Steamboat Springs If Carl Howelsen were a mountain biker, what kind of rider would he be? Remember, this is the man who moved to Steamboat Springs in 1913 and started building ski jumps.
Mountain biking has evolved to include many disciplines, and just as we did with skiing, Steamboat continues to expand to accommodate all types of riding.
Cory Prager is part of a growing community leading us into the next generation of mountain biking. Prager coaches the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s Gravity Team and helped build the pump track in Ski Time Square. Since I have been a bit confused by the new terminology, I called Cory to get up to speed.
Riley Polumbus: What is freeriding?
Cory Prager: Freeriding was generated from when people started using manmade obstacles and the natural terrain to jump off things and make biking more challenging for them.
Polumbus: What is downhilling?
Prager: Downhill racing is when one person races the clock on courses that vary from big motocross-style double jumps to rocky technical terrain to really steep terrain. It’s all a point A to point B, fastest time down the mountain.
Polumbus: So, it’s kind of like downhill skiing?
Prager: Yes, and actually these riders are sprinting every chance they get, it’s incredibly demanding on cardio and also strength.
Polumbus: What is slopestyle?
Prager: Slopestyle is when you start at the top of a course and negotiate a series of stunts and you are judged on style.
Polumbus: When you use the term “gravity,” what does that mean?
Prager: The generalized gravity term is based on what ski areas have been doing with their bike parks. It’s gravity riding because bikers are using the lifts. Gravity events are downhill, mountain cross, dual slalom and super downhill, or “Super D.”
Polumbus: What is a bike park?
Prager: A bike park is very similar to a terrain park. Ski mountains are using pieces of their land in the summer to build mountain bike trails that range from beginner to expert. Whistler was one of the original mountains to establish not only downhill biking runs but evolved into a bike park because it’s a terrain park for bikes.
Polumbus: What is a pump track?
Prager: A pump track is a series of berms and rollers that allow you to keep up and maintain momentum through turns. Your biking skills become better because you become more confident in turning and learning how to absorb the terrain. It’s an incredible workout.
Polumbus: So not only is a pump track fun to do and a good workout, but it’s also teaching you skills.
Prager: Yes, all those really fundamental bike-handling skills. That’s why the pump track is so cool. When I go to Ski Time Square, I see 5-year-olds to 65-year-olds enjoying it because it’s all focused on those fundamental skills of cornering and learning how to handle your bike through different terrain.
Polumbus: With all these different styles, are there different bikes?
Prager: Generally pump track bikes are completely rigid hardtail bikes with a higher top tube and a compact geometry so you can wheelie over things while keeping the bike underneath you. Slopestyle bike park bikes can range from 4 to 7 inches of travel in the front suspension. Downhill bikes are the ones with the bigger, longer suspension — anywhere from 7 to 10 inches of travel — and meant to take a lot of abuse.
Polumbus: I thought mountain biking was just mountain biking, but then look at skiing. Skiing started off as a form of transportation and evolved into a sport. When Carl Howelsen came here, he taught us how to jump. If Carl Howelsen were a mountain biker, what type would he be?
Prager: He’d probably be a freerider. The one thing I have to say is it’s not just one person doing this. We couldn’t do this without the people behind it supporting the sport and making all this happen.