Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Summer Fun: Bretton Woodstock Mountain Festival

A festival of summer mountain life had my name written all over it last weekend.  Mountain bike races, live music, barbecue and maybe even a few frosty adult beverages were lined up at the Bretton Woodstock Mountain Festival.

The kids were excited, too, for lift rides and a chance to see some of their favorite ski trails from a summertime slant.  On arrival, a seemingly psychic kid-sixth-sense immediately drew them to the bouncy house, and they pretty much spent the entire weekend bouncing or asking about returning to bounce.

For Outdoor Mom and Dad, the highlight was a chance to sample many of the new alpine mountain bike trails in a series of 3 races over the weekend.  My husband, Matt, signed up for the "All-Mountain Enduro," competing in the uphill, downhill, and cross-country races, all on the same bike.  Knowing that his hard-tail bike might prove difficult to manage on the downhill, he borrowed a full-suspension bike from Littleton Bike and Fitness that although would be a little heavier going uphill, could make riding down rock precipices a little easier.

Matt lined up at the base of the mountain alongside about 15 other racers, including our friend Amy.  After a few pictures at the start line, the kids and I took a free chairlift ride to the top of the Bethlehem Express Quad, where the riders would wind their way up 1.3 miles to finish the race.

The starting line of the uphill race served as the finish line of the downhill race.

This strenuous route would keep the riders' hearts pounding as they ascended Ben, Shortcut, Crawford's Ridge, Avalon, and then across Triple Traverse to the Latitude 44 restaurant.

Almost as quickly as we could ride the lift to the top, the riders started appearing over the ridge.  First was Hailey Sarausky, recently back from mountain bike national championships.  Just behind her, Matt crested the hill... running?  He hopped back on his bike to cruise over the finish line.  Turns out he had a bit of a problem with his derailleur, but he was soon back in business and headed down to pre-ride the downhill course, a run that many downhill riders would be racing in full face helmet and pads for protection.

We hit the outdoor barbecue set up outside the base lodge for burgers and dogs and soaked in the sun as the guys from Cause and Effect jammed on the bongos.  We checked out some of the vendors as people zipped in on the Williwaw Racing Zip overhead.  After more fun in the bouncy house, the kids were clamoring for some time in the pool at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel, our base for the night, so I took the kids to check in while Matt took his run in the downhill race.

The timed downhill .8 -mile run on technical singletrack started at Latitude 44, down Shady's Chute, onto Black Fly and Bird Catcher and finished as the base area.  Knowing that some of these narrow and steep rock drops weren't his forte, he managed to make his way to finish the course, out of the points for this race, but still in the running for the All-Mountain Enduro.

By 4:00 the writing was on the wall: our little adventurers were exhausted from a big day in the mountains, and we knew an early dinner at Fabyan's Station and and early bedtime were in order.  It took no convincing to get our train-obsessed little guy to hop on the shuttle to this former train depot.  The kids' early bedtime kept us from seeing the mini slopestyle jam, but I heard those guys were enjoying the new course that Brad Shedd, the freestyle terrain manager, had recently designed and built, well into the night!

A cross-country mountain bike race would be the final competition of the All-Mountain Enduro for Matt and we arranged for a babysitter to take the kids for the morning so that I could race too.  The two-mile course took us from the top of the Bethlehem Quad, out along Mountain Road, up the Telegraph T-bar line, back across Telegraph Traverse, then down a tight snowshoe trail and back to Latitude 44.

As about 15 racers lined up at the start line, I realized that I was one of only three women who were taking on the challenge.  I knew Hailey, who had won yesterday's hill climb, would be hard to keep up with, but didn't know the other woman and I was anxious to see how I'd do.

The start down Mountain Road was a fast downhill over loose gravel and rocks, but the climb up the T-bar line was anything but quick.  It's amazing how much more steep the mountain seemed going UP on a bike rather than down on skis.  I really enjoyed the tight singletrack section over the snowshoe trail that took us back down to Mountain Road - I could tell that the crew must have really worked hard to cut this fun trail through the forest.

The women did two laps and the men did three and I finished in second place.  Matt finished his three laps ahead of all the other men shortly after I crossed the line, and we cheered the other finishers in before riding back to the base.

The kids tooled around the base on the their bikes while we had lunch and waited for the final tally on the results from the races.  Spotty Dottie, the giraffe that graces the the snow in kids' learning area in the winter, was a big attraction once again.

For the All-Mountain Enduro, the top 5 finishers were awarded point values based on their position for each of the three races as well as first, second, and third prize for each race. All races were scored the same and participants who raced in all three events (on the same bike), had their points totaled to determine the top "All-Mountain Enduro" man and woman winners.  Matt had 10 points for winning the hill climb and downhill races, and thought he had the overall sewn up... but the guy who came in 2nd in those two races also came in 3rd in the downhill, giving him a total of 11 points.  As Matt said, that's the beauty of the Enduro - you've got to be good at every discipline to win the big prize!

And prizes there were!  Between Matt's two wins and my second place, we came home with quite a haul - new Race Face handlebars, Oakley sunglasses and backpacks, Darn Tough socks, and biking gloves from the Badass Outdoors Gear Shop.  We each also came home with vouchers for Mountain Bike Season Passes at Bretton Woods for the remainder of the 2013 summer season and the 2014 summer season.  I know we'll be back to ride more of these trails soon.

This was such a fun grassroots event - the music, the racing, the food, oh, and the bouncy house!  I hope they bring this back again next year and that you'll join us!

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