Editor’s Note: This sponsored post was written by Mtbr features editor Jason Sumner and is courtesy of Trestle Bike Park.
Jumping has never been my strong suit on the mountain bike. I’m decent at going up hills, can charge through most rock gardens without losing teeth, and am generally an above average aggressive XC/trail rider. Probably sounds familiar. I bet there are a lot of “us” out there.
That’s why going to a bike park can be an intimidating experience. Surviving (and eventually thriving) in the land of machine built trails, big drops, tabletops, and head high berms requires a level of commitment most of us don’t often face. And that’s exactly why I jumped at an invitation from the folks at the Trestle Bike Park to come up for a few days and take a ride around. The plan was to get set up on a downhill bike, take a couple lessons — and hopefully not test the authenticity of the DH safety certification on my removable chinbar helmet. I’m 46, by the way, with a kid and a mortgage.
Learn what sets Trestle Bike Park apart from other bike parks in North America.
Step No. 1 at Trestle is picking a bike. Sure you can bring your own (I’d recommend at least 170mm up front if you plan on riding the whole park). But this land of two-wheeled fun in Winter Park, Colorado, has an expansive fleet of rentals lest you don’t have a suitable steed — or would prefer to rally on someone else’s wheels.
There are two main shops at the base area, one with mid-tier (think alloy frames) XC, enduro, and DH options, and another (the Trestle Pro Shop) that has higher end options from the likes of Pivot, Transition, and Intense among others. I opted for Transition’s big hitter with a RockShox Boxxer up front and lots of coil shock plush in the back. Both shops also rent the complete array of safety gear, from helmets and knee pads, to chest protectors and even flat pedal-friendly shoes.
Next it was time to meet my mentor for the day, Trestle Bike Park coach Christy Graves, who learned her craft at an indoor bike park in Portland before moving to Colorado. She’s been teaching at Trestle for 4 years and has 11 years of ski school experience under her belt. Highly qualified was an understatement.
“No matter your skill level, our goal is always to be guest centered,” explained Graves. “It’s not about the coach showing off for the students, it’s hearing what each person’s goal is and then helping them towards that goal.”
Besides not losing any teeth, my two main objectives were to learn the finer points of jumping and improve my cornering skills. With that in place we were off to the Zephyr chairlift, which has an RF scanner at its entrance (no fishing your pass out every time) and roll-on bike racks, which are both easy to use and don’t mess up your bike’s paint job.
On the way up we talked route choice, which is expansive at Trestle. Right now there are 40 miles of chairlift accessible trails with more on the way in the coming 5 years. As it is now, Trestle has enough big boy lines to keep even the most accomplished freeride fanatics happy. There’s also lots of beginner and intermediate terrain at this bike park that’s about 90 minutes from downtown Denver.
We opted for Shy Ann, an intermediate trail with lots of bermed turns and the occasional (manageable) tabletop. Graves led at first, periodically stopping at designated pull outs to discuss technique and offer tips. She also asked lots of questions to help better understand where my head was, and let me know about various obstacles that lay ahead — a drop here, jump there, rock garden, etc.
The tips were familiar, but great reinforcement: brake before the turn, look through the exit, point your inside knee, lean the bike not the body, stay centered and balanced. They are all skills most of us already know, but don’t often consciously practice. It only took a few runs before I felt my confidence, speed, and yes, air time, increasing. By the end of day No. 1, I’d successfully negotiated most of the double black diamond-rated Trestle Downhill trail, landed backside on a host of medium sized tables, and generally had a great (injury free) time.
Post-bike time at Trestle is equally fun filled. Frequent shuttles can whisk you into downtown Winter Park, or you can just hang at the base area, which basically has everything you need: coffee shop, breakfast joint, pizza place, taqueria, beer bar, and so on. There are also a range of lodging options from budget to lux. I spent a restful night at the mid-tier Vintage Hotel, which is connected to the base area by a free open-air gondola that’s sure to thrill the little ones.
Check out this video to see what’s coming next at the Trestle Bike Park, then press play again to see what’s it’s like to rip the biggest lines.
Day 2 at Trestle brought a new coach (John Howland) and new bike (Pivot Firebird), but more of the same progressive fun. I honestly felt more comfortable on Pivot’s 170mm enduro bike, which was more familiar but still plenty big enough for most lines in the park. It also opened up some of the more XC-oriented trails higher up the mountain.
Howland, who grew up in Colorado Springs and has been teaching at Trestle for 5 years, started our day with a tour of Upper and Lower Roof of the Rockies, a pair of mellow grade ascents that avail sweeping views of the Continental Divide and beyond. From there it was onto Mountain Goat, a rowdy, rock laden plunge that was used in the Enduro World Series a few years back.
Along the way, Howland explained that all Trestle coaches are schooled in the Terramethod, which was developed at the famed Whistler Bike Park and has two levels of certification gleaned from a pair of weeklong courses. This allows Trestle coaches to offer five distinct levels of instruction: Intro to Trestle, and Trestle 101, 200, 300, and 400. Sessions typically last 3 hours and have a 3-6 riders per coach. And yes, you can learn a lot in a day.
“I see people make huge progression all the time,” said Howland. “It’s usually with cornering. Most beginner riders lean with their bike instead of leaning the bike but not the body.”
As for jumping, Howland has six primary tips: start small and progress slowly, don’t brake on the face of a jump, preload the bike before the lip, and then allow your body to absorb the bike and learn to be comfortable moving the bike in the air. Initially it’s a lot to think about, but as the day goes by I again start to feel more and more comfortable, even taking on a few small (but higher consequence) doubles. We also rip down the entirety of the Trestle DH track, with Howland setting pace into the opening drop, a fairly sizable leap of faith.
By the end of the day, I’m buzzing, the adrenaline from hitting bigger and bigger jumps and drops coursing through my veins. I’ll never be a full time park rat, but I’ll definitely be spending more time at places such as Trestle Bike Park (which is open until October 1 this year). They help develop skills in ways regular trail rides simply can’t — and they’re a ton of fun.
And of course, no mention of Trestle would be complete without talking Winter Park (aka Mountain Bike Capital USA) where there are over 600 more miles of trails waiting to be explored. Press play again to see what we mean.