By Paul Holmes
A downhill mountain bike racer flies off a wooden plank on “Goat Skull,” a new race trail on Ramshead at Killington Resort, during a Pro GRT race held this past weekend.
Pro GRT held on resort’s newest mountain bike trails
By Michael Joseph
When the Ramshead Express Quad began turning Friday morning, July 29, downhill riders and racers were already waiting in the lift maze for first chair. Vale Road parking lots filled up with RVs and campsites and pro teams set up shop in the Ramshead Pit Area.
Early risers were rewarded with the first lift-served laps on three new Ramshead trails including Black Magic, a high speed freeride jump line; Sideshow Bob; a flowing singletrack luge, and Goat Skull, the downhill course racers would battle all weekend for a spot on Killington’s first Pro GRT podium.
Under sunny blue skies, energy and excitement grew as riders streamed up and down (and back up) Ramshead Mountain to practice bombing the race course, figuring out the fastest lines.
“Goat Skull is Killington’s newest race course, and that much fresh dirt meant that nearly all 1.3 miles of it were bound to change during the week leading up to the race as well as during practice, seeding runs, and finals,” said Will Conroy, Killington Bike Park trail builder. “The traditional New England loamy soil, on this or any other natural trail, takes some time to settle in, but that’s all part of the challenge and experience of racing. Our crew members, along with the racers, were delighted with the way Goat Skull burned in during the course of the event,” added Conroy.
The weather was dry in the weeks preceding the race, but rain showers on Saturday night and Sunday made Goat Skull slick for the races; however, the trail crew was able to mitigate the deep mud that would have caused more significant challenges for racers.
“On Sunday, we noticed the top layer of black loam was giving way to brown ‘hero dirt’ that hides just under the surface,” said Conroy. “Trail building in Vermont is challenging, but with nearly 50 years of combined trail building experience on our small crew, we were proud to present what we believe to be a unique, exciting, and most importantly fun DH track for this major event.”
USAC and UCI officials were on hand to witness the Pro GRT and agreed with Conroy’s assessment of Goat Skull, sharing that Killington is properly poised to score more high level races in the coming years such as future Pro GRTs and potentially even the World Cup.
“Riders really liked Goat Skull—tech, flow and manmade features mixed well and created a course with a little of everything,” said Jeff Alexander, events and sponsorships manager for Killington Resort and race director for the weekend. “Despite changing weather and trail conditions that went from dry to greasy, all I heard was positive feedback from racers and officials alike,” added Alexander.
While building the course, the trail crew considered more than just the racers, and built one of the most spectator-friendly downhill race courses on the entire national race circuit. A full top-to-bottom walking path complete with foot bridges and signage allowed race fans to line the course with cheers, cow bells and horns.
“We had a very strong turnout of spectators and volunteers from both the Killington area and the regional mountain bike community. You could really sense the local support and we had volunteers from as far as New Jersey who came to help out,” said Clay Harper of Mountain Creek Bike Park, who acted as course director during the races.
Over 200 competitors traveled from as far as Norway (Isak Leivsson and Frida Helena Roenning topped elite pro podiums), plus domestic locales like California, Washington and Utah, to join East Coast racers for the inaugural Beast of the East Pro GRT showdown. This nationwide and global exposure for Killington’s ever-growing Bike Park only adds to the hype around phases 4 and 5 of the Gravity Logic-designed buildout that has helped rider visits to Killington balloon every summer since 2014.
Next year, the trail crew plans to complete three more trails on Ramshead Mountain, adding over 5 more miles to the newest trail pod. Look for expert-rated singletrack and an intermediate freeride jump trail (both top-to-bottom) and a connector trail in between. Phase 5 calls for trail segments to fill in the major framework created across the resort from Snowshed to K-1 to Ramshead, which will improve flow and rideability of the Bike Park as a whole.
Stay tuned—Killington’s Bike Park is the fastest growing mountain bike destination in the East and we don’t plan on slowing down.
For more information visit killington.com/bikepark.