Mountain bikes have seen ebbs and flows in their popularity since they rolled into the heart of the American recreational mainstream in the 1980s. The same can be said for New England ski resorts, which were quick to initially adopt fat-tire bikes as they branched out into four-season enterprises.
I remember my first chairlift ride at Sunday River in Maine in the early 1990s, with my sweet steel black and neon pink Trek 970 Singletrack hanging off the back. At the time, the lift technology was far superior to trail design or the suspension systems on our bikes. In fact, in those early days, the “suspension” was pretty much non-existent. But the allure of the potential riding that ski resorts offered was impossible to ignore.
Over the next decade, I rode and raced at a number of Northeast resorts, including Sugarloaf in Maine; Temple Mountain, Waterville Valley and Loon in New Hampshire; Nashoba Valley and Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts; and Ascutney, Killington and Mount Snow in Vermont. The highlight was my bachelor party in 1994, which my brother Sean planned to coincide with a World Cup event at Mount Snow. My buddies and I got to cheer on the early heroes of the sport, including Ned Overend, Johnny Tomac, Tinker Juarez, Myles Rockwell, Missy Giove, Juli Furtado, Canada’s Alison Sydor and Italy’s glamorous Paola Pezzo.
Things have changed dramatically during the ensuing quarter century (though, fortunately, I’m still married). Mountain bike design and suspension systems have undergone a quantum evolution, allowing fat-tire fans to tackle even the most daunting terrain. But along the way, ski resort owners found that their infatuation with knobby tires waned. Perhaps it was the cost of operating the lifts or maintaining the trails, without the corresponding (or predictable) number of riders to make the financials work.