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High on the Mountain Top

A biker cruises under Beech Mountain’s lift on his way to the Emerald Outback trail system. Photo: Kristian Jackson

At 5,506 feet in elevation, Beech Mountain is already a popular winter ski destination. Now, the mile-high town is readying itself for an influx of mountain bikers. The town of Beech Mountain has just finished eight miles of cross country singletrack, and the resort recently won the bid to host the U.S. Mountain Bike Gravity National Championships in 2011 and 2012. The championships and new singletrack could turn this sleepy town of 375 into the East’s hottest new mountain bike destination.

The singletrack—called Emerald Outback—is the brainchild of Daniel Scagnelli, the town’s fitness director who felt Beech was missing only one thing: sweet singletrack. Scagnelli, a trail runner, re-discovered an extensive trail system built by locals in the early 1990s and set a volunteer workforce in motion to rehab the trails. The town of Beech Mountain kicked in funds and signed easements with private landowners.

“It’s tight, twisty, and rooty, but there’s nothing too technical and no beastly climbs,” says local biker Andrew Stackhouse.

Emerald Outback is phase one in an expansive 25-mile network of singletrack called the Beech Mountain Adventure Park. Picture three distinct micro parks—the flowing singletrack of Emerald Outback, a park with dirt jump and wooden freestyle features, and a beginner-friendly mini-network of fire roads—all joined by singletrack connectors. The entire park will take three years to build, but the first connector trail, which drops 1,200 feet in elevation, should be completed this summer.

“This system will give the town an identity beyond skiing and allow us to position ourselves as a true four-season resort,” Scagnelli says. “There aren’t many places you can downhill ski, cross country ski, mountain bike, and trail run.”

Hosting the National Gravity Mountain Bike Championships for the next two years certainly gives credence to Scagnelli’s predictions. Part of the bid to host the national championships was the promise to build new downhill, slalom, and short track courses and retrofit the lift system to accommodate bikes. The new downhill park on the resort will connect with the expanding cross country park, and the 2011 National Championships will serve as the grand opening of the new downhill park. The resort plans to run lifts on weekends starting in the summer of 2012.

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