The nonprofit organization known as the Fellowship of the Wheel (FOTW) completed a beginner trail in early May at the Catamount Family Center in Williston, Vermont. The new trail—part of the 20-plus mile Catamount network and FOTW’s 100-plus mile trail web—connects several existing sections of flowy, obstacle-free trail with new singletrack. And it’s free to ride.
“There is no better place for a beginner trail than Catamount,” says Steve Fischer, FOTW’s president. “It’s minutes from Burlington, Vermont. And it has all the amenities—parking, food, water, and restrooms.”
The novice circuit is the latest link in a chain of firsts for the Catamount Family Center, which got its start offering legal mountain biking in the 1990s, back when much of Vermont was still off limits to riding, Catamount, a family-owned trail center, built a bike-specific network of track on its 500 acres and hosted weekly races. In 1994, Catamount began a mountain biking summer camp for kids. Today, more than 5,000 riders have gone through the camps, including Cannondale racer Alex Grant and Specialized athlete Lea Davison.
But as the Vermont mountain biking community grew, so did the availability of free trails to ride. One local—Hinesburg resident Hans Jenny—personally built more than 80 miles of trail in Chittenden County alone. The FOTW gained evermore clout. Fewer people were willing to pay to ride.
Catamount’s motivation for the new beginner trail is to introduce new riders to the sport and remind mountain bikers that the center has great trails, a family-friendly scene, an awesome race series, and, of course, mountain biking camps for kids. It comes at a great time as the FOTW recently lost access to beginner trails close to Burlington as a result of landowner disputes. As bikers at Catamount progress in skill level, a day pass or season pass gives them access to advanced trails like Rooty, Rocky Bear Run, Pop’s Trail, or the climb to Indian Lookout.
Eric Bowker, Catamount Family Center’s executive director, calls the new trail a leap of faith. “It’s outside our model,” he says. “But we think it’s a great opportunity to remind people of all that we can offer mountain bikers here: A broad range of trails, from carriage roads to technical single track; mountain bike, cyclocross and run races; a pump track, dirt jumps, and camps.” —Berne Broudy