By Brad Fauber
The construction of the new mountain bike park at Bryce Resort in Basye has been a near non-stop process since the work first began in early April, but resort general manager Rob Schwartz promises it will be all worth it.
Forced to delay the construction until the spring due to the Bryce Resort's extended ski season, Schwartz said crews were forced to work 14 hours a day, seven days a week to complete the resort's newest attraction in time for today's grand opening.
The chairlift-accessible mountain bike park, the only one of its kind in the area, aims to take advantage of the area's heavy interest in biking in general and provide thrill-seekers of all skill levels with a chance to test their wits on its various trails.
"This is the biggest thing we've added to the resort since skiing, frankly," Schwartz said. "From a region standpoint for Shenandoah County, I think that this, long term, is going to be great for the area. I think that this area, from a bike hub standpoint ... there are people who come out here to ride bikes regularly. It's phenomenal."
Bryce Resort's mountain bike park will offer plenty of options for riders of all ages and skill levels, and Schwartz said the goal is to cater specifically to each rider's abilities in order to provide the best experience possible.
With a major emphasis being placed on progression, Schwartz said most riders -- particularly those with little to no mountain biking experience -- are encouraged to try the park's green course, known as the "Sundowner," on their first trek down Bryce Mountain.
The Sundowner is a long course that meanders its way down the resort's ski slopes, and Schwartz said it provides the perfect opportunity for riders to get a feel for the downhill experience.
"The green run is almost two miles long, so it really gives people a feel for it -- a feel for how to position your body weight and how to position the bike, get used to the downhill environment," Schwartz said.
From there riders can advance to the slightly more challenging blue course, an intermediate-level jump course that Schwartz said provides plenty of opportunities for air-time if riders feel daring.
The brilliance of the blue course, known as the "Brew Thru," is that riders can dictate their own experience on the trail by choosing how fast they would like to travel, and the jumps themselves are designed specifically with the safety of the rider in mind.
Schwartz estimated that 80 percent of riders will spend most of their time on the blue run.
"It's still a very wide, machine-groomed run and even though there are jumps on it, the jumps are shaped like tabletops," Schwartz said. "The nice thing about a tabletop is it doesn't matter how you land ... it's a much, much more flexible environment for somebody. If you get air, great ... it doesn't matter where you land. Everything has been designed with that mentality of progression through there."
The mountain bike park will also offer more challenging courses for the most experienced riders with the inclusion of the "Car Bomb" (advanced) and "Copperhead" (expert) trails. Schwartz said those courses will continually be upgraded with new features to keep the courses fresh.
Riders will be able to rent all of the necessary equipment from the resort itself, including bicycles -- provided by Trek -- safety equipment and even helmet-mounted cameras. Schwartz said full-body protection is provided with every rental package, although helmets and close-toed shoes are the only mandatory requirements.
Of course, riders are encouraged to bring their own bicycles as long as they meet the resort's recommendations, which include front suspension and 24-inch wheels or larger.
"The only thing that we're restricting bikes to is it must be a mountain bike -- in other words, it can't be a hybrid or a road bike," Schwartz said. "And they must have front and rear hand brakes ... and we are saying that those brakes must be cantilever, V or disc."
The resort will also offer instruction to those who need it, and Schwartz said that the trails are open to riders of all ages as long as the rider is comfortable on a bicycle of the appropriate size.
Schwartz said he hopes that Bryce Resort's mountain bike park will cater all types of riders and provide something for both the hardcore thrill-seeker and the casual rider.
"The idea is to get them to enjoy it. For people who ride in a park environment, if you give them the right experience, 90 percent of them will come back," Schwartz said. "If you give them the right experience."
For more information, visit bryceresort.com.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org