My legs are burning and I’m out of breath. All I can think about is hopping off my bike and resting in the wet leaves that line this uphill single-track trail. “Stand up! Push through it!” shouts Rick Sokoloff, my 58-year-old guide, pedalling past me as though we were on level ground.
I’d met Sokoloff earlier on this sunny but cool October morning, at the outdoor centre of the Trapp Family Lodge, in Stowe, Vermont. I was expecting a short guided tour and a brief chat before heading off on my own. But before I knew it, Sokoloff, the founding president of the Stowe Mountain Biking Club, was leading me along a five-kilometre trail with a 244-metre elevation.
The route we’re on is part of a network of more than 60 kilometres of private single- and double-track trails that snake across the resort’s property. The single-track trails are notable because they’ve been built with sustainability in mind; each is designed to shed water that would otherwise pool and erode the trail. “Returning home covered in mud shows that you had an impact on the terrain,” says Sam von Trapp, president of the Trapp Family Lodge. “And it’s not great for the moving parts on your bike either.”
After a brief rest at the top of the trail, Sokoloff announces it’s time to head back. With a firm grip on my handlebars I barrel down the hill, forearms vibrating from the rough terrain. Sticks snap under my tires. The wind fills my jacket and lungs. We veer off a wide path and onto a narrow trail. I jolt over rocks and exposed roots and weave my way around trees and sharp turns.
By the time we exit the trails at the on-site Trapp Lager Brewery — where I inhale an open-faced turkey sandwich smothered with gravy, topped with cranberries and washed down with a crisp pint of Golden Helles lager — I’ve all but forgotten about that tiring uphill portion, and realize it was well worth the effort.