NORTHFIELD, N.H. (AP) – Skiers are taking to the slopes of many New Hampshire mountains this week, but when the snow melts mountain bikes will take over at a Northfield mountain.

Highland Mountain Bike Park has new trails that are 2-to-3 feet wide made out of clay. Mark Hayes, the mountain’s owner, has been building jumps, bridges and sloped turns on the former ski mountain to attract outdoor enthusiasts. His customers take a lift to the top to start their ride down.

The goal is to build trails with fluidity between different features.

He says other ski mountains, including Killington in Vermont, are building bike trails to expand their seasons.

Hayes is gambling that mountain biking alone will be enough. Highland’s last ski season was 12 years ago. Last year, he sold 4,000 day passes and is expecting twice as many visitors this summer.

“We are totally designed for bikes,” said Hayes.

Every second chair on the lift has been replaced by a bike rack. Attendants will be at the top to help unload.

“Visualize this,” said Hayes. “You start off on the top, you go down a little bit of a pitch and you pick up some speed. Your first option is a natural wall ride. In this case, it’s a big pitch of rock that’s slanted inwards that helps you take that left hand turn.”

Hayes said beginners will go over some roots and rocks to bounce them around and get the feel.

“You are going down a roller coaster, but you’re in control of the car,” he said.

Hayes said he hopes to attract more beginners who mistakenly believe the trails are only for experienced riders. More advanced riders have steeper drops, he said.

Hayes has asked the town for access across its land to another parcel he owns and hopes to use for more beginner trails. Town Manager Glenn Smith said the town is willing to work with him if taxpayers benefit from the project.



Information from: Concord Monitor, http://www.cmonitor.com

AP-ES-02-25-08 1040EST


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