We planned to head Northeast out of New York, and head into the Green Mountains to ride Evolution Bike Park at Okemo, then to its sister resort at Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire. We looked to round out the trip in the White Mountains with Bretton Woods, Attitash and Sunday River. You know what they say about best laid plans; We learned the weather in the Northeast can be very tempermental, and we only ended up hitting four out of the five parks we had planned on. This may have been a blessing in disguise as rest days are a good thing on bike park trips.
EVOLUTION BIKE PARK AT OKEMO | Ludlow, VT
Finding flow is a pretty easy thing to do on the Flow Rider Trail. Lindsay McGough rides a berm at Okemo. | Photo: Chris RidderWe started our week in Southern Vermont, in the small town of Ludlow. Okemo Mountain Resort basically sits right at the end of the town's main street, so it was nice to grab a good breakfast and a coffee in town before we headed up to the mountain. I would strongly recommend Cafe Delight for the mountain biker's breakfast as they have large servings, cheap prices and bottomless coffee, but there are plenty of other options within town.
They have recently moved the ticket office for the mountain bike park up the road to the middle of the bike park lift, which consolidates the bike shop, tickets, and food and drink options. The first thing we noticed when we walked in the door was how inviting and informational the staff was. They answered every question we had at length and were sure to direct us to exactly where we needed to go. We never once felt lost at this resort. They also have a number of picnic tables and yard games stationed at the bike shop, so it became a rad place to chill out after a lap or two.
The author hits one of many small jumps on Flow Rider at Okemo Moutain Resort. | Photo: Lindsay McGough
The trails at Okemo are great for a beginner to intermediate rider to develop more bike park skills. The trails run off of the Quad A lift, which only gains about three to four hundred feet, but allows riders to hammer out multiple trails in a short time frame. All the trails are on very gentle grades, in the middle of the ski slope so there are very few obstacles. Lindsay and I quickly graduated up from the green trails to our favorite trail on the mountain, Flow Rider. This is where we spent the majority of our day, hitting bermed hip jumps and small step-downs. As the name entails, the trail flows spectacularly, and allows you to carry speed out of each berm and through each roller. Okemo has recently began running their Sunburst 6 Lift for mountain biking, which takes you all the way to the top of the mountain. They now have a blue trail off of the top that is longer than all of the other trails in the park combined.
EVOLUTION BIKE PARK AT MOUNT SUNAPEE | Newbury, NH
The terrain varies greatly at Mount Sunapee, from rock rolls the size of work trucks to smooth and flowy dirt singletrack. | Photo: Lindsay McGough
Okemo's sister resort is located just an hour drive away in Newbury, New Hampshire. This bike park ups the ante with a bit more elevation and several additional advanced trails. There is no town butted right up to the resort like Okemo, however, Lake Sunapee is a short drive away and makes for a great spot to cool off at the end of a day of ripping laps. There is also a state park campground located right next to the resort property, allowing you to crash within riding distance.
The staff at Sunapee was also very welcoming and helpful, with the liftees actually stopping the lift for us as we ran up so we didn't have to wait for the next set of bike trays to come down.
The trails all branch off of the Clipper Ship Quad, with everything from green to double-black diamonds. There is quite a bit more rock at Sunapee than could be found at Okemo, and one of the most fun trails I came across was Rock This Way. The trail has quite a few line options once you split from the main blue trail, with options such as a rock drop, large rock roll and chunky rock garden.
This trail gives more of a challenge to those who have been riding for a bit longer. Lindsay's favorite trail was a blue trail named Half-Pipe, which, as the name implies, consists of a number of bermed switchbacks across a ravine. The bridge work done on this trail is great as there are about a dozen of them you cross as you make your way down. The trail ends with the option of some bermed turns on the ski slope, or a fun little no consequence wooden tabletop.
BRETTON WOODS | Bretton Woods, NH
The Mount Washington Hotel offers stunning views from the top of Bretton Woods. | Photo: Chriss Ridder
Bretton Woods is the largest ski resort in New Hampshire, and one of the largest on East Coast. There is definitely no shortage of terrain available. Also, the views from the top of the lift of Mount Washington and the Mount Washington Hotel are absolutely stunning. Stop for a second at the 44 Latitude Bar and Grill at the top of the lift and take in the view of the valley and the Presidential Range.
The trails consist of some very technical downhill trails in the woods, and some very recently built green and blue trails on the ski slope. The blue and green trails seemed to be more suited toward what they call digglers, or off-road scooters, than mountain biking, as there wasn't a great path worn in. If the pitch of these trails was mellowed out a bit and some berms were thrown in, these could be some all-time beginner trails. The advanced trails were true old school east coast tech—straight down a grade with roots and rocks everywhere. It was really fun for someone who races downhill on the weekend, and if they made some strategic reroutes and threw a couple manmade jumps into the course, I really think they could have a world class downhill race track. My favorite trail on mountain was Shady's Chute, as it plummets straight down through the roots and gives you that pucker sensation as you balance on the edge of control.
Bretton Woods also offers a number of other summer activities that can be enjoyed in conjunction with the bike park, and if you are looking for some of the best pizza in the Northeast at dirt cheap prices, head up the road about 20 minutes to Whitefield, New Hampshire, where you will find Sunny's House of Pizza. This place has amzing pizza and great deals. Two plate-size slices and a Coke for $5.50. You can't beat it.
REST / RAIN DAY | North Conway, NH
The smooth granite of Diana's Baths forms some great swimming holes to cool off in. | Photo: Lindsay McGough
After planning a number of biking trips, I've come to realize the one thing you can never control is the weather. Being in New Hampshire's White Mountains, known for their severe and record breaking weather changes, we would be reminded how little our plans matter. We had planned to ride Attitash on Thursday, and then head to either Sunday River in Maine, a short hour drive, or head back over to Killington in Vermont on our way back west. The rain had other plans.
Luckily, we did get to spend a very nice day in the beautiful town of North Conway, New Hampshire. This little village lives and breathes outdoor adventure. There are no fewer than 10 sport shops along the main drag, and each one of them carries a little something different. There is amazing rock climbing less than a mile out of town at Cathedral Ledge, half a dozen ski resorts within an hour drive and a beauitful river that flows just to the west of the town. The day broke a bit from the weather and we decided to rent kayaks and cruise down the river. There were a number of people doing the same, and we were soon let in on the numerous swimming holes and rope swings along the river, which made for a relaxing yet adventurous cruise. Be sure to check out the pools at Diana's Baths, just north of town.
North Conway also offers a number of cross-country trails just east of town near Cranmore Resort. These trails offer the chance to get out and spin the legs, get an awesome view from the top and then rip back down. There is also a fairly new pumptrack built at one of the trail heads if you don't feel like hauling to the top.
ATTITASH MOUNTAIN RESORT | Bartlett, NH
There are very few man-made features at Attitash, however, one of them can be seen here. A large wooden road gap back into the lodge area. | Photo: Lindsay McGough
We started our day off at the Bart's Deli and General Store for pre-ride fueling. They offer a vast menu of breakfast sandwiches made to order. Also, grab one of their homemade muffins on your way out as Lindsay and I both agreed that these were the best muffins we have ever had.
Attitash is Gnarly! Just going to put that out there. All of the trails on this mountain are very technical and require a bit of experience in riding steep grades and rooty lines. This is not somewhere I would take a beginner to introduce them to downhill biking, however, it does provide a number of great options for those looking to ride advanced trails that will test their skills. Many of the trails feel like downhill courses, however, a good trail to take a chill breather on is Grandma's House. This trail takes a gentler grade and cuts the rock and root drops to a minimum. One of the most fun black trails for me was Nothing Yet to Still Nothing Yet. This trail throws in a few man made jumps and has some very fun root drops intermixed. It also ends with a sizeable road gap back down to the bottom of the lift. Keep all of your speed from the ski slope as you head into this one.
Attitash does have a bit of construction going on in the resort to accomodate snow making, so there are a few trails that are closed. Trails 9, 10, 11 and 12 as well as 28 are closed for this, so hop on any of the other many options out there if you make it this season. In talking with the bike park crew, they hope to soon open the Bear Peak lift for a couple more downhill options at the park.
Overall, anytime we get to throw our bikes on a lift is a great day for us, and with this pass it has made it much more attainable for us to do so while experiencing new parks within our current budget. It has also allowed us to meet an expansive network of new riding buddies, and put our tires on terrain we have never experienced before. In the words of Judith Thurman, “Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you've never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.”
-by Chris Ridder