Q&A: Thunder Mountain
19 Jul 2016
By: Natty G
Q&A: Thunder Mountain Bike Park!!
Who are you and what do you do for Thunder Mountain Bike Park?
Gabriel Porter-Henry. I am the Park Manager for Thunder Mountain Bike Park.
What was the driving force to open a bike park at Thunder Mountain Resort?
Jon Schaefer, the General Manager of Berkshire East and youngest of the Schaefer family that has owned Berkshire East since the 1970’s celebrated his bachelor party in the Kingdom Trails a number of years ago. Having spent his childhood biking logging roads and with his older brothers to train for ski racing, he saw the potential to create an amazing network of trails in Charlemont. After the creation of 35 miles of single track, Jon open discussions spoke with Gravity Logic about the building of a downhill mountain bike park. Within weeks, they were on site walking every inch of the mountain to plan what is now Thunder Mountain Bike Park.
Are you open 7 days a week?
Thunder Mountain Bike Park is open 5 days a week during the summer months. During the spring and fall we operate 2 and 4 days a week respectively. A couple days off allows us to focus on major trail work and continuing to keep things in the best shape we can.
(On Board with Ziggy)
How many visitors do you get in a weekend/season at the bike park?
This is only our second season in operation and this year is our first year in full operation, so we’ll see. We get approximately 400 riders over a solid weekend. We’ll have to see how many we end up with total on the year.
What is the most popular trail at your bikepark?
Riders give me different answers all the time. We have developed a series of trails with different characteristics for different riders, with technical downhill, flow trails and hybrids that combine the two. Probably the most ridden trail is our blue jump trail called the Gronk. Hawleywood, our double black jump trail has become an instant favorite among the advanced riders. This year we also opened Trillium, a blue hybrid trail of natural terrain and smooth bermed corners that intermediate to advanced riders alike have been raving about.
Will there be any new trails added this season or will you be re-developing any existing trails?
Our second year has brought a number of changes and additions. Hawleywood and Trillium are two of the instant classics, but a number of other trails got added to the map this year. Juggernaut is a great top to bottom black single track, while other smaller trails like chipstrap and rocky road have been added to the map. Some of the most important changes though haven’t been new trails but changes that have led to better progression for riders in the park. Tackleberry and Sugar and Spice are great machine built trails for riders looking to move past Sugar Line, while changes to Blue Pulaski and others have provided consistency and accessibility for riders.
Describe the predominant “style” of riding at your park? (Natural vs. Manmade, DH/Tech/Steep vs. Flow/Features) Typically, what kind of terrain do you have? (Rocky, Dry-dusty, Tacky, Roots)…
The park definitely highlights the flow and progression of the sport that Gravity Logic has built their reputation on, but natural and steep lines still exist. The dirt is good so our trails have held up quiet well and remains fairly tacky. Even a bit of east coast loam can be found now and again.
Is there a bike shop? Do you have rentals?
We do have a bike repair shop as well as pro shop with a full fleet of rental bikes.
What is the mountain bike scene/culture like at your bikepark?
other activities, hard core.
Tell us a little bit about community. Are there any restaurants or bars that mtb-ers like to spend their time? When riders come do they come from nearby or do they come from far away?
The culture here is growing, which has been one of the most rewarding parts, of creating the park. We are developing a loyal crowd of local riders. It has been great to get to know the familiar faces and create new friends. I relocated from Jackson Hole three years ago largely for the community here and the great vibe in the winter. It is so awesome to see that now develop in the summer. We get all riders, from families to seasoned pros.
Many people come here just for the bike park, but Berkshire East has been positioning itself as New England’s premier outdoor adventure destination over the past couple of years. With 3 zip line tours, whitewater rafting, North America’s longest mountain coaster and the soon to open aerial adventure park in addition to the mountain bike park, it is easy to put a weeks worth of activities together.
Tell us about any big events that are happening this summer at the bike park?
Right now we just hosted our first local Beer Fest, which was a big success, and we are preparing for the upcoming Eastern States Cup enduro and downhill race. In the fall we host the Franklin Country Cider Days, which brings people from around the globe, to celebrate all things hard cider. We are situated in a rural part of New England, but with that come a bunch of great little festivals, agricultural fairs and other off the beaten path events that are hard to find in other places.
What does the future hold for Thunder Mountain Bike Park?
That’s a great question! We had a great first year and year two is rolling right along. We have a long way to go to where we want to be ultimately, but I am humbled by the support and feedback we have gotten. It was great to be voted the top bike park in the Northeast after just our first year of operation. We’ll just keep our heads down and keep plugging away to make this the best park we can and we hope people continue to support it and keep this dream alive.