Downhill At Sunrise- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Downhill At Sunrise

    I just got back from an all day epic at the Sunrise Ski Area in the White Mountains. Five of us went up from the Tucson/Oro Valley area, and it took us about 4 hours driving time from Oro Valley.

    We had our bikes and body armor sorted out in time to purchase our (all day for $15) lift tickets by the 10AM opening time.

    It was a perfectly clear, warm day, and the area was beautiful with the aspen trees decked out in new light green leaves.

    I would have to say that the entire experience exceeded my expectations. The riding was totally downhill, not a significant moment of climbing. The trails that were open for riding were challenging and more than 50% of most runs was single-track, much of it more technically difficult that the trails I have ridden on Pinal Mountain.

    I would guess there were about 60 MTB riders there today, most on heavy duty free-ride rigs, and some on true downhill machines. Most everybody was equipped with full armor and full coverage helmets, and I was a little surprised there were that many riders in the area that were that serious about downhill riding.

    We probably did about nine runs down the mountain in the six hours the lift was open. That was enough for me, as I was exhausted and fairly beat up by the end of the day.

    All in our group agreed that it was a unique opportunity for Arizona, well worth the effort, and I personally hope to repeat the trip a number of times this summer.
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  2. #2
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    Fun does not adequatley describe the riding today.

  3. #3
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    How would you rate the terrain for XC riders?

    Quote Originally Posted by papajohn
    The trails that were open for riding were challenging and more than 50% of most runs was single-track, much of it more technically difficult that the trails I have ridden on Pinal Mountain.
    Pinal Peak pushes my envelope, but I love it. I'm neither speed freak nor tech junkie. So, is there plenty of less technical singletrack for someone who wants a break from the harder stuff, or who doesn't want to get run over by a 50 lb bike from behind?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by pedalAZ
    Pinal Peak pushes my envelope, but I love it. I'm neither speed freak nor tech junkie. So, is there plenty of less technical singletrack for someone who wants a break from the harder stuff, or who doesn't want to get run over by a 50 lb bike from behind?
    No one is going to run you over. The were 77 mountain bikers on the mountain on Sunday and I didn't have to pass anyone not in my group all day. The groups of riders are spread out enough so that you rarely pass others the singletrack...there are even hikers wandering through the woods.

    As far as the technicality...if you can ride Pinal Peak you could probably ride every inch of Sunrise. It is not overally technical...yet technically challenging enough to be fun ALL DAY LONG! There are some really fun, LONG, easy swithbacky trails that are awesome to cruise...they would probably be better on a hardtail or short travel ful squisher. Hope this helps alittle and that you venture up for a weekend this summer. It's really nice gettin out of the valley into the White Mountains.

  5. #5
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    I guess you'll inevitably get varying answers to your question...

    Quote Originally Posted by pedalAZ
    Pinal Peak pushes my envelope, but I love it. I'm neither speed freak nor tech junkie. So, is there plenty of less technical singletrack for someone who wants a break from the harder stuff, or who doesn't want to get run over by a 50 lb bike from behind?
    First, I totally agree with Monk about not getting tangled up with other riders. It's a big mountain and only on a couple of runs did I ever encounter another group, and they weren't riding the same stuff I was on at the time. There are a few dozen, not a few thousand riders on the mountain.

    Second, I disagree with Monk about the technical difficulty of the trails at Sunrise. I have only ridden Six Shooter Canyon and Squaw Springs at Pinal Mountain and though I did take a few spills there, I thought they were essentially totally rideable.

    At Sunrise there were some trails with technical sections that were way harder than those Globe trails, and some twisty sections through the trees where my handlebars had about 1 inch of clearance on each side. Frankly I took some hellacious falls yesterday, cliping a tree or going off a good sized drop in the dark shadows of the forest section where I didn't see the trail well enough.

    My son was on a 4" travel XC bike and the first run we made pretty much recked him for the day, and he is a skilled rider, but he just didn't find the trails through the woods very fun given the difficulty and risk of a few of the spots.

    It IS quite possible to find trails or switchback roads down the top part, leading to single-track on the lower part that make for an easier, more enjoyable XC type experience. But to say that all of Sunrise is rideable if you could ride the Globe trails just doesn't match with my personal experience.

    But then, I'm a very old fart, and a pretty shi**y rider, so I wouldn't necessarily put any weight on anything I say.
    Body Armor--Don't Leave Home Without It!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by papajohn
    Second, I disagree with Monk about the technical difficulty of the trails at Sunrise. I have only ridden Six Shooter Canyon and Squaw Springs at Pinal Mountain and though I did take a few spills there, I thought they were essentially totally rideable.
    Actually, I think that IceHouse and Telephone/Telegraph (or whatever that trail is called) on Pinal are quite a bit tougher than Six Shooter or Squaw Springs...so it kind of depends on which trails you are comparing.

  7. #7
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    I guess that's my point

    Quote Originally Posted by Gnarlene
    Actually, I think that IceHouse and Telephone/Telegraph (or whatever that trail is called) on Pinal are quite a bit tougher than Six Shooter or Squaw Springs...so it kind of depends on which trails you are comparing.
    Everybody has their own take on the issue of what's hard and what ain't.

    I'm just trying to position myself from where PedalAZ is coming from.
    My son is a strong and skilled XC rider, who had ridden La Milagrosa (one of Mt. Lemmonís difficult downhill trails) two days earlier in Tucson and handled it well, if not quickly. However, he didn't find much fun in riding what the other four of us spent the day on at Sunrise.

    One of the other riders with us is one of the most skilled and fearless XC riders you will find, but he started on a XC bike and found the going at Sunrise pretty difficult in several spots. When he switched to an Ellsworth Id that was really built out for the trail, he had a blast.

    I am a strong, reasonably skilled XC rider, who has only ventured into heavier free-ride kind of downhill riding in the last four months, so I am a bona fide newbie at Sunrise kind of riding. I found Sunrise easier than La Milagrosa, harder than Six Shooter and Squaw Springs Canyon, and much harder than National on SoMo.

    At Sunrise, if I hadnít been wearing the full compliment of armor I would be spending today in the dentistís chair. That was just my experience as a mostly XC rider who was on the right equipment (Intense UZZI SLX) for the mountain, and still found it more than I could handle on several spots.

    Maybe Ironbar will pitch in here, he has ridden the other trails much more than I have, and he was at Sunrise yesterday, spending some quality time on his a$$.

    In the end none of us really know whether the riding is ďfor usĒ until we show up and give it a try.

    John W.
    Body Armor--Don't Leave Home Without It!

  8. #8
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    Much harder than National!

    Quote Originally Posted by papajohn
    much harder than National on SoMo.
    I get seriously puckered on National. Won't even consider riding the Waterfall, and walk a good chunk of the last part of National's eastbound descent before the bottom. Big, combination steps, especially with turns thrown in, get me every time. So, if much of Sunrise has these characteristics, in the dark shady recesses of the woods, where they sneak up on you, I can see where it's not everyone's cup of tea. I should go check it out for myself, but it sounds like your bike: INTENSE!

  9. #9
    Jm.
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    opinions are like...you know what..

    IMO Six Shooter was the hardest (and most fun) trail on the mountain. Ice House was only difficult at the very top, and it wasn't dangerous as it was all soft-dirt to fall into. Six-Shooter had a lot of little rock gardens on the way down, and some that were actually pretty interesting. It's easy for it all to "blur" into one big ride in your mind, but there was some stuff on 6 shooter that was pretty cool, especially about halfway-to just past halfway down. None of it was impossible on a little 5" bike, but there were a lot of little tech sections.

    Squaw Springs was smooth, fast and fun.

    Ice House was real steep at the top, but that's where all of the "difficulty" came from IMO.

    National vrs six shooter is a hard comparission. I don't consider national to be very difficult because most of the "tech" sections are very short and it's just like "sail off of this rock and then land on the trail below". The obstacles are bigger than 6 shooter, but national is a lot shorter as well. It's hard to say which is "harder", but except for the waterfall, there aren't too many sustained tech sections on national, it's more about sailing off a rock, doing a drop, etc, not really about weaving through a rock garden and using a ton of body english to get up and over something. My point of view is usually comparing national to Holbert, Kiwanis, Geronimo, and Mormon to 24th street, and I consider those 3 to be significantly more difficult than national.
    I know in my heart that Ellsworth bikes are more durable by as much as double. AND they are all lighter...Tony Ellsworth

  10. #10
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    Hard to say which is tougher IMO. But I know that there really is only one way to find out and that is to drop the $15 on a lift ticket and ride. I found that on each of the trails we took their were a couple sections which would be harry on an xc bike but at each of those sections there were roll/walk arounds. I thought sunrise was just loads of fun, and I'm certainly not the most skilled rider out there. FWIW there were plenty of kids on the Mt yesterday riding hardtails, (some of the youngsters got mad skills)

    oh yeah and don't pay any attention to Papajohn he's just being modest. I've never riden with anyone more skilled than he. To be able to fall so hard and so often, yet escape serious injury takes more skill than I can comprehend.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironbar
    oh yeah and don't pay any attention to Papajohn he's just being modest. I've never riden with anyone more skilled than he. To be able to fall so hard and so often, yet escape serious injury takes more skill than I can comprehend.
    Is this what is meant by being "damned with faint praise"?

    For me the biggest difference between the technical parts of the Sunrise trails, and the Pinal Mountain trails (that I rode), has to do with light and visibility. I found the wooded areas at Sunrise to be very dark, and the trees thick enough and pressed in around the trail so that it was very difficult to see ahead and anticipate the next maneuver.

    Even the upper forest areas at Globe seemed in my memory to be more open and visible. By contrast, on National and La Milagrosa for example, you can see forever.
    Body Armor--Don't Leave Home Without It!

  12. #12
    Jm.
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    Quote Originally Posted by papajohn
    Is this what is meant by being "damned with faint praise"?

    For me the biggest difference between the technical parts of the Sunrise trails, and the Pinal Mountain trails (that I rode), has to do with light and visibility. I found the wooded areas at Sunrise to be very dark, and the trees thick enough and pressed in around the trail so that it was very difficult to see ahead and anticipate the next maneuver.

    Even the upper forest areas at Globe seemed in my memory to be more open and visible. By contrast, on National and La Milagrosa for example, you can see forever.
    Ahaha....you have no idea how many times the DHers piled up on Six Shooter cause they didn't anticipate turns...lol One second I'd be hauling on pine needles following-the-leader and in my mind I thought "you know, we are riding on pine needles, and at this speed no one is going to stop", and yes, they piled up several times. It got to be pretty funny IMO. My problem wasn't going off the trail, just stopping with 6" hayes, which are "just barely enough" in some situations. Some of the others had trouble keeping on the trail though (one guy went off a cliff and miraculously survived a 20-30 foot plunge almost straight down).

    I agree though, it's pretty "open" as far as the forest is concerned in the Pinals. It's been a while since I've been back to California, but I know the forest can get a LOT more dense than it is up here. In most places I've been in Az the forest is just not very dense.

    Damn I wish sunrise was closer....
    I know in my heart that Ellsworth bikes are more durable by as much as double. AND they are all lighter...Tony Ellsworth

  13. #13
    Jm.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ironbar
    Hard to say which is tougher IMO. But I know that there really is only one way to find out and that is to drop the $15 on a lift ticket and ride. I found that on each of the trails we took their were a couple sections which would be harry on an xc bike but at each of those sections there were roll/walk arounds. I thought sunrise was just loads of fun, and I'm certainly not the most skilled rider out there. FWIW there were plenty of kids on the Mt yesterday riding hardtails, (some of the youngsters got mad skills)

    oh yeah and don't pay any attention to Papajohn he's just being modest. I've never riden with anyone more skilled than he. To be able to fall so hard and so often, yet escape serious injury takes more skill than I can comprehend.
    Are we on for Flag next weekend?
    I know in my heart that Ellsworth bikes are more durable by as much as double. AND they are all lighter...Tony Ellsworth

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jm.
    Are we on for Flag next weekend?
    You got mail brother.

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    Sunrise is really steep in sections. Some sections are Super Scary steep even on a downhill bike (ie poop chute and yard sale) but those trails are hard to find and off the beatin path. Overall I think the trails are just really enjoyable.

    One of the things I think that makes Sunrise less intimidating once you get a little used to the steeps, speed and darkness...is how soft the ground is! It feels nice to fall in soft pine needles and loose dirt...alot better than granite and cactus. So I guess that makes it more fun to try and go big and fast cause the consequences aren't what I am used to here in the valley.

  16. #16
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    If I recall correctly from a few skiing mishaps,

    Quote Originally Posted by monk
    It feels nice to fall in soft pine needles and loose dirt...alot better than granite and cactus.
    Pine trees aren't too forgiving. I separated a shoulder once while skiing under the lift line once, falling forward into a tree. Knocked me out, too. When came around and looked up, everyone as far as I could see up the lift had their necks turned around like in The Exorcist, trying to see if I was dead.

  17. #17
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    I'm having trouble seeing through the tears...

    Quote Originally Posted by pedalAZ
    Pine trees aren't too forgiving. I separated a shoulder once while skiing under the lift line once, falling forward into a tree. Knocked me out, too. When came around and looked up, everyone as far as I could see up the lift had their necks turned around like in The Exorcist, trying to see if I was dead.
    I'm sorry, but I am laughing soo hard! I remember from my years of skiing how much I hated to stack right under the loaded chair-lift.

    Monday at Sunrise one of my worst yard sales was out in the wide open under the lift. I got so torqued on the pedals when the bike landed (I was clipped in on some Shimanos that are combo pedals, clips and a platform) that my right shoe had a blow out and the sole split from the toe to the arch.

    When I got back on to ride, the inner aspect of the front of the shoe hit the crank so I couldn't clip in and when I looked down to see what was the problem, the shoe was as wide as it was long.

    Oh yes, there were witnesses dangling above me in the chairs.

    John W.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by pedalAZ
    Pine trees aren't too forgiving. I separated a shoulder once while skiing under the lift line once, falling forward into a tree. Knocked me out, too. When came around and looked up, everyone as far as I could see up the lift had their necks turned around like in The Exorcist, trying to see if I was dead.
    ROTFLMAO!

    Dude, you've got serious shoulder...issues. I think they've popped in and out of place so many times that they'll just flop out at the slightest prompting. And I know you're good about cross-training and strengthening up there. Sucks to be you(r shoulders)!

    p.
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    Quote Originally Posted by pedalAZ
    Pine trees aren't too forgiving.
    nope...the trees themselves are not...you are right about that. But the ground is quite forgiving if you happen to hit that before the tree...

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by monk
    nope...the trees themselves are not...you are right about that. But the ground is quite forgiving if you happen to hit that before the tree...
    I remember taking a serious-ish tumble on a trail called Ranger Creek up in WA. Beautiful trail, not terribly difficult but some wicked-steep switchbacks with lots of exposure. I wasn't so good at riding out switchbacks back then (still not so great but I'll try to ride out anything that doesn't involve steps mid-switch). Took the tumble, and ended up in what felt like a pile of pillows -- rotten wood and pine needles made the crash completely benign. Gave me a lot of courage to try some dumb stuff that I'd never, ever attempt in the desert.

    p.
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  21. #21
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    Yep....

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul B
    I remember taking a serious-ish tumble on a trail called Ranger Creek up in WA. Beautiful trail, not terribly difficult but some wicked-steep switchbacks with lots of exposure. I wasn't so good at riding out switchbacks back then (still not so great but I'll try to ride out anything that doesn't involve steps mid-switch). Took the tumble, and ended up in what felt like a pile of pillows -- rotten wood and pine needles made the crash completely benign. Gave me a lot of courage to try some dumb stuff that I'd never, ever attempt in the desert.

    p.

    I remember falling in Canmore once, and getting up. "OMG, that didn't hurt! Yipee!!" It sure is nice to fall without spilling blood....or needing the comb and tweezers....

    Then again, I fell on Javelina last weekend. Easy trail, I know, I know....not riding much in a year can completely destroy any notion of confidence or skill. And now my knee is an icky scabbed-up mess. Drat! No sundresses for me...and right when it turns to 110 degrees outside.....

  22. #22
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    Try it you'll like it!

    Quote Originally Posted by pedalAZ
    Pinal Peak pushes my envelope, but I love it. I'm neither speed freak nor tech junkie. So, is there plenty of less technical singletrack for someone who wants a break from the harder stuff, or who doesn't want to get run over by a 50 lb bike from behind?
    Scott, you should really just give it a go. A nice drive, a 15 dollar lift ticket, and a day in the cool pines. How bad can it get? There are some challenges, but you can always dab, or walk. Go up push your envelope and have a good time.
    I just took my friend Dan up there on Monday for his first lift assisted ride. He loved it and we both felt as though our skill sets had increased. If you could ride down the national 6-9 times in one day you would improve your tech descending skills and by the end of the day you would be taking it to school. That is what sunrise is like.
    Like Monk said you wont get run over, and everyone up there is cool and working on improving.
    Once again, try it you'll like it.
    John
    P.S. tell the front console in your suburban that I am hurt he never called!
    ...and I used my strength to rip my blouse...

  23. #23
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    Sounds good - map of runs?

    Quote Originally Posted by Evil Con-fecal
    Scott, you should really just give it a go. A nice drive, a 15 dollar lift ticket, and a day in the cool pines. How bad can it get? There are some challenges, but you can always dab, or walk. Go up push your envelope and have a good time.
    I just took my friend Dan up there on Monday for his first lift assisted ride. He loved it and we both felt as though our skill sets had increased. If you could ride down the national 6-9 times in one day you would improve your tech descending skills and by the end of the day you would be taking it to school. That is what sunrise is like.
    Like Monk said you wont get run over, and everyone up there is cool and working on improving.
    Sounds really cool. I'm an "agressive" xc'er - just built my first FR bike this week. My only concern would be wondering onto more difficult terrain accidently. Is there a map or something there to guide the weary?

  24. #24
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    No maps last weekend

    Quote Originally Posted by Rollin'in'Zona
    Sounds really cool. I'm an "agressive" xc'er - just built my first FR bike this week. My only concern would be wondering onto more difficult terrain accidently. Is there a map or something there to guide the weary?
    At least none you could carry with you. It wasn't hard to find the trails that were intended for riding. The ones that aren't intended to be ridden would take a better knowledge of the hill.

    Maybe they are working on maps.

    John W.
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