Trail guru Peter Mills picks his favorites

One benefit of global warming? Ski areas are doubling down on their mountain bike programs. All across the Southern Appalachians, resorts are investing heavily in their summer-friendly bike offerings, building more downhill trails in hopes of attracting visitors during the warmer months. Nobody knows this as well as Peter Mills, co-owner of Elevated Trail Designs, which has been working on building out Beech Mountain’s master downhill plan for more than three years now. “Basically, we’re trying to match the family appeal of skiing, so a family of five can show up to ride in the summer and everyone can have a great experience,” Mills says. “There’s no better way to develop your skill set than to ride one of these parks where you can session different features over and over, working to refine technique,” Mills says. “Then you can take your new skills into Pisgah or the GW and ride better than you ever have before.”

We asked Mills to detail his favorite gear for riding lift-served bike parks. Here are his picks in his own words.

POC Coron Air Spin $275

If I’m not pedaling uphill, then I’m wearing a full face helmet. This isn’t an area where you should skimp. POC’s helmet is comfortable and pretty well ventilated, and gives you the protection you need when something goes wrong.

Maxxis Minion DHF $80 ea.

If you dropped the money to run I-9 wheels, you need to make sure you have a tire that performs. In my opinion, these are the best downhill tires out there. Incredibly fast, incredible control. They’re really precise. Of course, I run them tubeless.

Kona Operator $3,699

You can ride most parks with a trail bike, but it’s more fun if you’re on a downhill-specific bike. I ride a base model Kona with a couple of key upgrades. This bike is super high-quality, but reasonably priced.

Industry Nine Grade DH Wheels $1,250

The number one upgrade you can make to your bike is the wheels. These are the best around. They’re light and strong, and the DH-specific aluminum spokes create a stiff wheel with superior engagement. And they hold up under all kinds of abuse.

Cane Creek Double Barrel Coil $620

This shock is a must for me and has basically become the standard shock for anyone who rides downhill around here. It’s incredibly adjustable, so you can really dial in the compression and rebound and get the exact ride you want.

More Gear

Patagonia Arbor Grande Pack 28L $129

Patagonia’s new Arbor collection of backpacks uses 100% recycled materials. Each bag is constructed of 8.5 plastic bottles, and its solution dyeing process that saves a half gallon of water per bag and produces 96% less carbon dioxide than conventional dyeing methods. The pack is commuter-friendly and adventure-friendly, with a padded laptop sleeve and ample storage and compartments for longer excursions.

Cordova 100 Cooler $300

High R-value foam gives this cooler a higher insulation rating and better cooling efficiency than most other coolers on the market. It can hold up to 70 pounds of ice and features top-mount lid latches, built-in bottle openers, and maximum-strength aluminum handles.

Cyclops HL210 Headlamp $20

The Cyclops HL210 offers outdoor enthusiasts premium lighting performance at a budget-friendly price. Powered by 3 AAA batteries each, the Cyclops can run up to 16 hours at its low setting and as much as 6 hours on high.

Sage 376-3 Dart Rod $700

This versatile, smooth-casting rod is the perfect tool to land brookies in tight, rhodo-choked Southern Appalachian streams. Equally capable with a dry-dropper as with a small dry fly, this rod is lightweight and extremely precise.