There is a bit of irony in the rise in popularity of downhill mountain biking in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic. The sport is booming right now, in no small part due to the Great Recession that began in 2008. Downhill mountain biking has been popular for a long time, but mostly confined to the Mountain West and Pacific Northwest where hardcore and extreme skiers get their jollies hucking bikes around during the off-season. In this part of the country, the legacy of mountain biking has been mostly endurance and cross country based, with little in the way of downhill trails, courses, or even instruction. But that began to change in a major way during the late 2000s as resorts began to feel the pinch of the economic downturn. Looking for a four season revenue stream, resorts that were only concentrating on skiing during the winter, began to invest in mountain biking infrastructure. They committed to machine groomed, downhill trails, and began spinning the lifts during the summer to get bikers to the top so they could bomb down to the bottom, paying a premium for the privilege. Now the sport is on the rise in the Blue Ridge, with multiple options of where to ride and pros coming out of the region and standing on podiums.
So, which came first, the chicken or the egg? In this case it matters not, for the people have spoken, and downhill is most likely here to stay.
At first glance to the casual observer, or even the amateur cross-country mountain biker, downhill racing appears to be for the certifiably insane with riders hitting speeds up to 30 miles per hour, launching and dropping cliffs and jumps, wearing intense body armor, and riding 30 pound bikes that resemble motorcycles more than bicycles. That being said, it looks like a heck of a lot of fun.
You can get a taste of what downhill mountain biking is all about this weekend at West Virginia’s Snowshoe Mountain Resort during the second leg of the Snowshoe Gravity Series. Whether you just want to check out the riding, ride the race yourself, or post up at the gnarliest spot and watch the carnage, this event will have it all. The Giant Slalom and Downhill race practice will be Saturday, with the Downhill race going off on Sunday beginning at 11:30pm. With cash and gear prizes on the line, you know the riders will be giving it their all so expect spectacular rides and spectacular crashes throughout the day.