The third consecutive weekend of brand new bike park openings in the Northeast was capped by probably the most anticipated one yet – Windham. The location of the last four American World Cups, Windham was never actually a bike park. It was a venue open only for races a couple of days a season and the burning question for years has been: when are these guys opening to the general public? Well, the wait is finally over and after months of working with Gravity Logic (these guys are all over the Northeast, aren’t they?!), Windham opened its lifts to riders hungry for new downhill trails.
Windham took a different approach to their trails than most bike parks. Instead of creating short trails with various junctions, the trail builders opted for full top to bottom runs. This has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is the sheer length of the runs. Windham promised the longest flow trail on the East Coast, and they damn well delivered. The disadvantage, some would say, is less variety – you can’t string together different trails as you get down the mountain. To this guy, this format is a welcome change from the norm.
As of right now, there are four trails at Windham. That doesn’t sound like a lot but do remember that each one of those runs takes the distance of three or four trails at any other resort. Whether you’re a beginner or expert, doing a non-stop top to bottom run is going to wear you out. Out of the four, half are flow trails and half are natural, tech trails. Let’s take a look at each one.
Wilderness Roll is a Blue level top to bottom jump and flow heaven. Pristinely manicured, gigantic berms allow you to rail through the turns brakeless and conserve your momentum for the dozens of table top jumps on the trail. Although best suited to intermediate riders, the jumps are not high consequence and could be ridden by almost any level mountain biker on just about any type of mountain bike. Trails like this are great for the progression of a rider. Whether stepping up to doing the jumps, or perfecting your scrubs, there’s something for everyone on this trail.
The thing that threw me off was the seeming inconsistency in the jumps. Some of the jumps had mellow take offs that reminded me of Highland’s Hellion tables and others were much steeper and had sharply defined lips, more reminiscent of the Dominions at Mountain Creek. Either way is great but mixing the two styles so freely on a trail with dozens of jumps seems a little confusing. It’s hard to adjust to every jump without knowing the trail like the back of your hand.
Batavia is another Blue level flow trail but with a very different personality than Wilderness Roll. It takes the flow aspect of Wilderness Roll, shrinks the scale, takes out the table tops, and adds some big flat rocks. While Wilderness Roll is unapologetically consistent, Batavia Skill changes it up a couple times through its length. Starting off with a fun, pedally section, it soon drops into a tighter, somewhat narrow by comparison flow trail with some really cool rock sections to keep you on your toes. Mixed in, there are very fast open sections as well as the lower woods, which are chock-full of bermed switchbacks that reward smooth riding with the ability to jump from berm to berm. While there aren’t sculpted jumps on this trail, it’s possible to find some air time if you look hard enough.
Trail number three is the Citizens DH course. It has been around for a couple of years and has been used for the Eastern States Cup DH race, run in conjunction with the World Cup. Starting parallel to Wilderness Roll, it is an interesting mixture of flat, mellow singletrack, tricky, minimally bermed corners, and surprisingly rough rock gardens. The bottom woods presents riders with a multitude of different lines. I’m looking forward to seeing this trail get burned in by many tires it’s bound to see with regular park operation. There are a number of drops throughout and some are not so forgiving. Yet again, being a top to bottom run, it feels substantially longer than a typical bike park trail. Citizens surely earns its black diamond rating.
World Cup DH
The last, but certainly not least, is the World Cup Downhill track. Most readers have at least seen some photos of this trail through the years. Steep, technical, wide open, all of these terms could be used to describe the track. While flowy goodness might prevail elsewhere on the mountain, it surely isn’t here. This trail sees the steepest natural terrain, scary rock gardens, and demands everything out of a rider. After feedback from racers, the course is seeing some welcome changes, thanks to Justin Brigandi – a DH ripper and the man behind the Windham World Cup track design this year. It will be more technical, longer, and feature some unique features not seen in mountain biking before. What are they? You’ll just have to wait and see. The great news though – the features will stay behind after the race is done, to be enjoyed by regular bike park goers like you or I.
But enough about global racing. There will be plenty of that in just a few weeks. Pretty much everything besides the World Cup track at Windham can be ridden on a trail bike – a welcome feature that’s bound to open lift access possibilities to a much larger audience than pure, die-hard DH runs.
Work is still in progress on some of the trail features as well as the World Cup trail and will continue through the season. The anticipated pump track is not yet built but should offer an added perk to riders wanting to get the most out of their lift pass.
We are told that there are two more trails planned for next year – a true novice trail and by all accounts, an expert jump trail. It looks like they will also be top to bottom trails, creating six in total. With such a unique vision, it’s going to be exciting to see the progress Windham makes in the near future. It’s only weeks now until the Windham World Cup comes through town and hundreds of racers and fans fill the slopes of this resort. With anticipation I await the final course decisions and look forward to seeing some of you guys here.
Windham Mountain Bike Park : Hours & Rates