(Kate and Erik, amazed and addicted after a long day of downhilling)
Wake up, shave the legs, don the spandex bib shorts, stuff the packets of
Hammer Gel into the jersey pockets, click into the pedals and prepare for
hours of suffering. As any ski pro will tell you, this is the daily summer
ritual that we all undertake in order to prepare our bodies for the
upcoming ski season. We spend countless hours in the saddle, climbing
hills which, in our minds, are as steep and daunting as those of the
European Grand Tours. In fact, we have even nicknamed one climb back-home Alpine d’Huez due to the series of seemingly endless switchbacks which leave one gulping for air upon reaching the summit.
But on a recent house hunting trip to Snowmass, any mystical thoughts of
scaling the three giants of the Alps…Telegraphe, Galibier and Alpe
d’Huez…were quickly replaced by the ABC’s of…wait for it…downhill mountain biking. That’s right! I was told to grow the leg stubble, leave the
spandex at home and get ready for the mountain adventure of a lifetime.
What I wasn’t told was that I would quickly become addicted like a junkie
to his next fix.
While I have skied every inch of Snowmass during the winter, I have never
experienced her in all of her summer glory. So, as with any new adventure,
I thought it best to start out with downhill mountain biking 101 (which I
highly recommend for all of you who journey out to Snowmass). And, lucky
for me I knew exactly who to call to help me get my mountain biking fix
on…Kate and Kurt….Aspen’s adventure sports duo!
Now, I know Kate as a take no prisoner’s winter shredder so I knew that I
had to show up with my A game. I also needed to conceal my unyielding fear so I started the morning off with Eminem blaring throughout the condo and some trash talking text messages with Kate iPhone to iPhone. Still not
sure who won the war of the texts…
(Kurt and Amy, victorious after a long day hovering over the saddle)
The morning started out great with “Honey Badger” Kurt teaching my wife Amy and me the ABC’s of biking (Action Stance, Braking and Cornering). Being a road biker, I was a quick study at the first two…cornering, however, turned out to be a bit of a challenge. What I learned later on in the day was
that cornering is made much easier through the use of berm turns.
After an hour of “Base Village” practice, it was time to progress up the
Gondola to the beginner area. I couldn’t help but let my mind wander back
to my beginner ski students for whom this “journey” is often terrorizing.
I mean, really, you expect me to get off the gondola on a sloped hill and
actually ride back down? Time to man up!
As I got on the bike at the top of the beginner run I kept thinking to
myself “one turn at a time”. And, with Kurt leading the way, my wife
behind him and Kate on my rear wheel (I repaid the favor later in the day),
we all began a “fast walking pace” down the beginner single track. The
whole time I just kept thinking about my ABC’s and drawing upon all of the
similarities between this gnarly sport and skiing…and believe me there are
many. By the time we reached the end of our first run I was smiling from
cheek to cheek, adreneline pumping, ready to start doing laps.
Now, most of you don’t know me but I am known in my circles as “Mr. All or
Nothing”. What started out as a fun adventure in the morning had soon
transformed itself into a go big or go home mentality. After all, I didn’t
come out to Snowmass just to glide down some beginner single track. I
mean, I wanted to see what this boy could do. After all, I had skied the
Hanging Valley Wall years back when I had no business being up there…why not push my limits again. And for those of you who know Kate, she was all too happy to indulge me in this desire.
While Kurt had to run off to another lesson and Amy had decided to break
for lunch, I gave Kate the “game on” nod. It was at this moment that I
swallowed hard and remembered…wait a minute you fool, you are in Aspen. These people go bigger and harder before 9am than most of us do in a week. As the Gondola doors shut I realized there was no turning back now…
Elk Camp soon arrived on the horizon and with it a nervous ache in the pit
of my stomach. Quickly, we exited the Gondola, unloaded the bikes, and
began our adventure. With Kate in the lead, I dug deep within myself to
stand confidently on the pedals, tip the bike back and forth beneath me all
while hanging on her back wheel like the Schlecks brother in the Tour de
France. Wow was this fun!!
(Amy, ready to roll)
Once at the bottom we decided to stop for the day, or so I thought, and
have lunch. Somewhere in between the how did you guys meet game and
discussions on making perfect turns in pow, Kate looked at me and said “You up for another one?” Knowing that I was 24 hours away from returning to my last eight weeks in NYC I said
“Let’s do it”.
Now, in all fairness, at this point I should disclose that prior to my
trip, I had texted Kate and said “I will not leave Snowmass unless I get
air on the bike”. Again, for those of you who know Kate, not only is she
fearless she is also someone who likes to test limits. Mine were certainly
about to get tested.
As we passed by Kurt, he had moved on to another “never ever”, Kate
mentioned that it was time for me to earn my stripes on Gravity Logic, a
black diamond single-track complete with table-top jumps and step downs. Kurt gave the blessing, and, after a quick lesson in the CPR method for hitting jumps, (compression, pressure, release) and Kate mentioning that I could simply roll the jumps rather than airing them, (roll is not in my vocabulary) we navigated our way down to the start of Gravity Logic from
the rocky, hellish landscape of the Government Trail.
The next 15 minutes went by in a blur of jumps, drops and perfectly
executed berm turns with both of us whooping it up like it was a powder
day. At the end of the trail, we looked at each other, high fived and
laughed about how I had become hooked on the sport of downhill mountain
biking. Which got me to thinking…with our upcoming move to Snowmass only eight weeks away and the desire for a job in the summer of 2012 a
necessity, I think I may have found my calling.
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