In less than a week the UCI mountain bike World Cup will descend upon Snowshoe Mountain, West Virginia. The resort sits virtually secluded in the Appalachian mountains but is no stranger to big-time mountain bike events. Snowshoe had been a regular stop on the once-massive NORBA series and just last year hosted the US mountain bike national championship opening the door for the arrival of the World Cup.
A few weeks back, a small group of us headed down to Snowshoe to get a look at the World Cup courses and to ride what the mountain had to offer. I shamefully admit it has been well over a decade since I have visited the resort and that was during the winter for some laps on a snowboard. Under the guidance of Snowshoe regular Angelica Pietranton, we rode as much as we could in the course of the afternoon. Pietranton, an avid downhill, and enduro racer spends just about any non-racing weekend clocking in lap after lap on the Snowshoe slopes, so, in other words, a perfect guide.
Our riding began in the Basin Area, the eastern facing slope descending to the shore of Shavers Lake. The Basin Area trails will host the XC course during next weeks World Cup and will integrate some of the mountains enduro lines. As we entered the upper parts of the M trail, some new newly made rock features greeted us before descending deeper into the trees filled rocks and roots and tight technical lines. While fitness and form go a long way to landing on the top step of a UCI cross-country race the winner at Snowshoe will be a full package rider. There is sure to be ample climbing for the field to tackle, but bike handling skills will play just as big as a role on the path to victory. The NORBA stop at Snowshoe was notorious for its rough and tumble courses, and we should expect nothing less heading into next weekend.
Fans should expect a highly entertaining race from both the men’s and women’s field on Sunday. The woman’s races this season have been intense, and with names like Kate Courtney, Jolanda Neff, Pauline Ferrand Prevot, Jenny Rissveds and Chloe Woodruff coming off a couple of strong performances it may just be the race of the entire weekend.
In the men’s field current World Champion Nino Shurter looks poised to take the win in Snowshoe with the absence of Mathieu Van Der Poel. Van Der Poel who will miss the last stop of the World Cup in search of a World Championship on the road showed that he is the man to beat in the future, that is, of course if he isn’t off winning in some other discipline.
Our second half of the afternoon was spent chasing Pietranton down the Western Territory slopes of the mountain. Facing west, the steeper and longer side, the Western Territory is the arena for the downhill course. Snowshoe has designed a brand new course for the World Cup. As expected it is bigger, badder, and burlier than any previous iteration of a downhill course used for competition at Snowshoe. While integrating existing trails, there is plenty of features built and worked in specifically for the World Cup event. Massive drops, steep chutes littered with rock and roots and a shipping container booter at the bottom of the run fans are no doubt going to witness a ferocious display of speed and skill. A dare not make any predictions for the downhill races, only that local favorites Dakota Norton and current US National Champ Neko Mullaly will bring the noise.
While we are mere mortals, Angelica tackled one of the more prominent features on course, a boulder drop into a deep and fresh-cut section of the course. As a rider who likes to dabble in bike park riding, Snowshoe offers a great variety of flow to the downright terrifying. The ‘Pro DH’ line on the Western Territory is a highlight for advanced riders. The run is long and challenging engaging riders with tight and chunky rock moves before opening up to speedy transitions into the next section of burl. Riders looking for a more enduro style experience only need to choose one of the many letters of the alphabet offered on the mountain.
While the bike park will be closed down to the public during the week of the World Cup, however, the park is open all summer long until October 13th offering lift service on both sides of the mountain with over 40 trails and 1500 feet of vertical descent. For those that are skilled, the World Cup course will remain intact in the weeks following the event to test your mettle.
We can’t wait to see the action and the crowds at Snowshoe. We will be wondering the hillsides all weekend long, and we hope to say hello and exchange a healthy number of high fives.