Thursday, June 4, 2009

Winterberg rocks!

John "Jesus" Holme and I just got back from Winterberg, Germany; we took a short break (3 nights) to check out what the bike park had to offer...

Things started off high-tech at Stanstead Airport with biometric passport control and a buck-rogers style monorail connection to the airside terminal

Before things seemed to go low-tech with our Air-Berlin flight, which turned out to be a little Bombardier Dash turbo-prop; having never flown on a propellor plane before it was quite "interesting" but somehow more reassuring to see that huge propellor turning as we headed over the English Channel towards Rotterdam

The flight was a brief 1h20m which makes a very welcome change to the long-haul to Vancouver I've done on 3 previous visits to Whistler / Vancouver - we left Stanstead in the morning and were actually riding by the early afternoon which was quite weird!

Germany was very clean, modern and efficient, we noticed wind turbines everywhere as we flew into Paderborn (PAD) airport, and solar panels covering lots of houses and buildings

After a 1 hour taxi ride to Winterberg (at the eye watering price of 120 euros!) we checked into the "Hotel Schneider" which was only 1km from the bike park, and let us use their garage to store our bikes

We got a little lost riding up to the bike park, but soon found it and got our lift passes (about 20 euros for the afternoon) and were surprised by the large number of riders, then we realised it was a public holiday that Monday

We started with the Continental trail area which had an odd "t-bar" drag lift that was quite hard to stick under my Mythic Rampant's super-slammed saddle so I ended up clinging onto the bar and getting dragged up the hill

The Continental area had a wicked north shore section combined into a super sweet 4X style track with loads of berms and jumps going down the hill, a huge amount of work had been done and the track could be ridden all day to find the perfect lines

After sessioning the Continental area to warm up, we headed up top to the main bike park which has a seperate chairlift, and we checked out all the trails including the awesome North Shore, part of which is shown above

One surprising thing about the trails at Winterberg is how big the stunts are, and how high the North Shore trails are, with no safety netting (like you get at Whistler on Clown Shoes) - you ride strictly at your own risk, and if you get hurt, its your own stupid fault, which is quite refreshing!

After sessioning the North Shore, we headed down the 4X track into the Slopestyle course, which again had a theme of VERY big stunts, all open to the public, apart from 1 insane drop where you needed to go and get a key; the Slopestyle park actually blows Whistler's Boneyard out the water - it has way more to ride, some wicked timber stunts, dirt jumps, wallride, satelite dish, many different drops, flowy tabletops, banked corners and even a concrete bowl!!

All of this was open to the public for riding, and it was very groomed / dialled; being a permanently established venue it doesn't suffer the upheavel that the Boneyard has to undergo every year for the Crankworx Slopestyle event which means the Boneyard always seems like a big mess

I took my Mythic Rampant and John took his Wildcard - the Rampant was a stellar performer and did not flinch despite being thrown off some very big stunts and ridden stupidly quick down the super fast trails - the Rampant with the Pikes on 100mm was the perfect bike for the insanely quick "Freecross" trail which consists of 180 degree switchback after switchback with tabletops and "s" bend chutes thrown in for good measure - it makes A-Line seem slow in comparison!

Above: North Shore section

Above: Slopestyle entry choices

Above: John checks out a stunt in the slopestyle park

Above: Freecross trail section

Above: Scary slidedown ladder in the Funride area

Above: Drop decks in the Funride Area

Above: John hits up the big road gap in the Funride Area

Above: First time I have ridden a 100mm bike on something this big, no problem!

Above: John riding the wobbly bridge

Above: Rob C wallride

Above: Rob C hip air on expert line in Slopestyle Park

We've got way too many photos and video clips to post, including helmet cam footage of the North Shore, Downhill track (awesome!!) and Funride, and we also met up with NSMB regular Ed Von Schleck and his brother, who did some filming and we sessioned the park with Ed's brother, as Ed was recovering from a seperated shoulder - Ed is going to be posting some video and photos soon on the internet

Ed helped us with info and transport arrangements to Whistler, huge thanks to Ed and his bro!

Overall, our short stay at Winterberg was awesome, Its a great bike park with some very big stunts and great trails to ride, its all efficiently run, affordable for a short break and very easy to get to, especially for UK riders or European riders

I'd recommend a short stay of 3-4 days to get the most from the park without it getting stale, as it doesn't have the breadth and depth of the many trails at Whistler (a much bigger mountain) but what Winterberg does have is very very good quality trails and a chance to push your personal boundaries higher than is possible at Whistler - the DH track was simply excellent, one of the best I have ridden (very rocky, rooty, rough and tech) and would keep any aspiring DH racer very busy learning the lines

John went to France last season and said they also have insanely big stunts on the trails and slopestyle area, probably due to the lack of liability culture in Europe? If you are going for a longer stay there is plenty of non-biking stuff to do, so you could easily do a full week and have more time in the bike park with a rest day mid week to recover, as we both felt quite sore and battered from riding constantly for 2.5 days

More info here:

Not losing a day to travel is a huge bonus, and Winterberg itself is a quiet, chilled out town with a great selection of hotels, restaurants and shops, but perhaps a little thin on energy drinks for you addicts amongst us! We did find some weird drinks called "Mad Bat" and "Magic Man" but that's another story....


Rob C


Keith Scott said...

Looks awesome! I'm just sad that I wasn't able to head out there with you guys, would have been a lot of fun.

Oh well, next year!

Jay MacNeil said...

wow great post.. love it. I have to ride there someday!!!

Robert "Goulet" Dunnet said...

awesome post, maybe we should do a banshee holiday there next year ...

Sneeck said...

Hi Rob,

It's a shame I lost track of you on monday, wouldve loved to ride with you(I also got a helmet cam with me that day) It was like you vanished till the end of the day when you where riding the beginner track.

I was the guy that said hi next to the rental house where you get your lift passes. We rocked 2 amp's and 1 kona ds but you really should bring an amp next time, it is too much fun!!

I hope we'll meet up again soon, cheers!


ps. is it me or does John look like Jay lol

Spaced said...

It's a very nice park considering how small the mountain is but you have to remember not to bring your big bike as I on my dh bike I was pretty limited with riding the dh track and some of the drops. Freedrive was fun but it would have been much more fun on a smaller bike and it was very hard to use the continental area or the smaller stunts on the ss area. Wildard is definately a perfect bike for it.

BTW. I'm quite suprised you say that the stunts are big there compared to some whistler stuff. Besides the road gap and some medium sized drops (not counting the closed one the highest is like ~3-4m?) it's nothing really gnarly considering they are build so it's pretty easy to land.

NoStyle said...

Nice report. Hope you had a great time there and please post up some video-shootage!

According to the bigness of the stunts: I think it depends on your riding-level. Some Trails can be to big for the nonadvanced rider. The good thing about Winterberg is the fact that the Trails get refreshed and serviced frequently, so you find most of them in good condition.
The other thing is that Diddie Schneider is a very experienced Trailbuilder, the landings are build very smooth, so everything can be ridden even if you are at beginners-level. It´s up to you how fast or how high you want to go.


Moritz said...

It was great to meet you and shoot some pictures and video footage of you, although I obviously would've preferred to ride instead of hiking around. ;-)
Just let me know when you head over next time and we'll meet up again. Same goes for everyone interested in riding there, just shoot me a PM @ NSMB.

As far as the size of the stunts goes... I don't think there's that much of a difference between Whistler and Winterberg. On the one hand there are some pretty huge stunts in the Boneyard area but I think it's more the steep, gnarly stuff that makes Whistler dangerous. On the other hand there are several big stunts in Winterberg but overall the trails aren't as gnarly.

@ NoStyle: I definitely agree with you - it's great to see them put so much effort in keeping the trails in shape. It would be nice to see some more natural trails but the machine-built trails are very well maintained for sure.

Btw. I don't think Diddie Schneider is responsible for most of the trails over there now, actually a guy called Sponi has been the main trail builder over there - he's done an amazing job!

Moritz aka Ed von Schleck

Norbert said...

NoStyle I agree 100% trails are in great condition (not like Leogang :P) and the landings are super smooth. I did all on a 9'' bike but I've seen guys doing all the bigest jumps on dj hardtails. They are crazy though ;)

The only thing that annoyed me a bit is that sometimes there is some kind of gravel on the freedrive and if you go to fast you was away and crash at full speed ;)

NoStyle said...

@ Moritz

Yes, Sponi is probably the man when it comes to building, but as far as I know Diddie makes all the conceptions which Trail to build where, if I am right ...

Very good point with the natural Trails!!! This is the only thing I would miss a bit there. Some more "real" Freeride/Downhill-Trails would make Winterberg even more versatile!


rob c said...

I've ridden Whistler on 3 seperate years, and would say without a doubt that Whistler is somewhat limited by liability issues that affect North America

if you look at the Boneyard, the bigger stunts are closed or removed after the Crankworx festival, to stop the general public from riding them, I have been there a week after Crankworx and wanted to session these stunts but been denied

The most "severe" trail in terms of falling exposure is Clownshoes in Whistler, which has safety netting on every section that goes above a certain height (probably about 1.5m), this was lacking in Winterberg and this lack of netting or crash bags creates an immediate fear response that was lacking at Whistler

the final drop on Clownshoes is actually not very big (6 foot vertical?), certainly much smaller than the Funride drops in Winterberg

I would also say that the Winterberg DH track is MUCH more technical and rougher with potential for serious injury than the Whistler DH

I do love Whistler for its classic trails like A-Line, Schleyer and Dirt Merchant, and the natural terrain of the Garbanzo expansion but it has its limits in terms of risk

I got bored of riding Whistler after 5 days, despite the big difference in size to Winterberg, after 2.5 days in Winterberg I was just starting to warm up to the bigger stunts and there were a few stunts on the trails and slopestyle park that I did not have time to session

when I first went with MBUK to Whistler in 2004, we went out to dinner with Rob McSkimming (park director) and we talked alot about liability and risk, he said they work out what they want to build, and then "make it as safe as possible"...they get alot of people riding there and they don't need the grief of serious accidents, which do happen even with their smart design efforts

We have stuff in Esher Shore (a tiny bike park in terms of size, only 3.5 acres but a massive 4 km of trails) that they would not build at Whistler due to "risk" (i.e. coming up short on a gap) but we saw more of this kind of risky stunt, at a bigger scale than Esher Shore, in Winterberg

I'm an experienced rider (25+ yrs of BMX and 20+ yrs of MTB) and have no issues hitting very large stunts and drops, and was pleasantly surprised by the size of the stunts at Winterberg - I felt I was being challenged which was very cool

I don't think the size of bike was an issue, but the risk exposure of these stunts, John was riding his Wildcard and also felt this exposure, it doesn't matter how big your bike is, if you crash, you get hurt!

I would however recommend a mid travel bike with adjustable fork so that you can enjoy the awesome pleasures of the slopestyle area and go very quick on the Freecross trail and 4X where a DH bike would feel cumbersome!

for advanced riders, a short travel bike with adjustable fork is the best choice ;)

Norbert said...

Rob hass something changed in winterberg for 09? I was there in 08 and besides the last section that is always wet and gets quite steep (like last 25% of the trail) the first part somehow is far from being very techy and not safe. It has some rockgardens but they are rideable at any level imho.
I'm also a little bummed about whistler as from what my friends who ride in winterberg quite often say it is quite amazing. I've plan to go there once I stop spending all my money on bikes and get a decent job instead of sth for a slacker student and it kinda sucks what you say ;)

BTW. If you want to see not caring about liabiliy than go to some east central europe dh tracks. Czechs, Slovaks and Poles have some pretty crazy stunts on the dh tracks. It's not often the sheer size but the angles of the stuff. Still it gets sometimes dangerous ;)

Norbert said...

Btw. I also agree about the natural part but I think the mountain limits them quite much and to make a nice track they have to work much harder than in most euro spots.

Sneeck said...

Dont forget that Winterberg is only a few years old!! They started in 2004 I believe and to be this big so fast is simply amazing. The continental track with the tow lift on the right was build last year, allthough after 4 runs it gets really boring, they still want to expand. If it wasn't for that darned bobsled track right in the middle they could've build allot more. Or mayb they should open that thing up to us bikers so we could shred down that thing, awesome!

Anyway, like Norbert said, i'm quite shocked with your view on Whistler. It's my goal in life to go there when i'm still young but you make it sound like you'll get bored very quickly?! I hope that's not true lol.

rob c said...

maybe my comments about Whistler have come out wrong - its still the prime destination for MTB riding if you love freeride and downhill

but for slopestyle its perhaps not the best?

Whistler has classic trails that you won't find anywhere else like A-Line, Dirt Merchant and the sublime Schleyer (my favourite), plus Joyride and Clownshoes, and wicked smaller trails like Crank It Up and Heart of Darkness, hell even B-Line is great fun!!

I'd strongly recommend a trip to Whistler to any rider, but I preferred some of the north shore themed trails in Winterberg to Whistler's, and the Winterberg SS park is way better than Whistler's Boneyard

its all good...visit both parks ;)

Norbert said...

Sucks for the Boneyard. The whole I can sue you frenzy that happens across the pond is really crazy. Around here I know of 16-18year old dj guys who built insane stuff and jump it with ease and I wonder how it would be for them in different legal conditions.

Still if money allows whistler will be my destination. Yet I'm still happy I live in yurp. I only hope to move west a bit ;)