August 30th, 2021
Dialing it in
I am a good skier. I might not be the most comfortable on the K-chutes, but I can send it off the ridge any day. Plus, I was a liftie here at Taos, so I know this mountain pretty well - especially the backside.
Biking, however, is a different story. I’m fairly certain that the last time I was even on a bike was 7 years ago with my family on Isle Au Haut in Acadia National Park in Maine which is a remote island that is only accessible by a ferry (meaning there's no turning back once you’re there). My sister had legitimately forgotten how to ride a bike, and it was 14 miles of rugged riding on this island. Needless to say, it wasn't the greatest day of family-fun time in my life. At least it had a flat grade the entire way, so it wasn't scary. Long story, short, my experience on a bike is minimal.
It's very difficult to accurately communicate our offerings (which is literally my job title) when I’ve never experienced them myself. So, cut to, me, all suited up, on a mountain bike for the first time ever with my boss.
Luckily, I got hooked up with a lesson from the amazing Taos Bike Park Manager, Jake. The experience began in the bike shop at Kachina Basin being equipped with knee pads, elbow pads, body armor, and a full-face helmet. While the gear may look super intense and extreme, it’s about your personal comfort level with safety. It’s the same as skiing with a helmet. While you can do these activities without the gear, I choose to wear them to make me feel more confident. Jackson, in the shop, walked me through all the parts of the bike before letting me even get on which is standard for all rentals (brakes, gear shift, how to adjust the seat, etc.).
Jake then took us to the parking lot to get comfortable on the bike. We learned the proper stance, braking without sending yourself over the handlebars, and the “brake, look, lean” method of turning. After a few laps in the lot, it was time to hit the track. Just like skiing, even though it may be intimidating, the only way to get better is simply to go for it.
Taos’ signature trail, the Green Chile Flow Trail, is technically a green (if you’ve ever skied here, you get what I’m saying). Just like the first time you graduate from Pioneer and hit Whitefeather, it's scary. And, due to how mountains work, the steepest part of the trail, no matter how much you traverse, is at the top, so you’re thrown to the wolves a bit. There may have been a few choice words coming out of my mouth through those first turns. Luckily, you have 3.5 miles to practice! I did take one good spill on a turn early on, but I got up and slowly got better with every turn I made thanks to the added instruction and encouragement from Jake. For a biking newbie, it’s a long ride. My legs were on fire by the last 1/3 of the trail. Luckily, the bottom is absolutely beautiful, so you’re too distracted by your surroundings to focus on the leg burn. Don’t get me wrong, the views from the top are breathtaking – I was just too focused on trying not to fall over to really look out. But, by the time we made it down by lift 7, I was more confident and could relax and look around me. “Scenic” might be under-selling how beautiful it is.
So, for the big question: is the Green Chile Flow Trail suitable for first-time mountain bikers? Yes, but with caveats. Is it appropriate for beginners? 100% yes. If you have ever been mountain biking in some capacity, you can totally make it down Green Chile and have a great time. Much like Taos in the winter, the terrain may be challenging but it’s achievable for all skill levels. But for being a first-timer specifically, I don’t know if I would have been nearly as successful as I was without the help of Jake. While Taos currently does not offer mountain biking lessons, it’s on the docket for the future. If you’ve never been on a mountain bike but want to check it out this season, make sure you go out with a friend who knows what they are doing to help you. Even if your friend isn’t a great teacher, someone else there helps you not get as frustrated and can remind you that you can do this.
Would I do it again? Totally! It was challenging, exciting, and felt really good to have accomplished something brand new! You’ll definitely see me up there at least a few more times before the end of the season. I hope to see you too.