It is all DOWNHILL at Winter Park

Mountain Biking at Winter Park... a lesson in permissiveness

three years ago this little family of mine went out to Colorado for a summer vacation at Grand Lake

there were days of short hikes that involved a good deal of piggy back rides for our then 2 and a half Grant
on that trip we mixed things up with a trip to Winter Park so that me the daddio could do some mountain biking
on that little adventure we discovered that the family activities at the base of the mountain were so fun for the kids that we would have to make this trip to Winter Park again this time three years later
BONUS! Dad gets to mountain bike virtually guilt free as the kids ride the longest alpine slide in Colorado, play putt putt, trampoline jump with bungee cord attachments, climbing wall, and maybe a little more

three years ago I made the mistake of approaching the Winter Park without any prior research
at the town at the base of the mountain I went around looking for a rental
it was frustrating... every shop tried to rent me a bike that would be out classed by the C&O Canal which sent us a few miles back to Fraser where I found a bike well suited for the task
only to find that at the base of the mountain there is a bicycle pro-shop with a fleet of full suspension cross country bikes and long travel downhill bikes
so this year I approached with no prior research... knowing that I could get my bike and lift ticket at the base of the mountain... thus saving time
also knowing booking 24 Hours in advance would save us some money... 20%...

the family woke and ate a healthy breakfast of eggs and cinnamon swirl toast before making the hour dri
ve from Grand Lake to Winter Park
we did not wake and depart with the energy and excitement of a crew of fireman responding to a call
we rolled out of bed and suited up in the classic vacation style
we did this and managed getting to the mountain before 10 am.... which would allow for a good amount of time for alpine activities before the predictable late afternoon mountain storms

I split from the family at the ticket window
the boys were jazzed having an strong memory of the highlights of the Alpine activities from three yea
rs prior
while I was ampted about getting on the bike

at the Trestle Bike Shop at the base of the mountain I met up with Adam who I had spoken to the day prior on the phone
Adam had an infectious enthusiasm that built upon my already existing heavily caffeinated excitement
I signed some waivers and suited up while Adam set the shock to my weight and put my clipless TIME pe
dals that match my well worn needing to be replaced shoes
there was an offer for downhill pads that I denied as I was already comfortable in my DCMTB kit and standard XC helmet... trying to hide my lycra-ness with some cycling knickers

twenty yards away from the Trestle Bike Shop and I was loading my bike on the Zephyr Chair and headed to the top of the mountain

the majority of the chairs were vacant
my timing was such that I got on the chair at the same time as a person who had picked up a downhill bike at the same time I got my xc bike

we went through some of the basic chair lift conversation
where ya from? oh... you live here? how long? where do you work? ski or snowboard? etc.... etc..
. etc...

I had taken notice of this rider when he picked up his bike
cyclists often access other cyclist

when I saw his large over six foot frame I wondered about his ability and skill level

he was a little bulky... not entirely overweight... but under his baggy t-shirt he almost had man boobs
not looking exceptionally athletic...

on the chair with his helmet by his side I noticed that his hair may have been colored and he had several piercings
I made no judgment of this as I have both ears pieced and had multiple piercing and dyed hair in my teens

there had been some talk of riding style and experience and then some recommendations of trails

we looked at the map together then we rolled in the direction of two different trails
he dropped into
Shy Ann while I pointed my way up hill towards Icarus and ended up turning the bike down the Long Trail
thinking I would hit the
Icarus trail on my next approach

nothing short of being pumped I took the Long Trail because I wanted to be pointed down rather than pedaling up
I approached things with a bit of caution as I tried to get accustom to the unfamiliar bicycle on unfamilia
r terrain
terrain far different than the type of terrain I am used to riding back east

the full suspension cross country bike I was riding was a twenty inch frame with 26 inch wheels
I dwarfed this Kona bike with its short stem... short top tube... and diminutive wheels
after picking up the bike from the shop before getting on the chair I had returned to the shop and had the mechanic slide the saddle back so that I could get a little more space in the cockpit


as I hammered down I heard an assortment of noises
the chain slapped wildly and all sorts of thing rattled around

I tried to ride the bank turns at speed and avoided any and all opportunities for air
not far into the ride I started to feel my seat starting to loosen
slowly and steadily the lose seat started to rock up and down...

each time from the out of the saddle position back into the saddle I could feel the seat getting more and m
ore loose

then it happened
the seat fell off the bike
without tools I was screwed... I stopped the bike and collected the pieces

with the seat was tucked underneath my jersey on my back and the seat post was pushed all the wa
y down in an effort to avoid any chance of injury
without looking at the trail map I tried to find the most immediate route down

my spidey senses failed me
when I opted to leave the Long Trail Blue trail for the Lower Arapaho Black Trail I unknowingly ex
tended my route down a good deal
pushing myself further from the base of the hill rather than closer

once back at the bike shop at the base of the mountain I was worked
riding without a saddle can be a strenuous experience
my arms were worked and so were my quads... worked more than they should have been from such a s
hort ride
in the shop I avoided my East Coast Impulses and got a replacement saddle
I teased the mechanic for throwing me under the bus
loudly I repeated that he had screwed me
I was aggravated but tried to be fun about it
I did nothing to try and get reimbursed for their error... I just wanted to get back on the bike

without much time lost in the shop I was back on the chair and soon enough back on the bike pointed d
own the hill
taking an different set of trails down the mountain
by chance I caught up to the same rider I had shared the chair with on my first ride up

I said hello and asked where he was headed and if I could follow

it was good to chase someone more familiar with trails
early on I saw his approach to the trails was similar to mine
he rode the rollers without trying to launch airs
he took the banks fast and confident

this rider showed that the rollers designed for air could be rolled rather than launched
he lead for sections then I lead for sections
my fitness and speed was greater than his

I was on a lighter cross country bike while he was on the lead sled downhill bike

I may have been riding bikes longer than he has

at the base I looked at the time it was not yet time to meet the family for lunch

I scanned the various family activities at the base of the hill looking for my family
no sign of anyone... they may have been on the Alpine slide which may be a half hour round trip
I decided that I could ride the chair one last time and take the fastest route down and be back in time to
meet the family for lunch
so... I rode the chair with this tall young man with his alternative appearance one more time

we loaded our bikes and then got on the chair

on the chair ride up the mountain we resumed our conversation
having already gone through the basic line of questioning I decided to go a little bit past the surface
feeling comfortable I made a foolishly awkward effort to get an answer to a question that popped into my head
I asked... can I ask a personal question? (who the f_ck am I to ask this question?)

maybe it was the thin air.... maybe it was the lack of oxygen from the exertion of the rides down the hill

what was I thinking? if I were wrong I would surely be tossed from the chair

but no... I was not wrong... I was slightly off... he was not transgender... he is transitioning... so I was on target

the question brought a bit of a smile to his face... he was shocked I even knew the term
we spoke... he spoke openly... his story was interesting

at 28 years of age he was going through his second effort to "transition"
I asked if he was taking estrogen injections.... he told me that they were pills

in our second short ride up the mountain on the chair we built upon our previous conversation
I knew his age and that he was from Oklahoma
I learned more about him and his outlook on life than I had ever expected to learn

Chris may have been his name... now he goes by Christa
Christa had simple explanations to questions he may have been asked before

Christa had a story that had some sad aspects... but seemed to have the potential of a happy ending



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