The Shire at 7Springs
15 Oct 2014
We were beginning to become very aware at this stage, that our huge awesome road trip was starting to come to an end. Continuing to head further south (and suffering a long drive significantly west as well), we left Mountain Creek and headed for Pennsylvania – yet another new State on the #ECRT and another bike park where our knowledge was a bit sparse. Not much was known about this little place, but from a few things that we’d been told. we were pumped to see what we would find at 7Springs Bike Park.
(The route to 7Springs Bike Park - a long haul inland!)
The fact that we arrived on a warm summer evening with the sun beating down on rolling hills might have had something to do with it, but the initial impression Seven Springs Resort gave us was something straight out of ‘Bilbo Baggins’ in “The Shire.” With manicured, lush green grass, neat and tidy lift stations, idyllic little ponds and outhouses, we half expected a Hobbit to come pottering out of the bushes, or even rolling down the trails with huge hairy feet stomping on the pedals! Right off the bat, the Bike Park Manager Mark Kinneer met up with us in the parking lot. We headed out on a tour of the ‘property’ in Mark’s pick-up truck to get our bearings. After a couple of hours out in the hills, we spotted a multitude of deer and super-sized groundhogs, and really got a grand tour of all the key features and areas for future trail development. It was a very chilled way to kick off our visit and enjoy the Pennsylvania countryside for the evening, even if we couldn’t get straight on the bikes!
(Where are you Bilbo Baggins?)
The bike park opened in 2007, with the original trails designed and built by Judd, Randy and the Alpine Bike Parks team – the guys responsible for the Whistler Crankworx Bone Yard course! Mark arrived 3 years ago and has been dedicated to developing the trails and facilities even further – somewhat like a personal crusade. He readily admits that there’s more that can be done, but he has also achieved a surprisingly large amount given the size of the bike park’s resources and the number of trail crew on the team. In fact, it’s often just him! At the time of our visit, there were only trails open on the front side, but Mark showed us the plans for the new backside trails and it’s very cool. More on that later though…
(Pool with bike park in the background)
It’s certainly not a big mountain here, at least not when you approach it from the front (the other side has much more vertical). So the 4-man chairlift takes you up to the ‘peak’ at 2,972 ft, giving 490 ft of vertical to descend back to the base. Unbelievably, the primary method for getting your bike to the top is to hold on to it, on your lap as you sit on the chair! There is a hook on the back of every other chair, but putting the bike on top of you and the chair, preventing the safety bar from being lowered, appears to be the accepted procedure here. We’re not sure how this got past the resort’s risk assessment team – riders holding on to a heavy DH bike as they pass overhead trails and riders underneath. Quite apart from the fact that it makes taking off your helmet and goggles difficult, and giving your hands a rest, there is surely a potential risk for a dropped bike?! We appreciate that any resort has a budget to manage and that the manufactured bike trays for chairlift systems are increasingly expensive. But this must be one of the more fundamental aspects to offering “lift-served” mountain biking as a business – a safe and easy way to get rider and bike to the top?
(David annoyed with the bike situation on the lift)
Anyway, on to the trails themselves… despite the short drop in altitude, there are some really great trails here, with plenty of technical features that are just plain fun to ride! There are 19 trails listed on the map, although a few are just shorter sections of trail that run in to each other, and have still been assigned a name. So there really are only a handful of routes from top to bottom. And just be careful which map you check because the printed vs. the map-board at the top of the lift differ significantly. Some trails are either not on it, or are on it, but no longer exist in real life. Grove Street trail is an example of this conundrum, or the final switchback and straightaway on 007, which has yet to be built. One benefit of the short vertical is that you can really put the laps in here, and therefore ride everything comfortably within a day. We were lapping at 9 minutes per lap from the top of the lift to the bottom, and back up the chairlift to the top again. Those Nature’s Bakery fig bars really pack a great energy punch!
(Mark keeping up with the grom)
(Small feet, big tricks.)
Most of the super fun stuff is right near the top of the mountain. The Arena area is the most progressive, with a large whale-tail and some huge MX style ramps. The Burner trail is jam-packed with features near the top, with a cool ladder drop-to-rainbow-to on-off feature tri-fecta, mixed in with all the small doubles and step-downs. And the EC1 trail is a must-ride and awesome fun (both upper and lower), named after the man involved in its conception, MTB legend Eric Carter! There’s a surprising amount of tech stuff to ride as well, with plenty of roots and some larger (and gnarlier) than expected rock gardens. Check out the Lo Pan trail and the Frankenstein trail if you’re after some arm pump. On pretty much every trail, you’ll find small little features and kickers to launch off as you go, the magnitude of which are entirely up to you and your speed. Everything is built very well, and is in great condition.
(Mark, you can't bar spin a dual crown)
We obviously spent much of our time riding and shooting with Mark. And fresh from a shredding trip to Whistler, we also had the pleasure of meeting up-and- coming little rippers Nathan and Lucas Halahan, marshaled by their dad Michael. Only 10 and 11 years of age respectively, these dudes were perfectly at home on the big hits of the Arena Trail and obliged us for a few video sequences. Keep an eye out for these guys on the freestyle scene in years to come!
(David in the shire.)
After a number of close shaves throughout the ECRT, our slightly over-confident filming at 7Springs finally saw the quad-copter come to a sticky end! While flying in some very tight trees (again), one blade got caught up in a tree branch and the heli swung sideways, lost lift, and dropped straight on to some perfectly positioned rocks. There was no convenient bush or tall grass to catch it this time! Not a complete write-off but requiring a trip back to the factory nonetheless, it meant we would be without the aerial aspect for our videos at the end of the tour blowout at Snowshoe Bike Park. Arse!
Article two can be found here.