Suicide Six Bike Trails Get a Lift

  • Avery Mornis, of Reading, Vt., and Chris Lewando, of Glen, N.H., get some air as they test out a section of the mountain bike trail they are building at Suicide Six, in Pomfret, Vt., on Wednesday, June 13, 2018. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Avery Mornis, of Reading, Vt., uses an excavator to construct the new mountain bike trail at Suicide Six, in Pomfret, Vt., on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Workers, from left, Devon Mumford, of Woodstock, Vt., Sara Spencer, of Windsor, Vt., and Tyler Chynoweth, of Woodstock, Vt., listen to Nick Mahood explain where to clear brush for the new mountain bike trails being constructed at Suicide Six, in Pomfret, Vt., on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, June 14, 2018

South Pomfret — Add Suicide Six to the burgeoning list of ski areas offering lift-served access to maintained mountain bike trails during the warm months.

Construction began last month on an initial network of about 3½ miles of mixed-difficulty, downhill mountain bike trails that will be accessible via Suicide Six’s quad chairlift, with additional riding options such as a pump track and learning area at its base.

It’s all part of an investment of approximately $500,000 by the Woodstock Inn & Resort-owned facility this year for phase one of a project to create Elemental Bike Park, becoming Vermont’s sixth lift-served mountain bike operation at a pre-existing ski area. Future plans include an additional three miles of new trails.

A soft opening is planned for July 13 and appears on schedule, according to Suicide Six general manager Tim Reiter. Elemental Bike Park intends to be open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through the summer and move to seven days a week during fall foliage season.

Gerren Goodwin, a Hartford native and mountain operations manager at Suicide Six, is psyched for the developments.

“I want to get out there right now,” Goodwin said. “I learned to ski here when I was 2, and I’m just really stoked so have this here now for the summer.”

Suicide Six staff spent about a year planning for the park, for which they acquired nearly 100 bikes and parcels to carry them up the mountain — replacing every third chair on the lift — while converting the Woodstock Ski Runners lodge into a temporary bike shop manned by newly hired mechanic Merlyn Townley.

Suicide Six staffers Christina Mattsson and Nick Mahood, both certified mountain bike instructors, will teach lessons and lead guided rides as well as themed activities such as “She Shreds” Friday night women’s outings.

“We really wanted to have something for everyone, because we expect to see every different level of rider come through,” said Mattsson, Suicide Six’s sports programs director. “A wide range of programming is a great way to do that.”

So is a diverse arrangement of trails. The routes, still under construction by Morrisville, Vt.-based Sinuosity: Flowing Trails, are primarily characteristic of the company’s namesake “flow trails”: smooth, machine made paths featuring berms, jumps and rollers.

Bike advancements seen over the last decade include lower slack angles — keeping the rider farther back in relation to the center of the bike — as well as vastly improved suspension and braking systems. These control features have helped urge more mountain bikers to take on faster downhill terrain.

Others prefer more rugged trails with natural navigation obstacles like root sections. Elemental Bike Park’s downhill trails will include some of both styles, each marked in difficulty similarly to ski trails — beginner, intermediate, advanced, etc. — with additional indicators about whether each trail is or isn’t of the flow variety.

“Flow trails are accessible to a lot of people and you can get really good speed safely,” Mattsson said. “We also wanted to have some classic, New England-style single track for the more technical riders.”

The base of the mountain will feature pedal-access-only amenities such as a flow skills development course, pump tracks and a “strider park” for toddlers.

Suicide Six also plans to tap into the popularity of craft beer and farm-to-table dining, offering both when the park is open, and has been in conversation with South Pomfret-based ArtisTree Community Arts about the potential for live entertainment.

“We’ve had live music here in the past for different events, so that part of it we’re used to,” Reiter said. “We think it’s going to be a pretty great environment.”

So does Mahood, Suicide Six’s recreation trails director who oversees mixed-use cross country trails at the facility as well as on Mount Peg and Mount Tom in Woodstock.

Mahood doubles as a board member for the Woodstock Area Mountain Bike Association, and considers Suicide Six’s addition of mountain biking options the latest example of a national mountain biking explosion, within which the northeast is a hotbed.

A recent visit to the popular Kingdom Trails network in East Burke, Vt., only reinforced that perception.

“It was the first time I’d been on a summer weekend, and I was blown away,” Mahood said in a phone interview. “There were so many people there, and that type of energy is everywhere in Vermont. I really feel like we’re at a point of, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ ”

A season pass for Elemental Bike Park this year is $149 for adults, $99 for juniors and seniors (rentals extra) and includes access to Woodstock Inn’s cross country trail network. More info can be found at https://www.mtbs6.com or by calling 802-457-6666.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.