“Whoa!” I heard the skidding of bike wheels on dirt and saw four riders come to abrupt halts on the trail above me, just before a sharp switchback that my daughter and two other riders had decided to walk.
It was the first ride at Snowmass Bike Park for three of us — my 9-year-old daughter, her friend, and that girl’s mom. With me as the leader, our group had decided — perhaps unwisely — to try French Press, a freeride bike trail considered intermediate but that attracts a lot of really good, and fast, local riders. Although we’d been leading up that ride for weeks, practicing downhill skills like cornering and even jumping on other area trails, I thought in that moment that maybe these 9-year-olds were in over their heads.
Nodody else did. Nearly two hours later when we finally made it to the bottom of the 4.5-mile trail, the girls were bright-eyed and exhilarated, proud of what they’d accomplished and downhill bike converts through and through. The other riders we encountered — or rather, who passed us — were polite and encouraging (even the four mentioned above who had to make rather abrupt stops), giving us ample time to pull over to a safe place and often shouting confidence-boosting messages to the girls as they rode by. That not only assuaged my motherly guilt about putting my child in a risky scenario, but also proved to me that the Snowmass Bike Park can be a really fun and relatively safe place to ride — as long as everyone’s following safety protocols.