Imagine moving through a glade much slower than you would ever ski and it's a warm 55 degrees with no snow on the ground. I always wanted to try mountain biking. What could be so hard, I thought, I've been riding a bike for over 45 years.
I found it much different and much more trying than skiing. In a number of ways it was more fulfilling too.
On one of the last days of summer, I visited Gore Mountain in Upstate New York to try mountain biking. It was a beautiful cloudless day with a crisp northwest wind.
I checked my gear. Helmets are required. The helpful attendants loaded my bike into the gondola. They flipped the up hill seat for the bike and I got in. The scenery was breathtaking.
At the top I gathered my courage to start down. There were others at the top, including several people who had ridden up to view the high peaks of the Adirondacks. The best outlook was at the top of Fair View. There are several picnic tables to enjoy lunch or snack. In addition to site seeing, several people rode the gondola up and then hiked to the summit and or simply hiked down the mountain. Most just rode back down on the gondola.
As soon as I mounted my bike and started I realized that this was going to be a much different experience than skiing down the same trail. First, as I always try to lean forward to maintain control on skis, I had to keep my weight to the back of the mountain bike otherwise I would go over the handlebars.
Heading down beginner trail Ruby Run proved interesting. I had the brakes on continuously and loose rocks made for a rough ride. I found that riding on the grass was better. After leveling out onto Lower Cloud I caught my breath.
As I headed toward the top of the North Chair I saw rocks glimmering in the bright sunlight. Looking closer I found that they were Garnets, or â€œAdirondack Rubiesâ€�.
The biker's trail was directed down Twister and then onto a trail called Sidewinder which crosses Showcase and Wild Air and comes out on Sunway. Regular ski trail maintenance was still on-going so bikers and hikers were restricted to certain areas.
While resting in the woods on Sidewinder I met up with Eric Knienim who bikes in the fall, and in winter is a Patroller. He was friendly and explained that Gore was hoping to expand bike trails next year. Eric had a bike specific for the trails with a raked out front wheel, rear shocks and hydraulic brakes. I did not. In addition, he was wearing shin and arm guards. He patrols the trails and had a radio to call for help if needed.
I discovered that as a novice, it was safer to stop and walk over tough spots. A mountain bike trail often has rocks and roots that are sometime quite knarly. However, there were several spots where large logs had been cut and bridges made. The bridges were covered with asphalt shingles so tires could get traction.
A short time later I met Jim Frieling on the trail. This was Jim's second time mountain biking. We decided to ride together. Like skiing, I found that mountain biking is more fun when shared with someone else. We worked our way out to Sunway. Sunway is a beginner's trail in the winter but it proved challenging for us. There were several areas of bare rock mixed in with grassy patches. Carefully picking our way we went down the mountain to the base.
We decided to take another run. When two people are going together the bikes are loaded in one gondola and riders get in the one in front of it.
The second time down was markedly easier due to my improved technique and having more confidence. Still, I used the brakes most of the time. Jim discovered that by lowering his seat, he could keep his weight back and have more control.
We worked our way over Sidewinder a second time and on to Sunway. We decided to try Wolf Pack Run. Eric was right, it was a more difficult trail and we had to push our bikes up a hill. At the top we came across the old gondola station which is not accessible from any downhill ski slope.
We continued down the Tannery Work Road running into Eric again and then finally to the base, glad that we had made it with only a few minor bruises. The second run took us well over an hour to complete. We both remarked that that we can usually ski top to bottom in less than ten minutes.
Some tips -
Improvements at Gore for this ski season-
In addition to moving the terrain park to Wild Air, Gore will be adding snowmaking to Sagamore on Burnt Ridge. They will also open Eagle's Nest, an intermediate trail that will connect Upper Pipeline to the base of the Burnt Ridge Quad. Cirque Glades will be extended all the way to the base of the lift and work will be done to regrade the Cedars trail. Renovations continue at the base lodge as well.
Gore Mountain will be open Saturday-Sunday, September 5 - October 12 (includes Columbus Day Monday). Gondola rides are:
Full Day Adult (ages 13-69): $30