sunday River Bike Park is all about old-school tech-gnar, and they don’t lack in creativity with the ladder work either. Hand-built trails weave in and out of trees. The ladder work widens then narrows, with steep turns, and drop offs. All this woodwork should keep any ‘North-Shore’ addict satisfied... we could go on and on about the wood. If you’re a gnar junkie and have wondered what Sunday is all about, then you need read this and put Sunday on your list for a MUST VISIT bike park. (even make a week of it…stay tuned for our future article about the trail systems in Maine – From The Mouth Of Maurice)
(Rider: Aidan Ryan — on another "Rock Star" feature that incorporates the natural terrain with some carpentry skills)
Located in Newry, ME, the bike park is less than a 2.5-hour drive, northeast, from Highland Mountain Bike Park. First impressions of the surrounding area had us both surprised. There seemed to be a pretty cool town with coffee shops, restaurants, and even a local brewery (very good beer, we may have gone there one or two times); a type of town where we would have expected to see more of a mountain bike scene with riders hanging out and spending money. Had we gone too far North East? Does the riding suck? From the sampling of trails we had ridden the week earlier in the Camden and Gotham area, we doubted that would be the case…Natty had coined the term “Maine Brains” for the extensive maze of root networks that seemed to run throughout all the trails we rode in Maine. The only way for us to find out why Sunday River is so quiet was to ride the bike park and find out!
(Rider: "Shreddie" — looks like an easy drop, right? But, you must not land on the shark-fin rock!)
(Rider: "Shreddie" — sampling the alt-lines everywhere at Sunday River)
On our first day, we met up with an upbeat happy guy named Paul Marshall. He’s an Assistant Patroller, Bike Park Director, and he was our official guide while visiting the Sunday River. We should also mention that he’s a very skilled and talented rider as well. He showed us all the goods and even took us on the most coveted trail by locals at the bike park, “Rock Star”, which had been closed due to a nuisance of rain, this summer. “Rock Star”, a single black diamond trail, had some sweet technical challenges. But, what struck us as most appealing, aside from the awesome features of the trail, was the terrain surrounding the track. If you are someone who never stops to look around, you might just miss the fact that you are riding right next to a 30ft sheer cliff band, disguised as a mossy boulder. You skirt along this amazing feature before descending and traversing across a huge fissure with a waterfall, directly underneath your tires, as you ride above it on a ladder bridge. A truly unique and stunning landscape, unlike anything we have ever seen at a bike park thus far. Not even Whistler Bike Park has a ladder bridge over a waterfall, just sayin’.
(Rider: Paul Marshall — on one the most scenic sections of trail in the park)
The double back diamond trails are not fit for mere mortals. There are no ride-arounds, and you absolutely need to have a back pocket full of skill-set to ride down these trails! Much like the trails you find in B.C., one does not venture down a double black diamond trail unless you are a double black diamond rider. There are huge entrance features that a rider must commit to right from the start. These trails will leave advanced thrill seekers drooling for more O.M.G. moments. One example is on a trail fittingly called “Tombstone”; here you will find huge steep granite rock slabs. These rock slabs become even steeper and narrower at the bottom. Before it dumps you back onto dirt, you have to commit to a narrow one-line rock shoot. Rider be warned, and get ready for the steep and rooty run out. Large knuckled roots ask riders to take their arm pumping skills to their highest level. The double black diamond trails are short, but honestly, you’ll need some rest at the bottom of each run.
(Rider: "Shreddie" — you must pass this entrance exam on "Lower Tombstone" to proceed...)
We certainly wouldn’t say that Sunday River is known for their flow trails, but that doesn’t mean that it does not exist. Most of their trails are hand cut and freaking amazing (just incase you haven’t picked up on that yet, we’ll mention it again here). The bike park trail crew only consists of three guys with no heavy equipment of their own. Surprising, the road maintenance crew doesn’t seem to mind sharing their heavy equipment, so long as it’s not in use. They have managed to build a few flow/jump lines, but all of the trails are easy to intermediate. However, the best jump-line trail was a bit of secret. Technically, the line is not on the trail map, but it is definitely a legit trail. It even has a name, “Keep It Going”. This blue intermediate jump line lives off the side of a green trail called, “Ridge Run”. So basically, if you ride at Sunday and skip the green trails, then you are missing out on some fun, that is, if you like jumping! Our sneaking suspicion is that most riders who quietly love Sunday are all about the gnar!
(Rider: "Shreddie" — throwing one handers)
(Rider: Aidan Ryan — low and long for the road gap sender)
So do we have your attention yet? Are you bummed that they are now closed for the winter season? The take away for us is to never judge a bike park before we get a chance to ride there. Maybe Sunday has been keeping their trails a secret on purpose. Maybe they don’t want stinky mountain bikers with their $5k bikes and craft beer taste at their establishment. Or, maybe the ‘powers that be’ don’t realize what a gem they got underneath all the snow. We will definitely be back, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for them, maybe an excavator?
(Rider: "Shreddie" — Part 2 of the entrance exam on "Lower Tombstone" trail)
(Rider: Paul Marshall — "Borealis" requires the rider to have some flexibility and balance)
(Rider: "Shreddie" — Electric green moss with wet rocks, roots, and ladders...could be the Shore, Squamish, or Whistler, right?)