Photos by Devon Balet
One of the hardest things about leaving the Pacific Northwest was knowing that wherever we landed, it would be further away from Whistler Bike Park, where we spent most of our past summers "cracked out" on the bike park trails. Sure, we'd always talked about checking out other bike parks, but the pull was always too great to just head North, eh! Dreams of living in Whistler, however, were always crushed each fall by the chill in the air, the closed signs at the base of the mountain, and the fact that we are not Canadian. Bummer, eh....
Now, there is a new dream forming…a seed has been planted…in Colorado. Being American citizens means we could legally live and work here. The Colorado bike park scene is alive and well. Multiple bike parks in close proximity with a greater variety of trails to choose from. Higher elevations resulting in "Hero Lungs" (after a period of acclimatizatio, of course). Where's the pen? We're ready to sign on the dotted line. It feels like someone has been keeping a giant secret from us.
This new week has brought us to the bike park at Crested Butte, Colorado. Their terrain comes in two extremes here. They have trails with buttery smooth, sweeping berms, and tabletops, and full-on, balls out-style DH trails with everything in between.
One of Crested Butte's newest trails, "Frequency" (Blue), sends out waves of tabletops, berms and rollers from top to bottom. Riding this trail over and over will never let you down. Then, there is the other extreme…"Psycho Rocks" (double black diamond). We were able to see some sections of this trail from the lift that conjured up a round of awed "Holy sh*t!" expletives from our crew.
Psycho Rocks is steep, intimidating, and committing, with multiple line choices to reward the most dedicated "gnar" junkie out there. There aren't many ways to legally get a "high" this good. We'd recommend eight inches of travel on this trail, although I'm sure there are locals ripping down it with less. We think you'd have to be stark raving mad not to ride "Psycho Rocks".
Crested Butte stands alone and takes a bit of a drive to get to, but the town is super hip with great restaurants and shops. "CB" is also extremely colorful, the main drag is loaded with eye candy. Our favorite restaurant, and the local favorite, is a pizza and brew joint called "The Brick Oven Pizza". You can get great pizza by the slice, choose from a huge selection of micro-brews, and hang out on the patio to soak up some sun. Crested Butte also has something for the history buffs out there, the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. Crested Butte is definitely a place you could come with the whole family, for a week vacation and never become bored.
Natty's Crested Butte Favorite:
Trey's Crested Butte Favorite:
"Psycho Rocks" (In an Insane World, Only The Sane are Crazy)
Oh Breck,Brecky, Breck! We hear you my friends. Some of you may be questioning Breckenridge. Why would we go there? Well, two reasons.
For one, there was a six-day, cross-country, mountain bike, stage race called the "Breck Epic" with something like 40,000 feet of climbing. Ouch!
We had to check out these masochists who were willing do this kind of stuff and like it. We hung out in the parking lot like tailgaters for a couple of days. We tried to see if anyone wanted to take our seven-inch travel Diamondback Scapegoats for the day, but couldn't find any takers. Can't imagine why not...
We met a couple, named Karen and Allen, who thought we were racing, and were genuinely worried about us catching up to them at mach speed on the downhills. Not to worry. They said they couldn't believe that we would race cross-country on downhill bikes. We have to mention that they own a real live, pet Bobcat named "Zuma" that rides shotgun in their RV. We had to meet the people with the big cat, and they had to know why we were racing on gigantic bikes.
The second reason why we were in Breckenridge was to ride the bike park…duh. Breckenridge Bike Park is not known for its DH style courses or jumps and drops. Not at all. But you better believe that we found some trails of that description, hidden in the middle of a neighborhood not far from the lifts. Our little hearts jumped for joy when we came across the "Breckenridge (Town) Freeride Park".
Behind those ladders and drops are the faces of freeriders. We didn't get to meet them (they were probably hiding from the XC crowd in town) but, we rode their stuff and liked it! We have a sneaking suspicion there are people in Breck who desperately need, want, desire, and crave a bike park with at least one trail made for them. The "Town" trails like "V3" and "B-line" would not exist if there weren't Downhillers and Freeriders out there. Let us try and be a voice for them. "ONE TRAIL! GIVE THEM ONE TRAIL IN YOUR BIKE PARK! PLEASE!! THEY NEED IT, THEY WANT IT, THEY WILL LOVE YOU FOR IT"
There--hope that helps.
We met another group of people not involved with the "Breck Epic" race, but involved in a biking cause. These guys ride their bikes to raise money to fight poverty and change the lives of people in Uganda, Africa by giving them bicycles. How cool is that! We met them 10 days into their travels. They started in L.A. and will end in Boston.
Natty's Breckenridge favorite:
"Zuma" the bobcat
Trey's Breckenridge favorite:
Hmm, not sure.
On to Vail's lift-accessed mountain bike park. After two runs up, we were sure it would be a similar experience to the Bike Park in Breckenridge. We could see a Black/double black trail on the map, but had a very difficult time figuring out where it started. So, we made one run down their newest trail, "Radio Flyer", but were left wanting a little more. Our second run down, we searched for the elusive start to "Magic Forest" (black/double black) with no luck again.
We could see guys with gear and full-face helmets from the gondola, but couldn't figure out what trails they were riding. We would have screamed to get their attention just to find out where they were going, but they would never have heard us. So, the third time we took the gondola up, we decided to ignore the sign that said "ALL BIKES THIS WAY" with an arrow pointing left, and we went to the right instead. Go figure. Sure enough, just a few hundred yards down the fire road (to the Right) was a little slice of heaven: "Magic Forest" to "Old Nine Line" ending on "Mane Lane." This trail is pure downhill gnar with rocks, drops, and root systems that cause every turn to be hair-raising. This was the best (Raw) DH track since we have begun this tour, by far. If you are a lover of natural, rugged terrain, and you want to scream like a little girl, and you happen to be in Vail during the summer, DO NOT MISS out on this run down the mountain.
We have to make mention of one thing not bike related: we stayed at "The Sebastian" – Vail. The Sebastian is maybe a three-minute bike ride to the lift. We have never been treated better. We felt like royalty. If that is your thing, then stay there when you come to town.
Natty's Vail Favorite:
"Magic Forest to Old Nine Line ending with Mane Lane"
Trey's Vail Favorite:
Same as Natty's above. And, Vendetta's Pizza – Vail Village!