It’s the original home of Heady Topper, current home of Ben & Jerry’s, and now, Waterbury can claim another title: mountain biking mecca.
The Waterbury Area Trails Alliance has broken ground on $50,000 in upgrades in the Perry Hill network of trails, cementing the area as a destination for riders seeking to explore terrain that varies from mild to wild.
“Our trails are beloved because they are so challenging,” said, Dana Allen, WATA’s president.
For challenging terrain within the Perry Hill network, look no farther than Joe’s, a double black-diamond trail that offers rocky, exposed terrain and thrills for the most seasoned riders.
This year, Allen said, one of the more hair-raising rides is the link between Six Flags and Disneyland.
“There definitely some bigger features in there that warrant some caution,” Allen said.
However, Perry Hill also offers terrain for riders who are either new to the sport or are looking for a more relaxing ride. Perry Hill itself, which used to be a quad-killer of a ride straight up the hill, now offers switchbacks; from there, riders can transfer to a pair of green trails — S’mores, which still offers berms and jumps, or Campfire, a relatively easy “flow trail” that allows riders to build up a real head of steam as they speed along among the pines.
Founded in 2015, WATA has about 700 members and is one of the largest mountain bike clubs in the state. This year, the club is making major investments in its trail systems.
Among the projects is a $17,000 upgrade to Disneyland, including significant reroutes that will make better use of the elevation change, improve the overall rider experience and boost the trail’s long-term sustainability.
The work is led by Rochester resident Tom Lepesqueur, a renowned trail designer whose work includes Highland Mountain Bike Park in New Hampshire and Red Bull Rampage invitational freeride competition in Utah.
“Our vision is to maintain the original soul of the trail by keeping existing rock features while creating a more consistent, sustainable and enjoyable trail in between those sections,” Lepesqueur said. “The end product will be a hybrid of natural and machine-built terrain, including new berms, jumps and better overall flow.”
In addition, WATA is investing roughly $10,000 in professional maintenance and rehab work for Permission and Burning Spear trails by Northeast Kingdom-based IdeRide Builders.
“These trails are a staple of Vermont mountain biking and we consider this a historic preservation project,” said Knight Ide of IdeRide Builders. “We strive to restore the flow of the trail as the original builders intended.”
Highlights will include armored climbing turns on Permission and restoration to carry speed through critical sections, and new features using skillfully placed rocks on Burning Spear.
“Knight and his crew are truly world-class builders that we have been excited to work with on past projects at Little River State Park,” Allen said. “Knight’s background as a mason and his experience building raw, natural trail makes his team the perfect crew for restoring these iconic trails to their original feel.”
The Vermont state government is contributing $8,000 toward the work; all other rest comes from the club through fundraising and events such as the Gravel Grinder ride on May 4, which drew more than 400 riders and raised $25,000.
“The hardest thing for us is that the sport is growing so quickly,” said Allen, whose trails now carry more than 20,000 riders annually. “So many people are getting into it, and we’re still relying on volunteers.”
Still, having a destination that is popular with riders is a good problem to have.
“Waterbury is sort of the middle of everything. We are one of the most accessible towns in Vermont, and we have a thriving downtown with restaurants and shops,” Allen said. “The goal is to build and maintain trails for the community, both for locals and visitors. We want to keep the locals happy, but we want to give visitors a reason to come to Waterbury. We see this as an economic driver for the town.”