THE TRAIL BLAZERS
It’s hard to credit any one person with the trail networks that have spiderwebbed across the state. Take John Worth, the owner of East Burke Sports. He and a few others started secretly cutting trails in the late 1980s and early 1990s on the land around Darling Hill in East Burke. One of his goals was to sell more bikes in the summer to keep his ski shop open year-round.
“I remember coming home to Vermont one year after having moved out west to climb and suddenly there were all these bike trails,” another NEK native, Lilias Ide recalled recently. Lil introduced her brother Knight Ide, 27 at the time, to mountain biking. Knight began to pitch in, helping to create banked turns on Kitchel, named for Doug Kitchel, a local businessman and former owner of Burke Mountain who helped gather support for trail building among local landowners—the start of Kingdom Trails.
Some 30 years later, Lil Ide serves as the communications director for Kingdom Trails. Knight Ide, also an artist in stone masonry and owner of a construction company, has gone on to become a professional trail builder whose work is in demand across the country. In addition to the work he’s done on Kingdom Trails and his backyard jump park, Knight has worked on trails in Waterbury at Little River State Park, Victory, East Haven and as far away as Knoxville, TN. Just as importantly, he’s helped coach a new generation of riders in the East Burke and beyond. “I want to make mountain biking part of the average Vermonter’s life, like soccer or basketball, a sport offered in school,” he told Bike Magazine in 2016.
While Knight Ide was building up in the Northeast Kingdom, Hardy Avery was organically cutting trails near his family home and nursery in Cady’s Falls, near Morrisville. Avery, who had worked in Stowe’s mountain bike shop, IRide, dropped out of high school and helped found the Stowe Mountain Bike Club. As the trail manager, he helped build or develop more than 50 miles of trails in the area, working on Cady Hill and the Trapp Family Lodge trails. Avery formed his company Sustainable Trail Works and has also helped build out the Blueberry Lake network in Warren, and the Oak Ridge and Chandler Ridge trails in the Moosamaloo National Recreation Area, near Middlebury. He and partner Caitrin Maloney recently bought a farmhouse in Poultney and have helped build out much of the Slate Valley Trails network.
Though Avery and Ide have their own trail building businesses, they have also collaborated with Sinuousity, a trail building company run by Brooke Scatchard and Mariah Keagy. With a degree in geology from University of Vermont and an impressive resume as a mountain bike racer, Scatchard first volunteered to build trails at the Fellowship of the Wheel system. In 2013, Mariah Keagy, the former trails supervisor for the Appalachian Mountain Club with an M.S. in environmental studies, joined Sinuousity. The team have since designed and built five miles of the Stratton Mountain trail system, Suicide Six’s downhill park, the new North Branch Park trails near Montpelier, Evolution in Waitsfield and numerous other projects including, most recently, work on trails in St. Albans Town Forest and Gifford Woods, near Killington.
Lastly, while chapters and trail builders have been on the front lines, the Vermont Mountain Bike Association has played a key role in coordinating growth around the state.
In 2012 when Tom Stuessy took over from Patrick Kell as executive director, VMBA was already, pardon the pun, on a roll. Kell, the organizations founding director, had worked to get access to the Green Mountain National Forest (thank him for Chandler Ridge in the Moosamaloo) and helped launch the Vermont Mountain Bike Festival.
Kell left VMBA in 2012 to join the International Mountain Bike Association and Stuessy, a former professor at Green Mountain College, stepped in.
Since then, Stuessy has helped to grow VMBA to 28 chapters and 7500 members. Working with the chapters, he’s counted more than 200 miles of trails built and 1400 miles maintained. He’s worked to unite the chapters and to protect trails in the Act 250 legislative process. In 2021, Stuessy is stepping down and the organization is looking for a new executive director – some big shoes to fill.