Thursday, May 14, 2009

The East Coast Rides Again

The snow has melted, the daffodils are blooming, and it’s almost time for the guys to get out there and mow the lawn while we ladies hit the resorts that have already opened for mountain biking season. Quite frankly, the East Coast has it going on, and to prove it, I'm going to take you on a little road trip.

The adventure starts with a warm-up in the Big Apple. New York City’s Highbridge Park features dirt jumps and a pump track right in the middle of urbania. Although there are no lifts here, it’ll do you some good to pedal around after a day of eating at any of the fabulous places in the city.

Heading away from the skyscrapers and concrete of New York City, travel northwest into the rolling hills of rural New Jersey and into the parking lot of Mountain Creek’s Diablo Freeride Park in Vernon. This is pretty much the East’s first and premier freeride park. After a day of world-class freeriding, take a day--if you can spare it--and play in the water park.

From New Jersey travel back into the Catskills of Upstate NY to ride another one of New York’s gems, Plattekill. What Diablo is with it’s groomed and buffed out jumps, landings and berms, Plattekill is its au naturale opposite. Its fast trails and legendary steepness lends itself to well-honed riding skills. It’s a little local place with gritty charm and now offers riding camps, racing, a dual slalom course, and $199 season passes before 5/15/09! Camp in the parking lots and make sure to say hi to Laslow.

Just a few minutes up the road is Hunter Mountain where flowy, mellow trails are not as knuckle whitening as at Plattekill, but still offer fun and challenge for riders of all levels. Hunter Mountain would be a perfect place for the fledgling gravity rider to hone their skills and gain confidence. Rental and guided ride packages as well as hourly mountain bike lessons are available.

The fourth destination, Catamount, is just getting into the gravity and freeride scene. Catamount offers a skills park, lift-served downhill riding, and dirt jumps. Freeride Foundation's field team (AKA Mrs. Allegra Burch) has not yet had the opportunity to scope out this area in detail, but we’ve heard positive things from riders of all abilities.

Now we'll travel north and cross over into Massachusetts to ride Jiminy Peak. The riding starts to get back into a mix of natural techi-ness and flow. Again, the Freeride Foundation field team cannot provide the gritty details, but Jiminy Peak has been advised as a place that must be ridden.

A short and scenic three-hour drive puts us back in New York and in the wilds of the Adirondack Park. We travel towards Lake Placid, the home of the 1981 Olympics and breathtaking eastern mountain views of Whiteface Mountain. Whiteface is a gem, although not for the faint of heart. Nicknamed “Iceface” for bare spans of windblown Canadian shield, it boasts miles and miles of trails that swoop through loamy wooded sections and plunge down shelves of rectangular rock. This is where the legendary 5k Downhill Race takes place, and don’t be fooled, it’s legit.

Whiteface also has a pump track at mid-mountain that’s a replica of the municipal pump track of Stowe, VT. If you go, find Downhill Mike in the shop and tell him Freeride Foundation sent ya. Make sure to check out The Flume swimming hole while you’re there!

No trip would be complete without ice cream, so off to Vermont we go. After spending time guzzling maple syrup and recovering from Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia induced brain freeze, we roll over to Killington, VT to work off some of those calories. Again, sadly the Freeride Foundation field team is lacking in details, but reports say Killington is fun, fun, fun and very welcoming to women. From what we understand, there is something here for everyone. Hucks, leisurely descents and high-speed sections. We’re hoping to see good things on the riding front coming from Killington!

“Live Free or Die!” Ok, we accept. Helloooo Highland Bike Park of New Hampshire! This former hole-in-the-wall ski resort was snapped up for a song by some local riders and turned into a mountain bike Zion. Dirt Jumps, well built stunts, flowy trails and a lift--Highland Bike Park has it going on. It plays host to numerous major slope style events and has an overall great scene. Good food and frosty beverages are available on-site.

Note: Freeride Foundation’s East Coast field tester had a little trouble wrapping her head around Highland at first, but once she started trusting all of the features, all was well!

Just in case we hadn’t gotten our fill of maple and creamy frozen treats, we head back to Vermont and visit the legendary Mt. Snow. Mt. Snow has hosted national and local races nearly since the inception of the sport of mountain biking. Mt. Snow’s trails are FAST and may the lord have mercy on your soul if it rains. There is freeriding here, which is worth checking out along with the amazing scenery.

Don’t forget your bug spray and to stop in the deli in the village and get yourself a “Vermonter” sandwich. Apple, bacon and ham drizzled in maple syrup and snuggled between two thick slices of French toast!

This concludes our lift-served East Coast road trip. However that’s not what the East Coast is all about. Simply epic trail riding abounds in every one of these states, and even more lift served gravity action is available as you travel south into Maryland (Wisp) and West Virginia (Snowshoe).

Hopefully everyone will have an opportunity to come out here and ride. You’ll get more bang for your buck than nearly any state in the West and be no more than five hours from one of the world’s premier cities.

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