Machinery hummed, tools clanked, and shovel-full after shovel-full of dirt was pried from the ground this past weekend at Spirit Mountain as trail builders helped to construct a new mountain bike trail. “It’s huge, it is the spark that will set mountain biking in Duluth apart from the rest of the country,” said Dave Markman, a fifth year student at UMD majoring in outdoor education/recreation.
Markman is part of a team of builders who have been helping to construct the trail over the last two weeks. The trail is designed to be a “flow trail,” which will allow new and beginner riders to easily navigate the course while also allowing more experienced riders to hit features more aggressively.
“This is a gravity based trail with lots of big flowy features like berms and rollers,” said Hansi Johnson, Midwest Regional Director of the International Mountain Bike Association. The trail is being built in hopes that it will help develop riders in a discipline of the sport that is often overlooked in the Midwest.
“The reason it’s beginner is to hit a greater volume of people and then create riders who can ride more advanced trails later on,” said Johnson. “We don’t have a lot of trails that are great at pulling people into the sport.”
When the trail is completed, it will stretch almost two miles down the side of the mountain and will end at the bottom near the new chalet that is currently under construction. The trail features some 40 berms that help riders gain speed to catch air off of jumps throughout the trail. Johnson stressed, however, that the trail is ridable to new and advanced riders alike.
Markman sees the trail as an opportunity not only for the biking community in Duluth but also for the city.
“It’s going to benefit the whole community just because we are going to have riders coming from all over; staying in out hotels, eating at our restaurants, buying souvenirs,” Markman said, “What an awesome opportunity Duluth has right now.”
Spirit Mountain was chosen for the trail because of its terrain, its existing infrastructure, and because it was already park of the master plan at Spirit Mountain to have mountain bike trails. A new high speed quad chair lift is being installed at the mountain that will hopefully someday shuttle riders and their bikes back up the hill.
The new trail is not currently open for the public to ride, although Spirit is hopeful to have it open later this fall.
IMBA Flow School
Along with the construction, the new trail also played host to a trail building school this past weekend with people attending from as far away as New Mexico. The school was put on by the International Mountain Biker Association and focused on different aspects of building the flow trail and its features.
“The idea of a flow trail is relatively new to mountain biking,” Johnson said, “the idea with the school is to educate people on what exactly it is, sustainable ways to build it, and ways to build it that are fun.”
Markman, who was part of the school, stressed that not only did the school focus on how to build a flow trail, but also addressed the issue of sustainability and water management. “We’re not building a trail, we’re building a water management system,” said Markman.
The school was also an opportunity for trail builders to try their hand at mechanized trail building; using a mini-excavator and mini-bucket to help clear and scoop dirt.
Barry Buhr, a local Duluth rider, saw it as a great way to learn new trail building skills.
“I’d love to be one of the people who could operate the mini-excavator … or at least be on a crew that specializes in working around the equipment,” said Buhr.
Buhr also enjoys the crossover appeal of the trail.
“I’v been mostly a cross country rider for a while now so it’s just a good way to compliment it and be an all-around rider,” said Buhr.
“The smile factor is also pretty high.”
BY ERIC LEMKE firstname.lastname@example.org
Video courtesy of Spirit Mountain.