A few members of the Dieselbikes crew
along with other local New England riders took a road trip to Highland
Mountain in Northfield, NH. About a 90-minute drive from Boston,
Highland Mountain is the newest downhill/freeride park in New England that
exclusively caters to mountain bikes. That’s right…JUST mountain
Highland Mountain Bike Park (HBMP) was
formally known as The Highland Ski Area before closing in 1995.
Highland has a long-standing history in Northfield NH, opening sometime in
the later 1930's. In a 1939 winter issue of, "The Skier’s Guide to New
England", Highland Mountain was listed as a hike up ski down area with 0.75
miles of trail at 15-degree slope and a vertical drop of 500 feet. A
humble beginning to what currently exists now.
Throughout the 1940's to mid 1960's
Highland Ski Area attendance fluctuated up and down to the point the
facility may have closed for a period of time due to financial losses.
In the mid-1960's the mountain was under new management and reopened with
access to the summit, mid mountain T-bar and rope tow. Highland Ski
Area grew slowly through the 1970's; expanding their trail system from 5 to
10 trails. In the mid 1980s to early 1990s, Highland expanded a great
deal more by removing the summit T-bar and replacing it with a Borvig Triple
Chair Lift and further expanding their trail system from 10 to 22 trails.
In addition, the mountain also offered a Ski School with a number of
instructors and had snowmaking capacity for up to 60-acers.
In its hay-day, Highland Ski Area
offered food, lodging, night skiing and a half pipe. They held racing
events, family fun snow events and ski clinics across their 20+ trail
system. In the end, a broken snow making machine and a run of
consecutively bad (no snow) winters in the early 1990's placed Highland
under heavy financial burden forcing it to close in 1995. It remained
closed until 2003 where it has been transformed into a mountain bike park
with a define goal to change the downhill mountain biking scene here in New
Now in its third year, HMBP is on
track to become a premier destination for mountain biking. HMBP offers
food & drink, bike rentals, equipment rentals and a bike shop to help with
those unexpected (or last minute) bike repairs. All this located
conveniently in their base lodge where you can sit, relax and watch some
mountain bike videos and/or other patrons riding the mountain.
HMBP currently offers 5 distinct
trails, each with there own unique terrain. Fancy Feast is the easiest
of the five trails and perfect for beginners and/or that first warm up run.
Labeled as a green (beginner) trail, Fancy Feast is a flowy trail packed
with rolling dips and small kickers. Most of the sweeping turns have
berms built-up to keep you in the groove without loosing much speed and the
average decent or grade of the trail is not steep (less then 15%; just a
guess), so pedaling may be required in certain sections.
Eastern Hemlock is our next suggest
trail to ride after you get warmed up on Fancy Feast. Labeled as a
blue trail (intermediate) Eastern Hemlock an excellent trail for riders of
all levels to get the feeling of a bumpy, rocky and rooty New England trail.
This trail contains a number of technical rock garden, berms and wooden
bridges. Eastern Hemlock does not have a large number of technical
stunts, but is a great "well defined" intermediate trail (our opinion) for
beginners to step-up their riding game. This trail is a little steeper then
Fancy Feast but the average decent or grade may be similar. Eastern
Hemlock does have a number of quick elevation changes (all down) and the
width of the trail can become tight through those twist and turns.
Maiden Voyage is our next pick to get
the blood going. Similar to Eastern Hemlock as far as terrain, Maiden
Voyage is packed with technical stunts, skinny log rides and technical
jumps. You can float down this trail transitioning from technical
terrain to wooden TTF's with ease. All of the wooden TTF's have "B"
lines to provide the rider with an option to bypass the stunts. This
trail is marked as a black diamond (expert), so beginners or riders who do
not partake in jumping stunts should take caution. Again, the terrain
is similar to Eastern Hemlock, but the added TTF's (in our opinion) makes
Maiden Voyage more difficult to navigate for beginners.
Threshold is a trail that exhibits a
balance of technical terrain, high speed turns and wooden stunts. This trail
crosses a number of old ski runs giving you the opportunity to ride
flat-out. From the large boulder step-up, to the "REEF" drop,
Threshold in one word is FUN! This trail is labeled as a black diamond
(expert) and has somewhat a unique flow to it. You will find some
technical sections similar to Maiden or Hemlock, but Threshold really allows
you to challenge your self by adding speed to your decent.
NE Style or "New England Style" is a
trail in a class of its own. Large ladder drops, tabletops and a sweet
wooden wall ride makes this trail one of a kind. Fast, flowy and
smooth, NE Style is all about body and bike control. You can easily
spend a third of your time riding this trail in the "air". Jump after
jump after jump, NE Style will either make you feel like a hero or a zero.
HMBP is an up and coming facility that
is continuously adjusting and expanding their trail network. Just this
past year they have added a dirt jump area and pump track to provide more
riding options then just bombing down the mountain. Plans are in the
works to further expand riding options with the possible addition of a dual
slalom course and XC trails. The owners of HMBP plan on making this
location a premier riding destination for New England.
If you have not been to Highland, get
off your butt and get up there. We are certain you will enjoy the facility
and friendly atmosphere riding with fellow mountain bikers. HMBP is
owned and built by mountain biker for mountain bikers and is currently the
ONLY downhill mountain bike park in the United States (maybe the world) that
caterers mountain bikes.