Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mount Snow race report.


I like to scour the internet, looking for course conditions, recent weather, reports from people who have pre-ridden, any information that could give me a slight advantage on race day. In the days leading up to the race, I received conflicting information about the "new" course at Mount Snow. On the one hand, there was the press release Mount Snow put out, which contained the following quote:

"Mount Snow’s trail system has been thoughtfully designed and constructed over time with you, the mountain biker, in mind."

This made me laugh. Problem with inviting racers to beat on your trail twice a year is those racers get to know your trials very well. I have raced Mt. Snow more times than I care to count, and the only thing that I have noticed happening over time at was neglect and erosion. As far as I can tell, not counting the calendar last year, the race loop at Mount Snow has not changed since the late '80s.

I dismissed the press release as marketing propaganda. I figured it was just Mount Snow telling the mountain bike community what they wanted to hear in order to draw them in. However, there was another quote in that press release that caught my eye:

"Mount Snow’s trail care crew, along with the U.S. Forest Service, has carefully sculpted sustainable trails that shed water with the least amount of erosion."

That was music to my ears, but unfortunately it sounded to good to be true. The astute squirt gun show reader would notice, I have recently been preaching the gospel of sustainable trails that reduce erosion. Unfortunately, due to the fact that this quote was in the same paragraph as the first quote, I wrote it off as more marketing propaganda. I prepared myself for a slightly modified race course, but I figured I would still hate Mount Snow just as I, and many other New England bike racers, have in the past.


When I went to preregister, I found to following, conflicting, course description:

"Our course will be very much similar to previous years."

Oops! Looks like the marketing department didn't write the BikeReg course description. Did a little bit of truth slip out of the marketing machine? We'll find out soon enough.

Race day.

My driver told me we were leaving super early. I didn't argue, I didn't check to see when the race started, I didn't do the math. I showed up when and where driver said to, my driver is scary, you don't mess with him.

Turns out we pulled into the parking lot early. We had plenty of time to gear up and take a practice lap. What can I say about the practice lap? It sucked. I was hating the course, I was hating the weather, and most of all I was hating the "trail care crew". I hit the bike wash to find that pretty much everyone who was dumb enough to pre-ride had a similar opinion. Most racers heard about the horrible mud, and scratched the pre-ride, figuring four laps would be enough abuse for the body and bike.

Then we lined up. I was at the back of a good sized field, tons of fast guys came out to prep for the big race in two weeks. Whistle blows and off we go. You're not getting a recap. If you want to know more about how my race went, read Colin's report. He sums up my race better than I could. Let's just say I did better than I expected. Way better. Mount Snow is the race that I historically do the worst at, and I came in 13th out of a field of 29 elite racers. I shaved an hour off last years four lap time. Sure, the lap was a bit shorter, but it wasn't that much shorter.

The aftermath.

Shattered. Such an abusive race. Long grinding grassy climbs in the hot sun. The psychological torture of knowing you'll be laying it down on muddy boulders if you even think of touching your front brake on the decent. The achy muscle agony on the way up. The high speed terror on the way down. I could hardly walk for the two days after. My Monday and Tuesday commute redefined the term "soft pedal".

The hate.

I wanted to continue hating Mount Snow. I did. When I first sat down to write my race report, I was ready to spit the hate like the hate had never been spat. I was going to do it player hater's ball style. I had jokes, tons of 'em. I even made a graphic...


Ooooooh, I wanted to hate so bad. I feel that after my Pat's Peak discussion, I have become the mouthpiece for mountain bikers that hate ski area races. I had big shoes to fill, I HAD to hate. I have been type-cast into the "mountain hater". I wrote and wrote, but just wasn't feeling it. The hate was forced, it didn't come easy like it did for Pat's Peak, I just wasn't feeling it.

The problem was that Mount Snow tried. Regardless of whether the course sucked or not, they had made changes. They did trailwork. Sure, not all of it was great, but they picked up a shovel, and really, that's all I've been asking for. They seem to no longer be content with the course they have been running for the better part of two decades.

They tried something new, and regardless of whether it worked out or not, I commend them. Lucky for them, it's easy to tell which parts of your course did not work (hint: the parts that are no longer there did not work, you can find these parts at the bike wash). All you need to do is walk the course, the sections that leave you without shoes on your feet, those need more work. The trails need some waterbars, more drainage would help here and there, and they need a few more bridges. That grassy traverse switchback has to go. However unfortunate it is for the hater in me, the race loop seems to be moving in the right direction. I've done trailwork, I know it is slow going if you do it properly. We can't expect every problem area to be repaired in the course of one year; a five mile loop is a lot of trail.

I never thought I'd say this.

Mount Snow, please continue doing what you are doing. (If your trail care crew keeps putting in the effort,) I am looking forward to racing your course next year. I can't believe I just typed that.


  1. So, are you saying you hated Snow less than Peak?!

  2. Wait... there was trail work done on that race course?

    We did the old north loop. No work there. Ok, some new switchbacks in the grass at the end.

    We did a new climb on the south loop that is the old Super D/DH finish (not a new trail), up to the work road

    We did the big work road climb and then dropped down to last year's new singletrack climb (that was unrideable this year)

    We crossed the based of the old "drummer climb" and headed back onto the old Super D course

    We did the soggy, grassy traverse, which I will admit is new to me, along with the 60 yards of single track before and after it that connects to the old Super D course.

    We came out of the woods and finished the lap on the old XC course.

    So I counted 200 yards of new trail on this course, half of which was a soggy ski trail switchback.

    It was a tiny baby step in the right direction at best.

  3. Wheels, All things equal, I hate Mt. Snow more. This year, I hated Pat's Peak more, mainly because of the 24 hours of destruction that happened right before we raced, and because I had to spend more time on the miserable course.

    Colin, I still hate the course, but Mt. Snow seems to have realized that their course can't be used year in and year out without any maintenance. I'm not saying what they've done is great, I'm saying that I'll hold off on my judgement in anticipation of more changes to come. Besides, compare that tiny baby step with the giant leap backwards we get from Pat's Peak every year.