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All Set Up for Bigger Things

Riding the meadow

There’s a very relaxed vibe at Sugarbush – there’s no real rush to anything, and you don’t feel the need to get anywhere fast! Part of the reason for this is that the bike park is not especially busy during the week, and even over the weekend of our visit, we never once had to queue for the chairlift. The rider numbers are just not that large. However, the bike park is certainly planning for the future, and is already well prepared to handle increased numbers as the trail network develops and word starts to get out.

Lifts are open every day from 10 to 4, with later opening until 6 on Friday and Saturday. A day pass will set you back $35 for an adult, but only $20 for youth which is classed as 6 to 19 years of age, so this is a pretty good deal. If you’re a local then a season pass is $249, and if you combine it with the coming winter’s ski pass then you’ll save yourself $200. But for those only planning on the odd visit each season, look out for the Quad Pack. Unfortunately it’s only available to buy until the end of June each year, so you’ll have to wait until next season now, but plan ahead, and $99 will get you 4 day passes - a saving of $46. They can be used anytime – no blackouts, and they can be transferred to your mate if you’re not going to use it! Now that’s a good deal.

The scene outside the bike shop as the day gets going.

The Sugarbush Bike Shop is located in the big complex at the main lift station, so essentials are on hand to keep you moving if you run in to technical issues! We had a chat with Adam and Jake who were running things whilst we were there. They have a good selection of general bike kit – clothing, pads, gloves, essential components etc. – with plenty of TLD, Oakley and Smith Optics. And there’s a full-service bike shop that will get your rig running sweet if you can’t be bothered.

Dude hanging with Jake and Adam in the Sugarbush Bike Shop.

There’s an excellent rental fleet, with 30 brand new Scott Gambler DH bikes, and 5 Scott Voltage freeride bikes. And there’s a great setup for lessons and coaching, with a team of instructors on hand every day to handle any walk-ins as well as pre-booked lessons. Each session lasts 2 hours, and gets going at 10am and 1pm, with an extra session on Friday and Saturday at 15:30. There are 3 types available… the First-Timer, for those completely new to mountain biking, the Guiding option, which is less instruction and more of a guided tour (maximum of 4 riders), and finally, a Private Lesson – 1 on 1 personal tuition on whatever aspect of riding you wish. They take the time to make sure people get the package that works for them, in order to avoid a complete beginner getting to the top of the mountain with a completely alien piece of equipment and doing themselves some serious damage in the first 5 minutes! So Sugarbush practically subsidizes the cost of the beginner lesson – it’s only $10 more than the cost of the bike rental and lift pass. You’d have to be daft not to take this if it’s your first bike park experience.

But it's with their kids programs that they really excel, and this has a lot to do with the Summer Adventure Camps run at Sugarbush, with a constant supply of fresh kids willing to give mountain biking a shot. And they have the rental fleet to support it; with 20-inch wheel Scott Voltages for kids aged 6 to 9, and a Rocky Mountain fleet with 24-inch wheels for kids roughly 9 to 13 years old.

Meredith and the other Sugarbush instructors put the kids camp to the test.

If you’re planning on a weekend here then you’ll need some accommodation, and there are a few options, although much of what’s available in the winter season is closed for the summer. It’s pretty pricy at the hotel at the mountain station itself, so you’ll want to go a little further afield, and Waitsfield is your best option, plus there’s a little more going on there and more options for getting a good feed and a few beers. Although on that note there’s always the Castlerock pub at the base of the lift, where you can get lunch or a post-ride beer. Go and say hi to Shaun who runs things in there – he was instrumental in starting the now annual Brew Grass Festival which kicks off the summer with live bands and a huge variety of regional beers. If you need to choose a weekend to visit then that one would be a cracker!

Warren Falls - the perfect place to cool off after a day on the hill.

We mentioned the Mad River previously, and the ease at which you can take a swim to cool off. Well if you come to Sugarbush then you have to check out Warren Falls. Just 10 minutes drive south from the bottom of the Sugarbush access road; Warren Falls is the No.1 swimming hole in Vermont according to the BBC no less! This place is awesome, with numerous plunge pools and multiple smooth rock platforms to throw yourself in from, ranging from 3 feet to 33 feet if you have the balls! It’s unlikely you’ll be alone as it’s a popular local hangout, but that’s good if you’re looking for confirmation of which pools are safe to launch in to, and advice on the best rocks to actually launch from! It’s just a stunning place to cool off and wrap up your day after shredding the bike park.

So that was our time at Sugarbush! The next post in the East Coast Chronicles Series will be the “Report Card”, where we’ll standardize our thoughts, ratings, etc and present them in a cool looking table. You then get the lowdown on all you need to know in one spot, and can compare with the other locations on the tour. Watch this space…

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