Anyone ridden it this year? Fun? Take the big bike or just AM? I can't find any info other than their site and 2011 YT videos. I know they had a Southridge DH series race there but just looking for a heads up and if its worth the trip. Thanks.
Was there a month ago and had fun. Didn't bring the dh bike and brought my pivot firebird instead which turned out was plenty of bike. We stuck to riding 3 trails pretty much the whole day with a couple having some fun rocky sections. Its not epic by any means but was fun and the potential for it to get better is huge.
I've spent my whole lunch break watching china peak helmet cam videos. Which trails did you ride? Some of the trails look pretty fun, but its hard to tell since all the helmet cams are of beginners crawling down the trails. I think that they could be pretty fast and flowy though.
The trail called "gnarly trail" was the most fun. Off to the right of the lift was "berm trail" that then connected to "private idaho" which was real fun too. "Westridge" was descent along with "martys" trail also. My buddy posted a video on pinkbike of gnarly trail. China Peak's Gnarly Trail Video - Pinkbike
Well we went this weekend and rode for 2 days. The one sentence summary is great place, lots of fun, and LOTS of potential, but they need to take the bike park and trail development more seriously for it to be a real contender.
Alright now the longgggg reivew.
I'll preface this by saying I'm an advanced expert rider. I can ride any feature at any resort, and I usually prefer technical, natural downhill type trails; things like Bullet, Follow me, and Upper Velocity at Mammoth (Which is probably my favorite place to ride). I tend to get very bored on trails like Livewire about 2 minutes in. I hope that gives some perspective on my review.
There are a few good trails there. First of all the trail map is all wrong, don't even bother looking at it. At the top you have 2 options for advanced type trails, Westridge and Bermz.
Top of the lift
Westridge you start with a little traverse over and then it gets into a semi technical natural downhill trail. I would say it is very similar to a lot of the DH trails (illegal ones) at Big Bear. There are lots of natural bermed turns, some high speed sections, lots of small rocks to jump yourself off of, and a couple steep-ish little chutes. The first run down I was blowing out some of the turns, but on your second or third run you can start really laying into the turns, and carrying some serious speed to launch off of all the rocks, it gets REALLY fun. There are SOOO many awesome turns, and all different types, if you enjoy natural, loose DH turns you will love this. It just got more and more fun each run. It sorta reminded me of Fallline at Big Bear, or a slightly less rough/blown out version of gypsy (with less man made features of course).
After Westridge you go down the fireroad a bit until you hit this green run called Bud's Bypass. It's basically a pretty flat trail with lots of turns again, not very interesting, but not too boring.
After Bud's Bypass you traverse a bit to Gnarly. This is probably the best trail on the mountain. It is pretty fast again lots of super fun loose turns, and a few technical rock features. It is a bit faster than the other trails as well. There are tons of line choices through each rock section, and a 4-5 ft rock drop somewhere in the middle, plus tons of rocks to launch off of at high speed. Nothing too crazy, just lots of fun. The first rock section is techy enough to make some expert riders struggle as well. After the last rock roller shown in the pictures it just becomes an annoying traverse section for about 2 minutes back to the lift. There are a few fun little rock sections but you have to focus hard to maintain enough speed to make them fun. The problem though is in those last technical rock sections (first picture) there is basically a flat section, into an uphill rocky entrance, so you really have to focus to carry speed and pick lines carefully to hit the following few sections with enough speed to flow through them. Here are some pictures of good parts of the trail.
Techy rock chute
Steep rock roller
High speed section coming off the bottom of the rock roller. I was able to hit it fast enough and the transition is steep enough to almost bottom my very stiffly set up fork.
The other option at the top is Bermz, it starts right under the lift. As the name implies, it has lots of turns. Tons of them. Again lots of loose techy turns. Evidently this trail turns into "Private Idaho" somewhere, but I didn't see a clear sign, and it seemed just like a continuation of Bermz. Just like Westridge there are tons of REALLY fun techy turns, with big rocks in the middle and options for multiple lines in each turn. It doesn't have quite as interesting straight-line sections or as many high speed rock sections as westridge. It starts to get flat near the bottom as well. It is reminiscent of Follow me at Mammoth, with less steep sections and a little bit slower overall.
After berms you have two choices, both of which eventually feed back into each other for a little while before feeding back into the last good section of Gnarly.
If you go right after Berms you head into what I think is called Canyon, which then turns into Marty's. On Marty's there is an option to take "Shortcut". We did not bother riding that (shortcut), we were told it was pretty lame. Anyways, Canyon/Marty's starts with some more loose techy turns, then gets into a really annoying uphill singletrack traverse where you have to pedal with through some rocky sections. There are some REALLY fun steep rocky chutes on Marty's/Canyon that lead into some great turns, but then there are some really annoying off camber/slightly uphill entrances into what would be otherwise really fun rock garden sections.
If you go left after Berms you hit Primo. This is basically some fun berms cris-crossing down a fireroad type section until you get back into marty's. Again its got some fun turns, but quite a bit flatter than Bermz/westridge/gnarly. Still fun though.
So that's a specific summary of each black/blue trail that we rode. Overall they have some great natural DH runs, with some of the most fun turns I've ridden, and TONS of turns. It's great training for turns. The dirt there is kinda a cross between Big Bear and Mammoth. It's a bit dusty and loose, but has more volume/support/cohesion than Big Bear, but not quite as deep or large grained as the Pumice at Mammoth. It makes for really fun turns, that you have to focus on because traction is low, but once you start leaning into them right you can really rail them. The only problem with trails is that they have lots of really fun sections, but they are often connected by really annoying sections, or long traverses. Which is why I'd recommend bringing an aggressive trail bike instead of a full blown DH bike. My FB-10 setup with a 2.25 shock (~170mm travel) and a 170mm single crown 55 fork and agressive DH geometry was perfect.
They have TONS of potential. Let me reiterate that, TONS TONS TONS of potential. They probably have the best terrain for MTB trails of any mountain I've seen. I LOVE Mammoth and really love the pumice, but I recognize many people do not, this place solves that problem. It also doesn't suffer from the problem that Mammoth does which is lots of un-rideable terrain (for an MTB). There are tons of awesome rock gardens, huge rock rollers, and rock drops all around, everywhere basically. There are tons of steep sections, but tons of flat sections that would make for a great network of blue and green trails that other mountains like Mammoth and Northstar seem to lack. A lot of people talk about making world cup DH course, I have actually seen a world cup race and a world cup course, this mountain, by far, would be the best mountain in CA for a World Cup course that I've seen. No doubt about it.
HOWEVER. It's going to take a much more serious commitment from the resort for them to build a legit bike park. Evan Turpen seems to be more or less running their bike operation. There is no way in hell he has enough time between running the bike shop and maintaining the trails to build any new ones by himself. The mountain has a lot of vert, at 1700ft the runs are long which I love. If they would spend $150-200k one summer and build 2-3 full length Black/double black trails, and then 2-3 blue/green trails, this mountain would be better than Northstar, and on its way to being as good as Mammoth. I think with their terrain they have a much better opportunity to drive the beginner/intermediate market than Mammoth or Northstar. Anyways, that's enough of my amateur business consulting.
The resort overall is nice as well. Well the physical accommodations could use some renovation, but they are probably better than fairly priced. The staff is REALLY great. They were super friendly and very helpful. The food and drinks are much more reasonably priced than other resorts. The cost of a room is cheaper too, especially when you factor in that you get 2 free lift tickets/day with each room at the resort. Plus the lift tickets are only $30/day anyways, so overall quite a bit cheaper than Mammoth or Northstar. The town is much smaller than Truckee or Mammoth lakes. There's only like 1 or 2 restaurants and bars outside of the resort, but they have a pretty fun townie/redneck vibe to them. The lake is basically right next to the resort. We didn't have time to check it out, but between that and Shaver Lake nearby, I'd imagine it'd be a fun general family type vacation place.
So to summarize, fun place, some good trails, and great atmosphere and VERY well priced. The trails need development for it to be a serious contender, but I'd recommend people to check it out at least once, especially beginner/intermediate riders. I also think that riding their one or two days would be a great way to break up the drive from Socal to Northstar if you had the time. It's only a little bit closer than Mammoth to me, so with their current trails I only see myself going once a year just to mix it up.
EditL Sorry is this isn't well written, I just wrote what came to mind . After 45 minutes I'm too lazy to spend any time editing.
Thanks Gem! Awesome write up! I passed on it this weekend and did Mt. Pinos laps. Looks like I need to check it out. I just saw some photos from a friend that said the car camping was cool with awesome swimming holes in the Dinky Creek area just outside Shaver. Thanks again.