If You Want To Up Your Badassness, Try Downhill Mountain Biking
If you’re feeling like your Badassery Quotient is low (BQ for short), there’s a surefire way to bump that baby up a few points: Go lift-served downhill mountain biking at one of Vermont's alpine resorts.
I started out a recent day as an ordinary 30-something doing weekend morning chores, and by lunchtime, thanks to great instruction and Sugarbush’s fun terrain, I had transformed into a berm-shredding, switchback-navigating, mud-eating downhill mountain biker.
BQ while doing laundry: not so high. BQ after donning a full-face helmet and riding down steep ski trails, taking rollers, rocks and water bars: through the roof!
Ski Vermont’s Hilary DelRoss and I joined instructor Meridith McFarland for a lesson at Sugarbush Resort in Warren, and within moments of arriving at the equipment rental center, we were suited up with full-face helmets, arm/elbow guards, shin/knee guards, and sweet, full-suspension bikes. As newbies, we didn’t need anything except for comfortable clothing (bike shorts if you’ve got ‘em), rigid-soled shoes, and a water bottle. Though not necessities, I’d recommend gloves, and an extra shirt can go a long way.
Learning the basics in the bike park before braving the lift
We began by taking the bikes out on flat terrain and running through the basics: being in an athletic stance, keeping one finger ready to break at all times, shifting through the gears (there’s only one gear set up front, so you’re only shifting the back), stopping, and throwing our bodyweight around. Once we got that down, we transitioned to a practice area, where Sugarbush has built a little pump track and a series of tabletops and rollers. I’ve been a cross-country mountain biker for a while, and like transitioning from cross-country skiing to downhill skiing, having some experience on the bike probably helped me get off to a comfortable start.
After a successful start in the bike park we're ready to advance to lift served terrain
We got on our bikes and took a ride through half the pump track, working on cornering (pedals even, looking ahead) and picking a line to ride. Meridith gradually added more components, including going over a pile of loose rocks and a roller. Once she was confident in our abilities, we headed to the Super Bravo Express chair lift and rode up to the top (obligatory “lift selfie” taken along the way). When we got to the top, just like in winter, we paused to take in the view, and then the real fun began! We got on our bikes and began our decent, feeling only slightly guilty that we hadn’t “earned our turns.” I climb enough most days that I honestly enjoyed the break, plus, going down hill is still great exercise—my arms were sore for three days!
A cruise with amazing mountain views
As we caught speed down the mountain, Meridith reminded us of our basics and talked us through the pitch changes, obstacles, and muddy spots. We let it rip! It was that awesome sensory overload you experience when participating in adrenaline sports in a beautiful setting—trying to take in the beauty of the wildflowers and valley vistas while going fast enough that your heart is racing, mud is flying in your face, and you have to remind yourself to breathe. We rode over to Spring Fling and got into Eden woods, taking tighter, bermed corners and working hard to stay upright. There were areas I had to walk my bike, and spots I hesitated at, and I never felt pushed into doing something beyond my skill level. Most of it was doable and super fun, even if I got a little stomach flutter every now and then.
Just like in winter sports, professional instruction enhances the learning experience
At the bottom of the run, we returned to the practice area, getting some interested looks from the diners and campers hanging out at the base area. It’s probably not everyday that the average person sees three women clad in full-face helmets, all kinds of padding, and completely covered in mud whooping, laughing, and high-fiving.
That’s the beauty of doing something new, especially something that not everyone is willing to try. People will look at you like you’re a badass.
More importantly, you’ll feel like one.
Sugarbush Resort is now open for mountain bike season and Vermont resorts across the state offer fun mountain biking terrain and programs for everyone in the family. For more information about mountain biking at Vermont resorts, click here.
By Sky Barsch. Sky is a writer and editor in Montpelier, Vt. Her passions are mountains, trails, traveling and food, plus her adorable powderhound, Siena.