You Can Shred for Miles and Miles

Win­ter Park, Colo., with its 1,000 km of trails, is the per­fect place to ride and chill for a week

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Tara Nolan

Win­ter Park, Colo., with its 1,000 km of trails, is the per­fect place to ride and chill for a week

There’s some­thing hum­bling about watch­ing a child rip down a hill with speed, agility and no fear. I al­ways wish I had found moun­tain bik­ing as a kid, rather than as an adult whose sen­si­ble­ness in­ter­feres with her rid­ing. There are two 12 year olds in my group. The bravest is Hayes. At first, I think it’s a self-given badass nick­name, spelled H-a-z-e – but re­al­ize it’s more likely the trendy given name, like that of Kevin Cost­ner’s son. I’m tak­ing a down­hill skills clinic through Tres­tle Bike Park in Win­ter Park, Colo. Hav­ing al­ready shred­ded in Colling­wood, Ont., and Whistler, B.C., be­fore the trip, I’m ea­ger to up my game, but these kids are mak­ing me feel like a newb. Though, I later re­deem my­self on the tech­ni­cal down­hill. I guess they’ve honed their skills on the fast and flowy, rather than the rocky and rooty. These trails are just a small part of the net­work in Win­ter Park, a.k.a. Moun­tain Bike Cap­i­tal usa™. It sounds a bit boast­ful (and the name is ac­tu­ally trade­marked) con­sid­er­ing there are so many other no­table places to moun­tain bike in the States. But it’s quite a rea­son­able nick­name once you re­al­ize there are 600 miles (that’s al­most 1,000 km) of moun­tain bik­ing trails, as well as two

“There are lots of lit­tle jumps if you want them; gap jumps are well marked and there is a ton of flow sin­gle­track. Rich even says it might have an edge on Whistler as a new favourite.”

lift-ac­cess bike parks in this small town. The per­ma­nent sum­mer pop­u­la­tion hov­ers at about 1,000.

The ski town has smartly in­cor­po­rated the trails on the ski hills to cre­ate a gi­ant sin­gle­track play­ground to sus­tain the busi­nesses through­out the snow-less sea­son. In­trawest runs the ski area – the vil­lage has a sim­i­lar vibe, though on a much smaller scale, to Whistler.

The day we ar­rive, we pass through Win­ter Park and head to Granby Ranch, about a half hour away. It’s ab­so­lutely pour­ing. We take our time get­ting our rentals and chang­ing into our bike gear. The rain stops just in time. There ap­pears to be a high school race go­ing on. We’re given per­mis­sion to use the lift as long as we stick to the cross coun­try trails and avoid the DH. In line, a kid em­phat­i­cally in­forms us that we’d bet­ter stay off the DH trails. These kids are se­ri­ous.

For our first run, we do the en­tire Fraser Canyon Trail, which leads us through aspen groves (I ini­tially mis­take them for birch trees), where the leaves are al­ready start­ing to change to a sunny yel­low even though the of­fi­cial start to fall is a few weeks away. The trails are sur­pris­ingly dry and we’re re­warded with some amaz­ing views and fun de­scents. At one point, we’re rid­ing on ex­posed, scrubby hills full of sage­brush and the odd fancy cabin on steroids, some of them likely win­ter res­i­dences. We go up again and take Fraser Canyon to Ike’s Trail. Af­ter lunch, we hit the other side of the moun­tain, which is a bit looser and rock­ier with tech­ni­cal climbs, but fun on the downs. We take Vista Ridge Road to Up­per Back­side to 2-Stroke and down Ying.

By the time we ride at Tres­tle Bike Park at the Win­ter Park Ski Re­sort (with Hayes and co.), it’s Labour Day, so the vil­lage is quiet. Head­ing up the chair­lift, our in­struc­tor, Dave Hanson, points out the Con­ti­nen­tal Di­vide and talks about all the work that’s been done on the trails here. The orig­i­nal build team was sent to B.C. for a cou­ple of years to learn from Grav­ity Logic, the com­pany be­hind the de­sign of Whistler’s bike park. In 2007, things re­ally started to move at Tres­tle.

My hus­band Rich, who is a big fan of fast, flowy trails with the op­por­tu­nity for air, liked that there was more nar­row, sin­gle­track here as op­posed to the dou­ble­track flow trails at Whistler. We would speed through the woods be­fore be­ing spit out into open spa­ces with stun­ning moun­tain views. “Most trails are flowy with big jumps and some of our black and dou­ble blacks are steep and raw,”

Hanson says. “Great vibes, great com­mu­nity, ev­ery­one’s stoked to be here,” he adds.

Af­ter the les­son ends, we do sev­eral more runs: there’s so much to ex­plore and we don’t want to leave. The trails here are pretty fan­tas­tic. There are lots of lit­tle jumps if you want them; gap jumps are well-marked and there is a ton of flow sin­gle­track. Rich even says it might have an edge on Whistler as a new favourite.

We piece to­gether some fan­tas­tic runs. Shy Ann is a su­per fun, fast flowy en­try point that leads to fun short­cuts, such as Blue Crush or longer more tech­ni­cal trails, such as Dou­ble Jeop­ardy and Cruel and Un­usual.

At the bot­tom of Shy Ann, we cut across Free Speech to Dyno Bones to the Olympia lift. Here we get to ex­pe­ri­ence the new Spicy Chicken. This trail got its well-sea­soned name from the Wendy’s that had just opened in town. It was the only place open late to grab food af­ter a long day. The trail builders would re­ward them­selves with spicy chicken sand­wiches. Our guide tells us there is the po­ten­tial to get more speed than you need on this run, so it’s rec­om­mended you con­trol your ve­loc­ity.

With the two bike parks out of the way, it’s time to ex­plore the trails you can take from town. You can find mul­ti­ple en­try points along the main drag. Our guide, Joanna Good­man, meets us at the vis­i­tor cen­tre, which is close to a trail­head. To­day’s the day my body de­cides to feel the al­ti­tude. We had been warned by a few peo­ple about al­ti­tude sick­ness. With­out the lift ac­cess and with a slight cold com­ing on, I’m winded, but Good­man pa­tiently waits as I labour up some of the hills.

This is your typ­i­cal woodsy sin­gle­track that re­wards your climb­ing ef­forts with the in­evitable thrill of ped­al­free flow. The ride that Good­man has pieced to­gether is sim­i­lar to the Idlewild ride that’s laid out in the town’s de­tailed trail map. On Ar­row, we’re led through pine for­est where the nee­dles brush my arms as I ride through. Then be­fore the South Fork Loop, which runs par­al­lel to a creek, Good­man stops and says: “This next part is a half mile of grins.” She’s right. This part I don’t need oxy­gen for; it’s just pure down­ward twists and turns.

With the area’s seem­ingly un­lim­ited mix of DH and cross coun­try, Rich and I of­ten talk about gath­er­ing a group of friends and rent­ing a house so we can ride for a week. On our trip, we only scratched the sur­face of those 1,000 km of trails.

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