Bike parks are a growing trend, especially with ski resorts. Utilizing facilities during warm months for a bike park has turned out to be a win-win situation for the parks, and those who crave the downhill excitement. Two Virginia Ski Resorts that have taken advantage of this trend are Bryce Resort located in the Shenandoah Valley, just a short distance from Mount Jackson and Massanutten Resort, 15 miles from Harrisonburg, VA.

This two part series seeks to get inside the mind of bike patrollers from both resorts. First up, Scott Wooten of Massanutten.

Scott Wootten of Massanutten Resort is the Lead Bike Park Supervisor and a Bike Patroller. Scott, one of 28 active patrollers on staff was kind enough to share his take on bike patrol.

Scott, how old are you and what did you do before you joined the bike patrol?

I‘m 34 years young.  I started ski patrolling the winter of 2014-15.  I was working at Shenandoah Bicycle Company in downtown Harrisonburg when I wasn’t working on the snow at Massanutten.

Scott Wootten giving a lesson at Massanutten Bike Park.

When did Massanutten add the bike park?

Massanutten Bike Park opened late July 2016 but Massanutten Resort has been involved in mountain biking since the 90’s.  The resort hosted a UCI World Cup Downhill Race in 1997 and has hosted the Massanutten Yee-Ha downhill race since.  Additionally, the resort has hosted the Massanutten Hoo-Ha Race since 1989.  This race has evolved into a XC, XXC and Enduro on the Western Slope Trails. 

How was the transition from Ski Patrol to Ski & Bike Patrol?

For me, transitioning from snow to bike is awesome.  Mountain Biking is a primary lifestyle activity for me, so I was super stoked to be able to work on the hill year round.  We have many patrollers on staff that are new to riding mountain bikes.  Everyone’s stoked to have the opportunity for year-round patrolling, many folks got to pick up a new sport out of the deal. 

Scott Wooten negotiates a rock garden at Massanutten Bike Park.

How long have you been a mountain biker?

In 1996, back when I was in middle school, I got my first experience on a mountain bike.  I hated it.  We went down this gnarly double track road and all I remember is going over the bars into stinging nettle bushes and holding back tears of fear and pain.  I rode occasionally through high school and ended up getting serious about riding in 2009. 

What are you currently riding, and what does the park offer visitors who want to rent a bike?

My downhill bike is a Trek Session 27.5.  My trail bike is a 27.5 Trek Remedy 9.8.  Massanutten Bike Park has a wide array of rental equipment.  Our downhill bikes are 27.5 Trek Session 8’s.  Our trail bikes are 27.5 Trek Remedy 8’s.  Our kids bike park bikes are Transition Ripcords with 24” wheels.  All bike park bike rentals include full face helmets, elbow and knee/shin pads too.  Additionally, we offer XC bike rentals for our western slope trails; Stache’s, X-Cal’s, and Superfly’s. 

What’s a typical day on patrol look like?

A typical day patrolling at the bike park starts at 6:30 AM for me with a good breakfast; lots of coffee, eggs, pork products, grits or oatmeal, fruit, yogurt.  After a short 30 minute drive up to the resort from Harrisonburg, I am kitted up, bike checked, radio checked, patrol bag readied, and out the door to start opening at 9:00.  Depending on the day I’ll hop in the patrol side-by-side or load on the lift to get to the top of the mountain. 

After a quick stretch and deciding who gets what for opening runs, we’ll start by taking opening runs down all the trails, making sure there are no major issues or obstructions on the trails.  Once we’ve got all the trails open, we’ll take turns riding the trails, hang out in the patrol shack at the top of the mountain, help the lift attendants unload bikes, provide information to folks about the trails and most importantly, we respond to incidents on the hill. 

Sometimes we come across folks while we are riding, but more often than not, we’ll get a report of an incident on a specific trail.  One patroller will ride down to the reported area to respond and communicate the nature of the incident to the patrollers on the hill and we’ll deploy resources as needed.  Generally, the responding patroller will conduct a primary and secondary assessment of the patient, provide first aid and prepare the patient for transport to the Aid Room.  Depending on the incident, we will need to drive our patrol side-by-side to the most convenient location to retrieve the patient and transport them to the aid room for further care and evaluation/monitoring. 

Once the day draws towards closing time, we pull the ropes up across the trails at the top of the park and ride down each trail, making sure there are no more riders out on the trails. 

What’s the biggest difference between Skiers and Bikers?

Not only is there a major difference between snow sports and mountain biking when it comes the most common injuries involved, but there is a huge difference between skiers/snowboarders and mountain bikers.  Most established downhill riders are a rugged breed, similar to skaters or freestyle skiers or snowboarders, they have a high pain tolerance, are willing to take a beating, get back up, knock the dust off, throw some dirt in their scrapes and continue on until their lift ticket runs out.

They are more concerned about the condition of their bike after the crash than they are about the injuries they may have sustained (the body heals, bike repairs are expensive).  We see more cuts, scrapes and bruises and in general deal with more blood during bike season than during the winter.

What frustrates you the most on bike patrol?

The thing that frustrates me the most during bike season and ski season is bad decision making combined with peer pressure.  It’s the worst seeing an eager boyfriend, husband or dad dragging their loved ones down a trail they don’t belong on.  If we spot someone that is being coaxed into going down a trail that is out of their comfort zone, we’ll try to intervene when possible to prevent any negative experiences. 

What do you like most about being on bike patrol?

My favorite part about patrolling (bike and snow) is working outside, riding all day, helping folks.

What do you want to say to people preparing to visit the bike park for the first time?

Take a lesson if you haven’t ridden a bike park before.  It will keep you from learning the hard way.  If you aren’t going to take a lesson, remember: Pre-Ride, Re-Ride, Free-Ride.

Anything else you would like to add?

If you want to have one of the most fun jobs out there, consider patrolling.  It requires an advanced medical certification called Outdoor Emergency Care, but it is well worth the time to learn all the skills you would need to handle a medical emergency in an outdoor setting.

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“The Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains are known for their phenomenal bike offerings that Massanutten’s lift-served Bike Park will allow you to experience – without the climb! Massanutten’s Mountain Bike Park offers an exciting experience for veteran riders while also featuring a beginner-friendly introduction to downhill mountain biking.

Massanutten’s Park features a lower lift that will provide access to Beginner and Intermediate trails for newcomers while also offering advanced jump and singletrack trails accessible from an upper lift that are sure to thrill any enthusiast. Whether you are an aspiring rider or a downhill nut, Massanutten’s Bike Park is the place for you!”