By Polly Lynn
Mountain biking at the Beast offers a different experience this year, and riders of all abilities have taken notev with rider numbers doubling over last year on many weekends.
No longer does learning to ride mean embarking on a (sometimes frightful) descent from the top of Vermont’s second highest mountain. With the opening of Snowshed lift seven days a week, riders can now enjoy beginner, intermediate and jump terrain on a lower grade.
“This year, everybody’s up here,” said Lisa Swett, a local resident and mountain biker who was decked out in pink gear head to toe. “Last year, it was rare to see locals up here on the trails, but this summer I’ve run into so many people. It’s almost like the trails in the winter. It’s great!”
Killington Resort is in its second year of a five-year build-out of its mountain bike park. Future phases include expanding the beginner and intermediate options to Ramshead.
The progression for riders learning to improve their skills is defined and easy to follow.
“For our never-evers we start with what we call a sidewalk in the woods, even more basic than that, like a work road,” said Will Conroy, Trail Crew Machine Operator at Killington Resort. “This allows riders to get a feel for the bike, the sidewalk in the woods is very predictable the whole time, it’s got slight corners, but not cupped burms so you’re not intimidated. You feel like the trail is riding like you’d like to ride it. It’s like a bike path but bike paths are so boring, so it’s got some variation to keep you entertained, but wide corridors with lots of grass,” he added.
The next stage in the progression is “to make the flow a bit bigger so you have to get a little more speed; the next level up, the roller, has a little lip on it so when you go to that side tires come off the ground and you start to get a little air,” Conroy continued.
Conroy and terrain park supervisor Jay “Rosey” Rosenbaum recommend first timers to Killington to start with Easy Street, then try Wiggle and Swiggle, then Step It Up.
“As the name implies Step It Up is for when you’re starting to get comfortable on the bike, maybe you’re starting to lose mom and dad and you’re looking for a little something extra on the trail,” Conroy explained.
Blue Magic, also on Snowshed, is a serious jumps trail with many riders hitting high speed. “You’re probably hitting speeds of 20 mph at some point, so you’re flying and you can send some of the jumps pretty good,” Conroy said. “I could, and do sometimes, spend an entire day at Snowshed… I could never get bored there.”
“You should definitely be comfortable on your bike and have a desire for some more adventure before you go up on the Gondola,” said Rosenbaum. “Up at the top there are a lot of old-style trails as well as some new-style trails, but it’s definitely more rugged ‘cause you’re on the tip of the mountain.”
For those intermediate to advanced riders who are looking for a great ride, both Conroy and Rosenbaum recommend the Cable Trail, calling it a “must ride,” and a “classic Killington trail.” “You’re up there and there’s moss hanging out of the trees and it’s really loamy and rooty and rocky, but there was good dirt up there so there’s this really smooth caramel ribbon running through this crazy misty green forest; it’s quite an experience to be up there,” Conroy said, explaining that it’s a black diamond trail because it has rocky sections and some bigger features. “But the way we try to build trails is that they’re not going to eat you, we don’t build them with mandatory gaps so you’re not going to air off something and smack into a wall on the other side, that wouldn’t be good. You have think: ‘ok even if someone stumbles down this trail that really shouldn’t be on it, we don’t want to injure this person.’ So you can still roll down it. You might not enjoy it as much as maybe somebody who’s riding the features ‘cause that’s what it’s designed for but you can still go through it and see it,” he said.
Now with the longest amount of terrain top to bottom, running two lifts all weeklong through the summer, and added variety, Killington hopes to be the premiere mountain bike destination in the East, Rosenbaum said. And he believes it will be so.