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W.Va. bike park gives riders feeling of rugged Canada

July 18, 2004

SNOWSHOE, W.Va. - Jim Dellavalle has never been to British Columbia to ride his mountain bike.

He doesn't have to go, either, because now he gets the experience of riding Canada's North Shore at Snowshoe Mountain Resort's Freeride Mountain Bike Park.

"It's legendary terrain that's chock full of freestyle," said Dellavalle of Stroudsburg, Pa., after riding the park during the National Off-Road Bicycle Association championship series recently at Snowshoe.

The new park features a dozen trails with high and narrow wooden bridges, steep roller coaster-like ramps and rock jumps for anyone craving thrilling rides and big air.

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Freeride mountain biking on custom-built obstacles called "stunts" has been popular in the forests of British Columbia since the mid-1990s.

With the opening of its new park on Memorial Day, Snowshoe became one of the first resorts on the East Coast to have such an attraction. The park, which covers 30 acres and a 1,500-foot vertical drop, brought more than 150 riders to the mountain in its first weekend.

"It's a unique experience that we couldn't have before," said Jeremy Wishart, a Snowshoe employee and mountain biker who helped build the park. "We've seen it in magazines for years, and now we have it here to ride."

The park was modeled after a park at Snowshoe's sister resort, Whistler-Blackcomb in British Columbia. The Whistler Bike Park features 200 kilometers of trails - a statistic Snowshoe officials hope they reach in years to come.

So far, Snowshoe has invested more than $30,000 into the park. Work began on it in April. Wishart said it is only half complete. The number of trails may double by the end of the summer.

"The park was built by riders for riders," Wishart said.

And it has been approved by riders such as Adam West of Glens Falls, N.Y.

"I've been all over the Northeast and never been to a mountain like this," West said

West's friend, David Spory, also of Glens Falls, said, "It's super technical, there's a wide variety of free ride, and the construction of the stunts is unbelievable. It's a must-ride."

Although the park is open to all, the extreme downhill cycling experience is not for the average rider. Almost all participants' bikes have front and rear suspension and are designed specifically for high flying and hard landing.

But Dellavalle said a bike isn't all riders need.

"Bring extra clothes, extra pads and lots of high-fives," he said. "I've been giving high-fives to everyone who works here."

But Eric Recker of Deep Creek, Md., said there is something for everyone because there are alternative routes before every stunt. He added that the stunts are well planned and the trails are consistent.

"You always know what to expect," he said about the trails, but recommended one thing, "Let's build more."

Snowshoe Outdoor Adventure Coordinator Dave Huber said trail maintenance crews are making changes as more riders take to the park and make suggestions on what works and what doesn't.

A one-day pass to Snowshoe's new Freeride Mountain Bike Park costs $20 and includes use of the ski lift back to the top of the mountain. Additional information on biking opportunities at Snowshoe and resort reservations is available at ride.snowshoemtn.com or by calling (877) 441-4FUN.

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