Mount Snow, Vermont. The fifth stop of the Eastern States Cup rolled around after a generous break from back to back racing and the miserable conditions of the last two venues. Nestled near the ski and tourist town of Wilmington, Mount Snow is no stranger to hosting mountain bike races. From NORBA Nationals and the UCI World Cup, there’s plenty of XC and DH history here but this is the first time the resort hosted an Enduro race.
Stage 1 was the longest and the peddaliest stage of the day. Top to bottom, the stage followed Trail 7, a beginner flow trail with low, pebbly berms at the top that tested the grip of your tires and your commitment to the corners and flatter hard pack at the bottom that tested your willingness to suffer and lay on the pedals. With an average speed of over 20 mph, and the bottom stretch reaching mid 30’s, this was a five minute commitment to high cadence pedaling. This was possibly the most fun and well laid out beginner flow trail I’ve ever ridden. The only complaint about this stage, as much as Stage 3, were the Stage intersections. Course marshals were at all the intersections and were helpful in practice, but the possibility of running into another racer during the race was not a very comforting one.
Stage 2 was a true East Coast stage. Dark woods, awkward rocks, tight turns, mud bogs, huge roots… it seemed to have it all. The very bottom of the stage changed character drastically and hit the bike park for a bit of high speed berm slashing. Everyone loved this stage in practice yet it proved to be the most challenging and frustrating one in the race. Everyone I talked to seemed to have trouble here – whether it was crashes, mechanicals, or general lack of rhythm, it was one of those stages you just couldn’t ride too fast.
Stage 3 was the most technical (it was also Saturday’s DH race course) and the second longest. Starting off at the lift, racers entered a high speed straightaway strewn with exposed slickrock and wicked holes. Line choice was crucial if you wanted to maintain speed and not get bucked off the bike. Further down were fast sections on the open ski slope mixed with steep, rough rock armored patches and slickrock chutes that eventually led you to the infamous “Yard Sale” section, albeit a wider taped one than the old NORBA DH days, with more line choices for the smaller Enduro bikes. Yard Sale is a stretch of incredibly steep, loamy and rooty trail where brakes are only used as a way to steer and slowing happens only AFTER the Yard Sale. If there was a place for spectators in this race, it would be here.
Stage 4 was the shortest and the weakest one of the day. In practice it seemed to be over in a flash and during the race, it seemed to be done with in 30 seconds. The terrain was fun, offering quick changes from technical wooded singletrack to wide open ski slope, to a narrow rutted ribbon of a trail, and even to some bike park features at the bottom. It would be great to see this stage extended further up for next year.
Stage 5 was another short one and was all bike park. Starting on Trail 9, just below where Stage 1 veered off, the first half featured big bermed corners and a selection of table tops, step-ups and step-downs. The lower section was just a repeat of the lower portion of Stage 2 – more flow and more emphasis on cornering, and a chance to improve on your first time down that track. Due to the merging of these two stages, Stage 5 was closed until everyone was done with 2, and made for a long wait that the ESC racers aren’t used to and weren’t the biggest fans of.
Overall, it was a great weekend of racing. The forecast promised perfect weather all week and did not disappoint. Ominous clouds rolled through and dissipated on Saturday afternoon, not to be seen for the rest of the weekend, making for bone dry conditions. The resort staff was very friendly and helpful and the race went off without any hiccups, but that’s something we’re used to by now from Eastern States Cup. The two complaints heard all through the weekend – lack of camping and confusing and potentially unsafe stage crossings. Mount Snow has a strict no overnight camping policy, forcing racers to either pony up for overpriced resort hotels or drive over a half hour in search of camp sites. In a race series that is known for its sense of community and resorts that welcome and even encourage riders to camp on premises, this leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The issue of stage crossings could certainly be improved but to some extent, it requires more trails, as the race course used just about every section of trail possible on the mountain. It would be great to see more trails here as there’s a lot of natural potential at Mount Snow.
The next stop on the Eastern States Cup Enduro calendar is Sugarbush, Vermont. Another new venue for the year, it’ll be interesting to see what the course will look like. I think it’s safe to say that we’ll see more natural, raw terrain and less bike park features. Something more like the Plattekill enduro, perhaps? We’ll know in about three week’s time.
Race Map on Mount Snow Event Page: Enduro or DH (Stage 3 of Enduro)
Results and photos from the race can be found on Roots and Rain: Enduro or DH
2015 Eastern States Cup Enduros