Last weekend, for the third year in a row, I made my way over to Stowe early on a Saturday morning. Not an easy task for those of us who don’t deal well with the transition out of sleep. With temperatures (again) well below zero, Überwintern was going to live up to its name. I spent a good portion of the car ride over second guessing my choice of clothing for the day; it’s not always easy to get the layers right.
Things were all ready under way when I pulled in to the parking lot at Sushi Yoshi around 8. Most of the vendor tents were set up around the front of the restaurant and people were milling about. I proceeded to deal with registration and then check out the collection of demo bikes available. After a few minutes of that activity, I was looking for a fire to warm up with. It was definitely cold, no doubt about it; but, thankfully, not quite in the same league as last year. I gabbed with several people but ended up going back in the car to run the heater and warm up my feet for a while.
The first real activity of the day was the Uberscramble race. The race began with a Le Mans start at the trailhead for the Cady Hills trails. The race consisted of a loop around the town trails with about 700 feet of climbing. It was somewhere in the vicinity of four to five miles. That my not sound like much, but with the ice, climbing and narrow passing opportunities, it would still be a challenging race. The fastest riders came in one side or the other of thirty minutes. Normally, I would have joined in myself, but I failed to bring a change of clothes so I wouldn’t be soaking wet from sweat for the remainder of the day. Well, that and I was feeling exceptionally lazy that morning. Besides, I’m retired from racing. Okay, maybe next year.
Once the race was winding down, I headed back to help with the group rides. With some last minute personnel changes thanks to Matt’s injuries, I was paired with Brooke Scatchard to help with the intermediate group. Fortunately, Brooke knows his way around these trails a little better than I do. I would have gotten the entire group lost if it were up to me. I know just enough to be dangerous. So, I ended up functioning as the sweep for the ride. This had the advantage of being able to pick my line through some of the icy patches after getting to see first hand what doesn’t work. I had fun and our ride was made up of a pretty agreeable group. Of course, how many mountain bikers do you meet that aren’t fun to ride with?
As I mentioned already, one of the challenges of the day was the ice. So far, this winter has been a bit more fickle than average. Not that winter in Vermont is ever predictable, but we’ve had more than our fair share of rain followed by cold temperatures. The rain reduced much of the snow to about a six inch base with a bit less than that in the stands of evergreen trees. This made for some riding that was best done with a good set of studs. Not to be discouraged, the MTBVT folks, Stowe MTB club and probably some others got out on the trials prior to the event with snowshoes, shovels and who knows what else to do some grooming. On top of that, Ryan also managed to find enough sand to cover up nearly every significant section of ice on the town loops. Seriously impressive work went into making things rideable. All this work made for some good riding in spite of the conditions. I even managed to stay upright through the entire day and I was riding 4″ tires without studs.
My only complaint for the day was that in helping out with the group rides, I missed out on Ron’s Excellent Adventure. Ron Murray took folks out on a longer ride that covered quite a bit more terrain. I was able to go with him last year and it was a blast.
We led our group back toward the trailhead as the ride neared its end. We stopped back up at the green chair where there was a good fire already burning. I hung out there for a while to warm up and talk with a few people I missed earlier in the day. Once I had partially thawed out, it was time to head back to get something to eat.
I checked out some more demo bikes before heading inside to get some food. Lunch was served by Sushi Yoshi. Hot food, indoors, after a morning out riding on the snow?? It was awesome! Hot soup, rice, chicken, veggies and noodles never tasted so good. I hope Überwintern returns here next year, just for the lunch.
With a stomach full of warm food, I lost all motivation to do any more serious riding. I ended the day by taking out some demo bikes for a spin. There were quite a few vendor tents set up and most of the major fat bike manufacturers rides were there for a test. The local shops did a great job on this end. There were somewhere over 200 riders who braved the real winter temperatures and “firm” conditions to take part in the day. That’s more than twice as many as last year’s turnout and shows the level of enthusiasm that people have for winter riding.