It was like a music and film festival came alive last Saturday night during the festive debut of the Leaf Peeper Bike Bash, a party thrown by the White Mountains chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association, aka Ride NoCo.
In the dark of the domed concert tent, the Bear Mountain Band entertained the house. Viewers’ adrenaline surged while mountain bike films were screened. The emcee hurled swag out to eager hands.
Some 200 mountain bikers turned out at Intervale’s Theater in the Wood for a night of chilling and networking, movies, music, vendors and food.
It was a night for the valley mountain biking community — locals, other White Mountain riders and weekend warriors from away — to come together and socialize.
Plus, it was announced that two new trails will be built and a full-time trail crew will be employed.
With some $100,000 in grants, chapter vice president Mike LeBlanc declared a new connector trail will go from Black Cap to Cranmore built by northern Vermont trail building icon Knight Ide.
Plans also call for a new 2-mile primarily machine-built trail between the Hurricane Mountain area water tower and Cranmore parking lot.
A full-time four-member trail crew will be employed for the next two summers to help build new trails while also maintaining existing ones. According to LeBlanc, the crew will supplement the volunteer labor that has been the backbone of valley area mountain biking more more than 20 years.
“This is a massive step in the right direction,” he said.
Chapter president Chris McKay told the crowd the group plans to do more trail work weekends next summer.
This summer the organization reached out to different landowners and associations as part of its strategic plan to enhance mountain biking in North Conway.
Chris Lewando gave an update on constructing Cranmore’s new beginner-based mountain bike park that will feature lift-service for riders new to downhill. Lewando, a chapter vice president and owner of Tyrol Trails, has extensive trail building experience. He said the beginner base area is complete.
Expected to open next June, the park will have three trails, demo bikes and a mountain bike school.
In a video presentation, Cranmore general manager and president Ben WIlcox talked about how riders will be able to attend a one-hour tutorial that will teach them basic downhill skills like approaching a corner, turning, and getting on and off the lift. The idea is to go from the skills part to the lift and the mountain.
The evening was emceed by local attorney Tyler Ray, also the principal in Backyard Concept.
“We’re one of the only places around that has mountains on all scales — 360 degrees,” he said in an interview. “Downhill riding is a special part that they are mixing in with the cross-country trails.”
The chapter heralded volunteer work over the years and acknowledged a number of current zone volunteers by bringing them on stage: LeBlanc (Hurricane), Rob Adair (Marshall), Dyane McIndoe and Ethan Lemieux (West Side) and John Barley (Pudding Pond area).
Local pro rider Pete Ostroski, who rode up the stage on a mountain bike, also recognized the volunteers who had worked over the years, including valley mountain bike pioneers Adair and Mark Jenks.
Ostroski has ridden all over the world and equated what the valley has to offer with British Columbia and some places in Europe.
He has taken an active role in promoting and developing North Conway mountain biking in a sustainable way.
“Mountain biking has evolved,” he said in an interview. “Bike are getting better. We’re able to ride more technical things. People are looking for longer runs and we’re bringing trail building up to speed with mountain bike culture.”
During the day, there were rides offered from Cranmore as well demo bikes to try.
The evening brought together riders from New England and also allowed other networks like Littleton’s Parker Mountain, Coos Trails in Gorham and the Bethlehem Trails Association system to highlight their networks. Vendors also included White Mountain Trail Collective and MWV Trails Association.
There was a sense of community and family to the evening. Good food and good adult beverages brought people together. It was about bonding and helping to grow the mountain bike community beyond the valley, about old friends and new friends, about enjoying what’s being built, and lending a volunteering hand to keep the trails going.