Winter Wonderland to World Class Bike Park

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How the Snowshoe Trail Crew Gets Ready for Summer

Snowshoe Bike Park is world-renowned for its length and variety of trail. From the easy greens all the way up to our World Cup downhill tracks, there is a trail for everyone here. But this amazing trail system doesn’t just happen. It takes a dedicated crew of builders to maintain and develop the bike park. Let’s take a closer look at just what goes on to get the Snowshoe Bike Park ready for summer.

It starts well before the season begins, even before all the snow has melted. With over 40 trails having sat under a blanket of snow during the winter there is a process to bring them back to life. “We spend pretty much the entire year, even in the winter, looking forward to projects, trying to figure out ways to make our drainage better, be more efficient at trying to get the trails ready for the early season,” said Evan Cole, Bike Park Manager at Snowshoe.

That process kicks off with a couple of leaf blowers. The crew must walk each and every trail and clear all of the leaves and branches that fell throughout the winter. As they walk, the team is also looking for areas of improvement. This could mean new bridges, reshaping jumps, re-routing trails, looking for drainage issues, and opportunities for new trail. The week or two of leaf blowing plays a key role in planning for the rest of the pre-season and into the summer.

During the leaf clearing period, those that aren’t running a leaf blower are working on clearing out drains. Rain can be devastating to a trail system. Our trails have been engineered with this in mind and there are drain in just about every low spot that a trail runs through. Take a look at the inside of almost any berm in the Bike Park and there is a drain. During the winter, these drains pack up with mud, leaves, and branches. A team of two or three work with shovels and garden hoes to clear the blockages and ensure good water flow.

“We’re trying to make sure those drains are actually working; the sumps, the culverts are clear so water has a place to go so it’s not eroding the trail in a place we don’t want,” said Cole. Water can be a formidable foe for any trail. The crew works hard to make sure that Snowshoe trails are sustainable for years to come.

After all the leaves and drains have been cleared the hard work begins. As tires hit trail, they wear away the dirt little by little, exposing the underlaying rock. When the rock comes to the surface it can make for rough and, sometimes, loose conditions, not really ideal for a flow trail like Skyline. The Snowshoe Trail Crew spends quite a while battling these rocks, “A lot of times its just all the riders that come along. 75% of them are taking a lap down Skyline so that trail takes a big beating throughout the season. As smooth as it is right now, I’m sure here in a month after we open there’s going to be rocks popping up all over the place,” said Cole.

Weapons of choice? A hard rake and a soft rake, also known as a dirt rake and a leaf rake. As a team, the crew walks each trail yet again. The first few will have hard rakes that can pull the larger rocks out of the soil and quickly clear most of the stones off the tread. The hard rakes are followed up by the soft rakes. These rakes act like a fine tooth comb – getting the last of the stones off and dragging clean dirt back over the top, creating a beautiful and smooth path.

Now, at long last, the trail crew can begin the fun jobs like reshaping jumps, resurfacing, and cutting new trail. This season, the crew have been able to make a lot of improvements. Riders can expect some changes on Skyline with reshaped jumps as well as a better time on Pro DH after a resurface.

The crew has also been hard at work on some ‘new-old’ Basin side trail for the first of two Downhill Southeast races at Snowshoe this year, “We’re talking like 15 years old. So, it’s pretty cool to bring back some of those sections that some people might even remember but also give them something they’re familiar with and give them a race on something that they’re not used to racing down,” said Cole.

A new section of green trail is also being added this season. Whistle Pig, which was introduced as a step up from Easy Street, is being expanded to connect the Upper and Lower sections without having to exit back onto easy street. This new Whistle Pig section is going to be more of a single track trail meandering through the forest than a true downhill trail.

Intermediate to advanced riders can look forward to a new and improved Missing Link on Western Territory. Snowshoe has contracted Trail Solutions, the same crew that revamped Big Ash, to give Missing Link a makeover, “turn it in to actually that true missing link component of the Bike Park that we’re missing,” said Cole. “So this new, kind of, change up with Missing Link is really going to fit into the two of those [Ninja Bob and Big Ash] and make a nice composite of trails over there on that right side.”

The Snowshoe Trail Crew logs 45-50 hour weeks leading up to the opening of the Bike Park. During the preseason folks from other areas of the mountain, including Ski/Bike Patrol and Snowmaking, pitch in to help get everything ready. In just 7 short weeks this crew of, at most, 12 people turn Snowshoe from a winter wonderland to a world class downhill bike park. Make sure to slow up and tell them thank you when out on the trail.

Check out the full interview with Evan Cole, our Bike Park trail map, and our Memorial Day and Opening Weekend Festivities below.