This post is the first of a series exploring the lift access and downhill parks in Vermont. For those of you who don’t know, membership to Vermont Mountain Bike Association (VMBA) includes passes to all of the parks in VT as part of the membership! If you plan on visiting a single park, the membership already pays for itself. Okemo is actively developing a mountain bike park, with the catchy name “Evolution Bike Park,” and we decided to drive down to check it out. The summer operations are located in the Sugar House, which is a mid mountain ski in/out lodge in the winter. We were immediately met by friendly staff upon entering, who quickly struck up a conversation and were quite helpful. The rental shop is full of new bikes ready for rental, and their rental helmets and pads are in good shape and quality. I was impressed on how many quality rental bikes were available for a smaller resort.
The park is currently divided into two smaller sections. First, the lower section below the Sugar House is built off of Quad A, a fixed grip from the bottom accessing the lower mountain. There are multiple green and blue trails weaving through this lower section, which are hand built and can be quite fun. There are several small wood features, hand built berms, and rollers that are fun to play on. The whole area feels family friendly, as most of the trails have long sight lines and you can see across the field with little difficulty.
The lifts use a unique system for loading bikes; in fact, the lifties told me that it was custom designed for Okemo. It takes a little bit of getting used to, and is also disconcerting to watch your front wheel magically attach to the lift. However, it worked without issue, and it was quite cool to see a custom system like this in action. The one downside to this lift though is that it is a fixed grip. Call me spoiled, but coming from a place that is solely high speeds, it felt like an eternity to get back to the top.
So off to the high speed six pack. We hopped on the Sunburst Six lift, and headed up the mountain to check out the new Summit Flow Trail. We hit it one week after opening, in the rain, so that somewhat compromises this review.
The new flow trail felt very new, perhaps incomplete. At the top, it appears a base trail was laid down, with the intent to come back later and finish it. The trail is very rideable, however we did find that many of the berms seemed to end too early to absorb the speed the rest of the trail could maintain. Nearer to the bottom, the addition of bigger berms and a few small jumps and features was awesome to see. We met one of the trail builders, who indicated that they intend to continue to develop features and side hits into the trail, which would add interest for more advanced riders.
After we were done riding, we grabbed a quick burger and beer at the grill above the shop. There was a good (can) beer selection, and a the food was simple but very good. The shop and grill have a nice overlook of the valley, and we took a second to reflect on our feelings regarding this park. If you’re a high level rider, this is probably not the park for you; but I think it certainly has its place, especially with families or those new to downhill riding. We felt like this park was perfect for kids – in fact I intend to take my 4 year old here at the end of the year or next. The staff is exceptionally friendly. The park is in its beginnings, and did show some sign of this on the Summit trail. I am excited to see what Okemo does with the bike park over the next few years, with improvements potentially coming to the new Summit trail and a new trail planned off the top next year as well. Keep up the great work Okemo!