Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Changing MTB Scene: New Rider Membership Program Will Benefit All Riders

Members participate in a VMBA trail-building workshop at Perry Hill.
There's a new deal on trails this spring. Riders in Vermont are joining the Vermont Mountain Bike Association and selecting a local chapter to support in the process, rather than the old method of directly joining local chapters. It organizes all riders under one roof, supports the state-wide mtb scene, and gives chapters access to thousands of riders.

VMBA coordinates state level land-use agreements, landowner liability policy and insurance, and trail grants programs, all of which directly benefit the chapters working on the ground (see a feature article on VMBA past and present). With this new membership structure, riders directly support that state-level advocacy. Then, by selecting a chapter to join, 50% of membership dues go to the local chapter's coffers, to be used for trail building projects and events. As founders of the Plainfield-Marshfield Mountain Bike Club (stay tuned for a much more fabulous name in the near future), Tristan and I are really excited about this new structure.

We encourage everyone to check out the membership benefits (including a digital subscrip to Dirt Rag magazine and over 80 coupons for places riders go - seriously, the list is long, check it out). Let us know if you have questions - we'd be happy to talk about the new membership program.

Happy trails,
S. & T. 

See this recent post on on what the organization has been up to. (Hint: it's all about strengthening chapters, securing access, and building long-term partnerships so we can build more trail!)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Circling the Camel: Skiing an Iconic Vermont Peak

The CHC crosses many high-elevation wetlands, perfect for snack breaks.

My skis glide onto the edge of an alpine wetland. A dark rocky cliff face looms high above and a layer of spruce trees cuts into the grey sky. I’m about halfway in to my 13-mile ski tour, and the boulder at the opposite end of this frozen water looks to be the perfect spot to rip open my Snickers bar. In those first few bites, I’m rewarded with the sweet taste of chocolate peanuts and cold-hardened caramel, and the sweet feeling of being self-propelled over great distances of Vermont’s backcountry.

I’m skiing the Camel’s Hump Challenge (CHC), a tour that circumnavigates the summit of Camel’s Hump by traveling through both private and State forest. A knee injury left my partner at the halfway point, where some nice folks will walk out with her and give her a ride back to our car. I'm on my own on a long tour, on a big mountain. And it's pretty cool.

So happy to see each other.
The CHC route affords access to established birch glades, fragrant spruce-fir forests, and strings of upland wetlands not typically visited by hikers or skiers. It’s beautiful, but it’s earned. With many miles of climbing, dotted by sections of smooth tracking and fast dips in elevation, this route is both challenging and rewarding.The forests I've seen today flash in my head. Birch glades out of a story book; spruce forests that hang heavy with the scent of pine. It's all been so beautiful.

There's a greater cause bringing me out here today. As CHC board member Bruce Beeken puts it, “The purpose of this event is to enjoy this extraordinary ski tour and to raise money for a good cause.” In order to be here, we each raised $125 or more in donations from friends and family to support education and family support programs at the Vermont Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.I don't know this during my ski, but I will later learn that together all skiers raised $22,000 - a new record. 

Later in the day I will ascend and descend Wind Gap (a feat I am still amazed I did on my own) and then beautiful Bald Hill - a ripping fast descent that had me grinning ear to ear the whole long way down. And I will ski up to my friends. My dog will run out and greet me, hugs will come from all directions, and beer will taste better than it ever has. For now, I taste the melting chocolate again, and savor the fresh air, my health and vitality, and every minute of this beautiful backcountry. 

Happy trails.
- S. 

Also, for a look into behind-the-scenes preparation for the CHC, see:
- Clearing the Way

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Dirt In Vermont

Time To Ride 2013

As I sit here listening to the rain fall, I think about the year 2013.  The last few years have been full to say the least but when I think about this past Spring, into Summer and then into Fall, I start to feel something  and I smile....

Last winter, while out skiing, I started thinking about the upcoming riding season. I decided I would ride and photographically capture, edit and share the entire riding season, then go out on a limb, put it all together and raise money for our local MTB clubs. Now when I think back on this I can honestly say I had no idea what I was really getting myself into.  I am by no means a professional photographer, I simply like the feel of a camera in my hand and like to share what I see. I also like to ride *a lot*.

In the end we raised over $800 for our local mountain bike chapters. This helps pay for tools, advocacy, legislation, beer....(after trail work of course), and helps chapters reach out to new avenues. I cannot thank all the folks enough who rode with me, spoke with me, laughed, let me share their moments on a bike with me. Thanks also to all the sponsors who supported the show with raffle prizes, who did not even hesitate to support my project and donated their products and time so that we could make TTR (Time To Ride) positively the best time we possibly could. Here's to VMBA (Vermont Mountain Bike Association), Vermont Peanut Butter (Chris Kaiser), Darn Tough socks, Forsake shoes, Vasque, MTBVT crew, The Alchemist, the good folks at Jackson's Lodge (Mark, Gloria, and Lu) who took us in, Onion River Sports, Muscles Not Motors, Dirt Rag Magazine, Cannondale, Specialized,, SRAM and the Savoy Theater.  You all made a night possible where you could literally feel the energy and spirit of the VT MTB community.

When we moved here we knew we wanted to live in the mountains with mountain people. In Vermont mountain biking has come along way, from riding class four roads, VAST snowmobile trails in the Summer on private land, illegal or hand shake stashes of single-track, that either got discovered and destroyed or legitimized and solidified a community. As double-track turned into single-track, techy met flow, you could feel there was something there, it was good, REALLY good! It was the mountain bike culture in VT. That was over eight years ago and MTB'ing in VT  hasn't looked back.  I could ramble on and name names but you all know who you are, we all know who you are and if you don't, I only have two words for you: get involved. I like to joke that some folks think single track just simply grows on trees....well it doesn't.  It takes blood, sweat, some elbow grease, a couple of shovels, and a community, and yeah sometimes tears..wait I think I meant beers...But in the end its the people and together with those shovels, a smile, advocacy and some time we can make mountain biking in Vermont even stronger. I like to quote a good friend of mine: "you have to pay to play" and this doesn't  necessarily mean money but of yourself. So get out there and get involved.

Now stop listening to the rain, wax some skis and get outside...the snow is coming

 I is the singletrack. 


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013

Vermont's very own Green Mountain Enduro

With over 50 riders, music and food, perfect fall weather, and the phenomenal trail network at Shaw Outdoor Center (part of Norwich University) in Northfield, the Green Mountain Enduro was a great success, particularly for a first-year event. The field was comprised of pros, sport riders, and beginners. Racers competed in three timed stages, for which the climbs were casual and non-timed, and riders then put it all on the line for the descent. Riders had a great time and everyone had a smile on their face. 

Many thanks to Liz at the Shaw Outdoor Center, the many Norwich University volunteers, the Town of Northfield, and Onion River Sports for putting on a great event.

Follow these links for race results and more photos.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Tour de Foliage

Our recent Marshfield-Cabot-Danville-Peacham-Groton loop brought us to such great places as Cabot Creamery, Mack Mountain Road, the beautiful and quaint New England village of Peacham, and Groton State Forest. Many of the loop's 50 miles were on dirt roads, and about 12 of the miles were on the car-less Cross Vermont Trail. The tour brought us through pages 41, 42, 47, and 48 of the Vermont Gazetteer. More importantly, it brought us past rural artisans like potters and Birdman Woodcarving, and definitely bring cash for the many farm stands and farmers markets you will pass.

This was a good one; here's the route: Hollister Hill Road (Marshfield) to Ducharme Road to Route 215 (Cabot) to Danville Hill (Danville - this is a long climb!) to Route 2 then Mack Mountain Road to Main Street (Peacham) to County/North County Road (this one is very rugged, so seek an alternate route on South Main Street), to Route 302 (Groton) to Route 232. Note that the route linked above does not show the Cross Vermont Trail, which was our actual journey. To get on this dirt path (it's fairly smooth with 3%-grade climbs or less) take a right at the parking area about one mile into the Route 232 leg of this trip.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday Klunking

Well it's a rainy Friday here in VT . Here's a throw-back to the beginning of MTB'ing and to what lies ahead.  I'm sure GF, JB and the whole Marin county crew can appreciate folks getting out on coaster brake klunkers and discovering just how to throw down that rear wheel skid on a dirt road. Nothing quite like it.

Happy Klunking!


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

At the Heart of Singletrack

Trail Crew

With wet weather in VT, a MTB'er must look inwards at times and face a brutal truth: It's just too wet to ride. With that realization comes a couple of choices: clean bike, drink beer, watch a bike movie, pig out on some Ben & Jerry's, or..... get out anyways and give that favorite local trail some much-needed love. With that, our Wednesday ORS MTB ride set out to do some local trail work.

The Wednesday ride is some folks only chance to ride during the week. Every Wednesday people excitedly call the shop throughout the day to inquire if the ride is still on, and where we're riding. On this particular Wednesday, folks called with an already less-than-excited tone asking, "So, are we still riding?.....[long hopeful pause]." My reply: "Sorry, no group ride today. But we're gonna grab some tools and head up to do some trail maintenance after a couple of intense storms that came through."

With a little encouragement, stoke and some promised hydration (read: beer), a couple of folks rose to the occasion. This is where the "heart" of singletrack  lies. I often think to myself, "Where would we ride if it weren't for all the volunteers?" These local clubs and VMBA (Vermont Mountain Bike Association) and their blood, sweat, and tears go into building all the great places we get to ride here in VT. We are fortunate to have all these things at hand to make VT a true destination for MTB'ing. It is the people that constantly give their time even when they would rather be riding that keep singletrack alive and well.

So the next time it's raining instead, of digging into a pint of B&J's or watching a bike video, grab your pack, tools and some good friends and head for that favorite trail. Chances are it needs a little love and this way you can be sure that trail will be able to keep on giving back.

Worcester Range at Sunset

Here's to the trail builders and to all that give their time.