Originally posted on www.shejumps.org
When Berkshire East, a long time supporter of SheJumps in the Northeast, announced their plans to open a state of the art downhill mountain bike park, I couldn’t have been more excited! Thunder Mountain Park in Charlemont, MA opened on July 1st and this week I finally got to check it out.
Over the last couple of years I’ve been getting more into mountain biking but this was definitely a JUMP for me. I felt really attracted to the park because of what I read that their mission was to create a beginner friendly park that could attract newbies to the sport. Here’s what I learned as a first time down-hiller!
Since it was my first time I decided to rent full protective armor. Not only did it make me feel badass, I felt so much more confident knowing that if I fell I’d be okay. Jay in the shop at Thunder Mountain Park hooked me up with a full face helmet, a shirt that include chest, kidney, and elbow protection and shin and knee guards. Most people I saw wore at minimum face, shin guards, and gloves. That being said you can leave your bike jersey with pockets at home and you probably don’t even need to wear chamois-as you barely sit down on your bike.
If it’s your first time, riding with a friend or guide is great. Not only will a guide help you pick out fun and ability appropriate terrain, they will give you a heads up on areas where you want to proceed with caution. My guide Kym was like riding with an old friend. He gave us tips, showed us his favorite fun trails and encouraged me to step it up with an encouraging grin asking “so…how do you feel about drops and jumps…” He helped me pick a nice progression of trails that would build my confidence AND challenge me. For me, since in my work life, I am a guide, it was really nice to be on the other side and be led around and encouraged!
My first day-I did not head right for the black diamond. I started on the green trail to get a feel for how downhill is different that cross-country. For those of us who’ve had a first experience with a partner or friend who’s taken us on an above our ability first time experience, I highly recommend this approach. You’ll just have more fun!
The green Sugar Line trail was a smooth, wide, flowy double track with hand built berms that after the first ride had me itching for more. Our second run, Kym encouraged me to try the Jump trail/ The Gronk and it was soooo much fun. Even though I’m not yet jumping I could get a feel for where I would. The trail really well designed so that all levels could have fun. Next I hit the Harald’s Blend which was more single track and little more technical. The lovely thing about this is that it weaves in and out of the Green Trail and you can do bits and pieces as you gain confidence, then at the end there are black diamond options if you want to kick it up.
Every staff member we spoke to said we had to hit Billy Badger a black diamond. I was willing and ready to build up to it. Unfortunately, an afternoon thunderstorm thwarted our plan and stopped the lifts, but the customer service team hooked us up with vouchers to come back…which I’m definitely looking forward to!
Enjoy the ride
When jumping into a new sport it can be easy to get tripped up by fear or anxiety. The more you can relax and be open to it the more you will enjoy it! This was probably the most fun I’ve had since ski season ended! It’s so great to know that brown powder is out there to be enjoyed!