America’s East Coast is in the midst of a bike park renaissance right now. In addition to terrific established East Coast bike parks, three resorts have entered into partnerships with the world-renowned trail builders of Gravity Logic.
Windham Mountain, Thunder Mountain at Berkshire East, and Killington have all brought in Gravity Logic to either build a bike park from scratch or help to tweak their existing mountain bike programs. To give you a bit of background, Gravity Logic is a consortium of expert builders and resort planners most famous for building and managing the mountain bike Mecca of Whistler Bike Park in British Columbia. The organization not only builds and develops trails for clients but also offers support for the business aspect of resort management.
I met two of the founding members, Dave Kelly and Tom Prochazka, on my first riding trip to Whistler in 2002. I found the trails at the Whistler Bike Park awesome because anyone could go there, have fun and progress. At the time, the only type of trails that East Coast bike parks offered were very technical, rooty and rocky singletrack. For advanced riders these trails are amazing, but anyone who was interested in trying the sport for the first time was in for a rough go.
Gravity Logic began bringing the Whistler-style progressive brand of trail building to bike parks all over the world in the mid-to-late 2000’s. In 2014 they began work on the three East Coast projects and the response has been tremendous. This past summer I had a chance to visit all three parks to sample the goods for myself.Windham, New York
The plan was to meet up with my buddy Joey B from Brooklyn at Windham to start off our weeklong road trip. Windham is just over two hours from New York City and a five-hour drive from my home in Buffalo, New York. Joey and I met up with bike park manager Nils Oesterle to check out the two Gravity Logic-built trails at the resort.
On the lift, I asked Nils about the response that the Gravity Logic trails had been getting. “Honestly, I’ve never seen a more positive response to anything in my entire life,” Nils said with a smile. “We don’t have a ton of trails, but people have a ton of fun on the ones we have running.”
Gravity Logic has done an outstanding job of incorporating the tough-to-tame natural shale shelves into well-built, super-fun features that inspire confidence. We followed Nils and his crew down the action-packed Batavia Skill and found that every one of the many jumps and features rode very predictably. Batavia Skill is the type of trail you can ride flat out the first time, and not worry about getting caught out on an inconsistent build.
On the next lift ride, Nils gave us some insight on why mountain biking has become a focus for the resort. “Being so close to New York City, we draw big crowds in the winter,” Nils explained. “The vision we have for our mountain is to create a four-season resort with activities that keep those folks coming back all year round. After hosting multiple World Cup races, creating a top-notch bike park was the next logical step for the mountain,” he said.
Nils also explained the long-term goals of Windham’s mountain bike program. “We have a multi-year commitment with Gravity Logic and plan to roll out more trails. In 2017 we will have a top-to-bottom green run for beginners, and in the near future we hope to start work on our black jump trail,” Nils said. “We want to continue to introduce more people to the sport, and hopefully create more mountain bikers in the process.”
Windham has a partnership with Trek for their rental bike program. We tested out the Session 8 DH 27.5 on the jump trail, Wilderness Roll, and had an absolute ball. Wilderness Roll has some considerably large tables with a terrific line of sight on all of the jumps.
The fun and consistent Gravity Logic trails at Windham paired very well with their well-appointed rental bikes. With the addition of their top-to-bottom green trail opening in 2017, Windham will be a great place for anyone looking to progress their riding.Thunder Mountain, Massachusetts
The next stop on our tour was Thunder Mountain Bike Park located at Berkshire East Mountain Resort. Berkshire East is a family-run resort located in Charlemont, Massachusetts, about two hours east of Boston. We did the drive from Windham in just under 2.5 hours and met up with bike park manager Gabe Porter-Henry.
From the lift, we had an amazing view of the valley, and Gabe gave us some insight into the area. “We have a ton of people visiting this area every year to check out our world class rafting,” Gabe explained. “Berkshire East has invested a lot over the past years to help bolster the already exceptional outdoor recreation options in the area. In addition to the bike park, we have some of the country’s longest zip lines, North America’s longest Mountain Coaster, an aerial adventure park and we began our whitewater rafting program in 2015.”
Gabe described how mountain biking fit into the plan, “Jon Schaefer is the General Manager of the resort—and after visiting the Kingdom Trails in Vermont, he came back with the vision of building great trails in Charlemont.”
Gabe outlined that the first component of the mountain biking plan was to build a cross-country network among the Berkshire East Resort, the Warfield House, and Zoar Outdoor. The Warfield House is a bed-and-breakfast located on a working farm across the valley from the resort, just up the hill from the white water rafting outfitter. “The Charlemont Trail System is a network of 35-miles of singletrack that you can jump on right from the top of the lift and link into awesome trails in the valley,” Gabe said, pointing out the singletrack snaking through the valley.
“The final piece to the puzzle in our mountain biking program was to build great, progressive downhill trails accessible to everyone regardless of ability level,” Gabe said, pointing out the green, blue and black diamond trails in the bike park. “We had no bike trails at the resort, so Gravity Logic was able to build the park from the ground up. We handed them the keys to the castle, and couldn’t be more pleased with the result.”
At the top, we met up with mountain bike guide Kym and patroller Harold. “We want you to get a feel for the progression here at the park, so we’ll start out on the green Sugar Line then bounce over to a low blue run called Sugar and Spice,” Harold said. Both trails were perfect introductions to the sport of mountain biking.
On the next run, Kym suggested that we try out the blue flow trails Sleeping Jake’s and Blue Pulaski. Both had nice rollers and berms and offered a great stepping-stone to the resort’s jump trails. The Gronk is Thunder’s intermediate blue jump trail and was my go-to run during my time at the resort. Every jump and berm set you up perfectly for the next, making it an absolute pleasure to ride again and again.
Trillium and Harold’s Blend are two great trails that both have a mix of natural features and machine-built berms. For those looking for proper East Coast gnar, definitely check out Back of the Shack, Billy Badger, Thunder Cliffs, or The Schist.
The marquee black jump trail at Thunder Mountain is Hawleywood. “The nice thing about Hawleywood is that there are no mandatory drops or gaps, so people can progress without being intimidated,” Gabe explained as we got set to ride. Hawleywood had excellent flow on the many step-ups, 25-foot tabletop jumps, and wood features.
If you have the time, definitely spend a day riding some of the enduro trails that go from the top of the mountain. Gabe took us on an awesome 20-minute descent from the peak on a trail called Billy’s World. There is a bit of pedaling, but the flowy downhill makes it more than worth checking out. Thunder has a great Specialized demo fleet, so if you don’t bring an efficient pedaling bike they can sort you out with one.Killington, Vermont
The final stop on our whirlwind tour of East Coast Gravity Logic-built parks was Killington, Vermont. Traveling from Thunder Mountain to Killington is a super easy two-hour drive north on Interstate 91. At Killington, we linked up with bike shop manager Ben Colona.
Joey and I had ridden Killington once in 2007 and found an odd mix of long traverses on fire road and extremely technical rooty, rocky singletrack. At the time, the only lift access was to the highest peak at the resort using the K1 Gondola. The only way down for beginners was to ride the loose gravel work roads. “What we had to offer beginner riders before the Gravity Logic project was pretty horrifying,” Ben said with a smile.
“When Gravity Logic came in and did the initial site assessment, their first priority was to get beginner trails going,” Ben explained as we headed to the lift. “They really pushed the idea of developing the area serviced by the Snowshed lift. Using the Snowshed quad for the beginner trails limited the vertical, and we were able to build on the less-steep terrain.”
We started our day on the Snowshed lift with a green run called Easy Street, to get a feel for what Gravity Logic was offering to beginner riders. From there we hopped onto the low-blue jump trail, Step it Up. “If you can learn to navigate the rollers on Easy Street, it’s an easy transition to ride over to the jumps on Step it Up,” Ben said as we finished the run.
The next trail we hit up was the higher blue jump trail, Blue Magic. Blue Magic is one of the most popular trails at the resort because of its amazing flow and confidence-inspiring jumps. “When people get Blue Magic dialed, it’s time to send them on to our black jump trail,” Ben said as we made our way over to the Ramshead quad.
The Ramshead lift had a great variation of trails, ranging from the sweet blue flow trail, Sideshow Bob, to the double black ProGRT racecourse, Goat Skull. Those trails are all worth checking out, but the star of Ramshead Mountain is Killington’s signature black jump trail, Black Magic. “Black Magic was built with a safety-oriented approach,” Ben explained as we dropped in. “There are no mandatory gaps or drops—everything can be rolled.”
Gravity Logic had just completed the Black Magic run before we arrived. Berm-to-berm transfers, big whale tails, and bonus hip lines were everywhere on this amazing trail. “On this side of the mountain there aren’t a lot of work roads, so you can get a great top-to-bottom experience,” Ben said as we pedaled back to the lift.
From the Snowshed lift, we had a great view of the Adventure Center and all of the activities going on at Killington. Downhillers jumped metal bridges built over the mountain coaster, people were zip lining, bungee jumping, kayaking, and paddleboarding. “We have 20 summer activities, so there really is something here for everyone,” Ben said.
Killington has 140 rental bikes, the majority of which are from Scott Bikes. The rental fleet also includes bikes from a great variety of manufacturers like Pivot, Intense, Devinci, and Norco. “95% of folks who rent bikes are on a Voltage or a Gambler, but we do offer a big selection of high-end demo bikes if they want to try out something different,” Ben explained as we got off the lift for our final run.
As we looked out over the massive Killington resort, I took a moment to reflect on what a great impact these Gravity Logic projects are having on East Coast riding. You can easily incorporate more awesome resorts like Highland, Mountain Creek, and Burke Mountain into the circuit we made of the three Gravity Logic projects. “Gravity Logic builds trails right and they keep people coming back,” Ben said as we looked out over the green valley. “We believe that a rising tide floats all ships. The more resorts that get on board with Gravity Logic, the quicker the sport will grow.”
We had an absolute blast on this road trip. I’m grateful to these resorts for making the leap and investing in top-notch trails built by the best in the world. Hats off to Gravity Logic for building their awesome brand of trail closer to my home than Whistler.
Thanks to all three resorts for hosting us on this amazing trip. I’d like to give a big thanks to Nils and Beth Stewart at Windham; Gabe, Jon, Kym and Harold at Thunder; and Michael Joseph, Ben Colona, John Lamb, Dawn Henke, and Will Goody at Killington. Also thanks to Hans Heim and Scot Nichol at Ibis Cycles, Scott Boyd at the Hayes Group, Jeff Clarkson at Schwalbe Tires, Bobby Dranberg at Thomson, Blaike Hennessey at Thule, Elayna Caldwell at SRAM, James Cronkwright at Trek, Jeff Wilbur at Cateye, Dave Watson and Kristen Smart at Sombrio, Jon Hadfield at OneUp Components, and Andrew Slowey at Cane Creek.