On September 20, 2023

How is the U.S. Open’s race course built?

The Killington Resort operations team have been building the Fox U.S. Open of mountain bike trails since July — fighting this summer’s record rainfall. The Mountain Times spoke with Taylor Zink, Killington Resort’s terrain park manager, about what goes into preparing the Enduro and Dual Slalom events.


What specifically is involved in building the enduro course?

Taylor Zink: We are utilizing our existing trail network this year, so most of the preparation has been focused on general trail maintenance such as leaf blowing and string trimming. Trail crew has also been busy picking rocks, repairing washouts, and bucketing in new dirt to sections of trails that have worn out over time.

Where is the enduro course located this year?

TZ: The five stages offer a good mix of terrain spread across five of the mountain’s six peaks. To access the start of each stage, racers will navigate a combination of aerial lifts as well as road and ski trail climbs. These transfer segments between stages are not timed.

How many features are there and can you list or explain some of the most notable ones? 

TZ: Each stage is like a new race, with the goal of being the fastest rider down each timed run. There are tons of features throughout the course, with the most notable being multiple root-lined and chunky rock gardens that will be sure to test everyone’s line choices. 

Is there anything new/different this year? How is the terrain different from previous years?  

TZ: To keep racers on their toes, we are running part of the race on an old trail that is no longer in service. It has been over five years since this trail has seen the amount of bike traffic it will see between practice and race days. There are some transfer climbs that will bring riders through sections of the mountain typically reserved for winter operations, so practice and familiarity with the layout of the mountain will be beneficial to setting a good pace come race day.

How have the trails fared with all the summer rain? Has it affected the terrain?

TZ: It has been a rough summer for the trails with all the rain we have been receiving this year, and with the increase in biker visits over the past few years, the trails need a lot of ongoing maintenance. The crew is very resourceful when it comes to trail repairs, and have been able to mine for fresh dirt near the trails to haul in with 5-gallon buckets as needed.

How do you decide the design of the course and the features involved?

TZ: A good Enduro race strikes a balance of varying terrain and a reasonable order of stages. The USO team and I have been meeting to weigh the options for this year’s course. It’s important to balance out the trail difficulty and amount of climbing throughout the day. Spreading the race across the mountain allows for efficient movement of riders from one stage to the next and prevents overcrowding and long wait times to drop in at each stage start. With the group’s collective knowledge and experience, we carefully selected each stage and transfer segment to ensure it doesn’t feel like an average day at the Bike Park. 

How long is the course? 

TZ: We typically run enduro races with five or six stages. This year, we have some long, top-to-bottom runs in addition to some shorter stages. Times for each stage will vary between 3-8 minutes each, with the fastest riders finishing the race with times around 30 minutes after a 3-4 hour-day in the saddle. 

Dual Slalom

How long ago did you start building the trail and what specifically is involved?

TZ: The upper section of the dual slalom track was newly built in summer 2022 for the U.S. Open. A couple of berms and rollers are the only permanent fixtures on the course, as we use this area for beginner terrain in the winter. The crew started tuning things up and adding additional elements to the course in late July, but the weather put things on hold for a couple weeks while we focused on repairing other trails. An excavator was used to dig, stack, and set the shape for additional features this summer, and then the crew uses rakes and shovels for the final detail shaping and compacting. 

How many features are there? Which are the most notable ones? 

TZ: We extended the length of the course for this year’s event, with the start mound moved further uphill. We also added in a shark fin berm in the middle of the course that will launch riders towards a gate placed in a patch of grass. Line choice and bike control will determine who gets through this grassy corner with enough speed to clear the step down into the step up before a series of tight gates in another patch of grass before the finish line. I’m really looking forward to seeing ride line ruts develop in the middle grass section, because that’s where the race was won and lost last year. 

How do you make sure the two courses are similar? Do you map it out beforehand?

TZ: After some visual inspections of the location and lots of walking around the slope, our lead operator and trail builder, Mike Bouffard, began roughing in both lines with the excavator. As one course take shape, a second course is built to mirror the first. Adjustments are made to ensure there is no major advantage to either course so that racers can go head-to-head and keep spectators on their toes. The inside line of dual slalom berms is typically the fast line, so racers tend to pass one another multiple times until the courses run parallel into the finish and the faster rider prevails.

How do you decide the design of the course and the features involved?

TZ : Clay [Harper, the race director and co-founder of the event] worked out the main design and course layout to offer a blend of polished, BMX-inspired features with the rugged feel of downhill racing through the grassy turns. The crew spent hours fine tuning the course when the excavator work was complete to ensure a smooth and consistent trail surface with visually appealing feature shapes. 

How long is the course?

TZ: Each ride line of the course is approximately 600 feet long from start to finish, and race times will be in the range of 20-30 seconds.

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