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