Do you like great racing, fast technical riding, nights spent camping in a parking lot, and a bike park with unparalleled views? Then you would have been right at home with the nearly 200 racers who descended on Skibowl to sample the basalt and soak in the views during round three of the NW Cup. The warm temperatures and unseasonably early wildflowers were just a bonus.
Skibowl has a reputation for steep descents and unforgiving craggy basalt. Nowhere is this more true than the pinball machine that is the rock garden on Arrow Trail — an intermittently open trail that blithely sends riders crashing about. While this gnarly exercise is reserved for the Pro/Cat 1 course, the Cat 2 crowd shares the wild ride down Cannonball.
Starting near the summit, Cannonball plunges down the face of the mountain for a screaming fast descent. As the turns wore down through the weekend, runs required an increasingly bold commitment to tire traction. With the highest speed section done, the Pro/Cat 1 Course headed for the Arrow Trail while the Cat 2 course split off to briefly join the Cat 3 course on Gnar-Gnar before reconnecting with the pro course on the Wood Trail.
The Wood Trail dishes up steep grades on dry soil that has a habit of forming ruts and nicely exposing roots. Unlike most of the mountain, the Wood Trail is typically shrouded in darkness broken only by the occasional spot of blinding sunlight. Lucky for racers, a large chunk of race day was overcast resulting in even and legible conditions.
In deference to the advanced terrain, the Cat 3 course is predominantly a fireroad descent. Because of this Gnar-Gnar's flowy turns at the bottom of the mountain are the real crowd pleaser on this course. Skibowl has recently added two short new sections of singletrack to reduce the time spent on the road, but Cat 3 riders should still be comfortable bombing down dirt and gravel.
Hopefully at this point you're planning a trip to Hood to test your mettle and enjoy the rowdy trails. Fortunately, the NW Cup is headed back to Skibowl in a few weeks for round four of the NW Cup, July 10-12. Full Results Here