Ascutney mountain bike skills park open, flow trails to follow

Three weeks after its unveiling to riders at the Eastern regional edition of the Flow State Mountain Bike Festival, the Andrew Goulet Skills Park at Mt. Ascutney is enticing enthusiastic riders of all skill levels to test their mettle on the berms, drops, and jumps of the newly opened bike park.

“It’s set up in three different lines for the expert, intermediate, and beginner,” Aaron Day explained as he surveyed the new mountain bike skills facility from atop the park. Day, a West Windsor resident and technical education teacher at Windsor High School, oversaw the construction of the newly opened skills park on behalf of the Ascutney Trails Association (ATA), the non-profit outdoor education and recreation organization that collaborates with Ascutney Outdoors (AO) to populate the mountain with year-round activities and programs. With the skills park now completed, Day continues to coordinate the development of three “flow trails” and a climbing trail at Ascutney that are expected to be completed this fall. “It was really fun to have the park open for the Flow State Festival, which drew nearly a thousand bikers from all over the Northeast to these slopes at the end of last month,” Day added enthusiastically. “It’s been very positive and rewarding to get this [skills park] open after all the work that went into it.”

With all its dips, banked turns, and angled, wooden jumps, the park looks daunting to non-bikers and the uninitiated. But that isn’t the case, Day stated. “When it was first built, everyone was thinking, ‘Wow, I am not going to be able to ride this.’ What’s interesting is that it was built to be very forgiving. Even though the jumps seem very big, they kind of catch you. If you don’t have enough speed, you’re not going to crash, you’re just going to roll. You may not get the amplitude you want, but you’re going to be safe. It’s a great place to learn.”

The skills park, which was excavated and constructed over the course of two months beginning in mid-May by the Powder Horn Trail Company of Belmont, N.H., is the only mountain biking facility of its kind between Keene, N.H., and a comparable park at Killington. Built using packed earth and timber, the park at Ascutney, which runs parallel to one of the mountain’s downhill ski trails, measures 315 feet long by 75 feet wide — approximately the full length and half the width of a football field. The park offers riders a decidedly different, more contemporary take on the conventional biking experience of traversing an extensive mountainside trail network complete with wildly uneven terrain and rocky outcroppings, served by a lift. “It’s termed ‘slope-style’ mountain biking,” Day explained. When it turns to competition, which hasn’t yet occurred at the Mt. Ascutney site, Day said riders are evaluated on their technical skills and ability to navigate jumps, drops, turns, and berms, rather than on their speed in completing the course in the quickest time.