Mountain biking is the new way to explore the White Mountains

Waterville Valley sits much like an island, surrounded on all side by over 700,000 acres of the White Mountain National Forest. Riding from an inn or lodge into the forest is easier than anywhere else in the North Country.  And as a valley, there are all kinds of trails to take on. Getting into the mountains from the valley floor is easy, thanks to a chairlift up Snow’s Mountain.

Nordic ski trails, logging roads, fire roads, and hiking trails wind throughout Waterville Valley to create more than 30 miles of mountain bike trails that read like the Boston MBTA map. Then, with a little help from Tropical Storm Irene, singletrack trails were recently added to that map.

For those not down with the mountain bike lingo, “singletrack” is just that; a trail wide enough for a single bike with a focus on weaving through trees, using natural terrain (stumps, roots, rocks) as obstacles, and creating a much more technical form of riding. At the same time, these trails call upon the rider’s creativity to maneuver around said obstacles.

Surrounding trail systems had made similar plans work in the past, so Furgal and others presented a plan to the National Forest Foundation to build in some new trails on the existing system. Being met not with resistance but rather paper work and hoops to jump through to build on National Forest land, the group determined that it might be best to start building on private land.

The Waterville Valley trail system boasts quality biking for all levels. Waterville Valle has a great middle ground in terms of terrain, but also a foundation from which to grow.

Will Ritchie, Manager at the Adventure Center in Waterville Valley's Town Square, sees that they offer much more than might meet the eye.

“No one trail is ridden the same way twice,” said Ritchie. “Depending on how you take the angle for each turn or how aggressively you want to take the trail or how fast you want to take it, singletrack is great because it’s always different. It allows you the opportunity to challenge yourself.”

These new trails are not currently labeled on the official trail map, but according to Ritchie and Furgal they’re easy to find (just off of Mike’s Dream).  If you’re renting a bike or interested in learning about the trails, the folks at the Adventure Center will gladly point out on a map where they are for you.

If you’re concerned about the quality of the new trails, the way Ritchie sees it, there’s nothing to worry about. Having little in the way of “official” singletrack trails in the area, local bikers, such as those that came together to build these new trails, have had to depend on their own ingenuity to build trails if they wanted anything to ride.

“These trails were built by people who have been doing it informally for quite some time,” Ritchie said. “They’re experienced trail builders. They know what they’re doing.”