Sunday, July 09, 2017
Earlier this week I received an invitation for a VIP admission to the new Welch Village Mountain Bike Park . They needed test riders to try out their new trails. This project has been a dream come true for me. I love downhill mountain biking and this is right in my back yard.
I arrived early and got my VIP wrist band and headed to the lift. The guys there asked if I wanted help loading. I've never loaded my own bike and didn't want to try so I let them take it. The day was just starting to heat up for a beautiful sunny day. As I rode the lift up I couldn't help but compare the winter ski runs to the summer meadows they are now. The morning scent of wild flowers drifted up evoking intoxicating memories of previous wilderness adventures. Could life be any better?
I'm two months out from knee surgery. This is going to be my first mountain biking of the season. I've been doing some road biking in town and tried just a smidgen of dirt last week to see how it felt. I was worried whether I was going to be able to ride or not. The trails that are open are Joy Ride/Blue and Air Bear/Green. I would need to ride em down today.
I started with Joy Ride to warm up. It starts with some pump and traverses along the bluff and then drops in switchbacks, berms and easy jumps. The features are well spaced and designed for just easy fun! This trail is LONG! My Strava said 1.5 miles. The only feature I had to walk the entire day was a tiny uphill stretch and that was due to my knee. It was just a pleasant walk through some trees but it was up hill. You gnarly riders won't even notice it. When the trail finally comes out on the bottom of the ski hill it zigzags to the bottom. Great for working on fast cornering! The first run I took it slow. The second I didn't. It seems my legs were working with the exception of uphill riding. But down worked just fine!
Now I set my eyes on doing Air Bear. Yes, the signs on the trail say expert DH. Yes I saw some of the other riders with super pro downhill bikes and all the protection. I wear protection also but they were decked. So here we go...Air Bear!
It starts with a couple of table tops and then crosses an access road and then the real steep stuff starts. My first rides are slower as a rule but there really isn't too much of a way to slow down on this trail. The jumps and berms flow tightly together and just seem to get better as you descend. My plan for today was to ride until I got tired and then take my good camera out and get good action photos. The only photos I took were of Joy Ride and I took them with my phone. I have no photos of Air Bear to show because it was too fun to stop. I just couldn't do it. (No apologies :) )
For the rest of the four hours I had to ride I alternated between the two trails and then I just repeated Air Bear over and over. It's amazing! Being a sixty year old woman I like to get small air on trails like Joy Ride and that's easy fun for me but Air Bear really encourages you to get air and I was getting a conservative amount. I'll be working on getting more as the season comes along.
The quality of these trails kind of sucks because it makes the old style trails obsolete. The engineering that went into the designs of these trails is just genius. Changing topography into exhilarating fun has got to be the best job in the world. Welch is working on a third trail right now and a fourth will be built immediately after that one. Welch owns a large amount of land and there is so much blank canvas here the possibilities are exponential. I'm looking forward to see this grow!
The town of Welch has always been a small welcoming spot on the map. It has the Cannon Valley Trail and Welch Mill Tubing. It's tucked in a deep river valley away from the rat race of the city. There used to be a fun campground on the river in Welch but it was shut down. I could easily see the need for a campground here where you could ride all day and then kick back with a beer around a campfire with your friends. There is talk.....
The anticipated opening day is July 15th. I am really thankful I was able to have these four hours because checking my calendar I won't be able to make it again until August. By then the trails will be well worn in and fast! Maybe even the third trail will be finished! The whole system is new to Welch and it's a learning as you go process. The lifty's were getting the hang of getting bikes and people on and off the lift. They were a great crew yesterday! Peter has been putting in a lot of hard work to get this endeavor off the ground and up to the potential of making this a great destination spot close to the cities. Tapping into the experts to make this fly. World class instruction is in the works. Ladies too!
As the day progressed I learned how to toss my own bike on the lift just like the big boys do. It is easy. It was sad to see the day end but I have a season pass and plan to be there every day I can. Can an old lady like me have anything more amazing than to have a world class down hill lift assisted mountain biking venue right in her backyard? I think not! Ride it down!
Welch Village Mountain Bike Park