I have been counting down the days until the DH season opener all winter, and it almost didn't happen. Angel Fire was poised to open Friday May 16th, but the 14 inches of snow they received on Tuesday almost closed it down. With a solid trail crew, and a good turn out of gravity patrons, the park opened on time with only a few upper trails closed.
I thought getting first tracks was something left in the previous season. The first few trail rides down consisted of plowing through 3 or 4 inches of snow, which then turned to a snow/mud mix, then to a grease fest. The upside to riding these conditions only make you faster on the dry days. The upper trails were fairly muddy the rest of the day but the lower trails quickly dried, with temps in the 70s and a good breeze.
The Betty and a few other "adventure vehicles" set the alarm bright and early, claiming a prime spot under the chair lift. The parking lot is less than roomy, and once again I had to thread the needle with 40 feet of "wheel estate." I definitely made the guy in the Sportsmobile (center) a little nervous with my morning tactics.
Round two brought blue bird skies and drier trails. The big crowds were out today along with a number of race teams and sponsors. Even with weekend rider totals hitting 1100 people, it still had that small biking community. Feeling like everyone knew everyone in some sort of degree. I even ran into a few riders from the Summit County and Vail area, riding and camping with them for the weekend.
I was able to catch up with Hogan Koesis, the Bike Park Manager, and asked him a few questions about the upcoming summer at Angel Fire. On the top of the discussion board was the camping situation. In the past campers/RV'ers were aloud to camp in the lower lots of the resort. Due to changes outside of the bike parks control, camping was banned from resort property. This definitely took people by surprise, including myself, suddenly scrambling for a site for the weekend( I literally pulled up and asked where to camp as they were loading the "no camping" signs). With the work of the park employees and management, they convinced the resort to allow camping in the Black Lot, the lowest of the resort. People were pumped. There is nothing better than being able to set up camp with dozens of fellow riders, sharing war stories from the day, make-shift repair shops, and some libations. One of the park employees even pulled his RV in and camped with us! I just read today on the park website that camping in officially open at this lot for a $10 per vehicle fee. for more info check out "The Dirt" on their website.
For the park report side of things, Hogan currently employees a 10 person trail building team, and a 5 person bike patrol. Though it is not uncommon to see the patrols picking up a shovel on their off days, he says. Plans are to keep expanding the trail system beyond their already huge 60 mile system. The biggest trail in the works for the summer is called "Hungry Hippo." Hogan described the trail design as the "A-Line" of Angel Fire. If your not familiar with A-Line, it is one of Whistlers' world famous jump lines. If the huge jump line on Candy Land is any indication of what Hungry Hippo will provide, I'll be back to send it on this one.
In addition to all the action of opening weekend, Angel Fire also hosted the Betti All Ride womens mountain bike clinic. Offering skills training for all levels of riders and all types of terrain. Over 30 women attended mainly focusing on the gravity side of things. They are offering clinics all across CO, NM, and AZ, check it out ladies!
The Angel Fire park crew has done an awesome job building and maintaining the trail system. Not forgetting their roots, the trails were gnarly, with plenty of hand pump to go around. If your looking for a flow trail or a jump line your options seemed endless. Some of my favorite blue flow trails were Boulder Dash, with a good jump line, and Chutes and Ladders that offered just that, some bridges, chutes, and a sick wall ride.
If you are looking for a trip to "Gnarnia," my favorite link up of trails started with World Cup, which is one rock garden after another, take an early cut out to Lower Supreme DH. Lower supreme offers a killer jump line and some big berms, "rail-able at about mach 10." At the next intersection take Drops and Lolipops, a flowy blue trail, but you can carry some serious speed! This will land you at the famous Candy Land trail. This trail rocks! With some huge step ups and hips on the drop in, it then leads you into a set of berms and down to a series of HUGE tables. They are built perfectly with lips that send it. Once you get the speed figured out, it'll be all you want to do all day. After "airing it out" in Candy Land, cruise back down to "base camp" and crack open a cold one or pull up at Sunset Grill for some margs.
Ok, so I'm writing this from a sweet coffee shop in Durango, CO. I was planning on stopping for a day or two then heading on to Moab, UT. Well 4 days later, I'm still here. Amazing town, amazing riding, and even better people. Planning on sticking around for the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, then heading to Moab next week....such a rigorous schedule.
The next post will be about Durango and my first true adventures of "Urban Camping" in The Betty.
About MTBparks Ambassador Matt Reichle
Born in Afton, Minnesota I spent the majority of my life growing up, just north, in Stillwater. As a child I had a passion for bikes and the outdoors. My family's idea of vacations wasn't Disney Land and tourist traps but camping on the shores of Lake Superior and trips to the Apostle Islands. This upbringing is what gave me the appreciation and the desire to be in the outdoors and to continually explore.I attended Minnesota State University, Mankato, graduating with a degree in Construction Management in 2008. Landing a job shortly after, I spent the next six years traveling with national construction contractors. Five of those years were spent in the power industry, building and retrofitting coal and gas plants across the US. The work was exciting and challenging; always playing with the big toys.
As the years went on, the constant moving and the sometimes 24/7 schedule of this type of work began to wear me down. There are still days when I miss the intensity and adrenaline of power construction, but it was everyday that I was missing the mountains, the outdoors, and the freedom I now have. Source: http://www.milesinthemirror.com/blog/angel-fire-opener
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