My Highland Mountain Bike Park: Sasha Yakovleff on America’s Only “Bike Area.”

 

Sasha Yakovleff is a pro freeride mountain biker born and raised in New England. He's now the bike park manager at Rye Airfield Skate and Bike Park as well as Woodward Copper's head mountain bike coach. Part of his motivation to call New Hampshire his home base is nearby Highland Mountain Bike Parka former ski area in Tilton, New Hampshire that was bought and converted into a full-time mountain bike park years ago. Now consistently ranked in the top five downhill parks nationwide, Highland has an insane variety of trails, from the rowdy and rocky to fully bermed and tabletopped to mellow cruisers for first-timers along with pump tracks, a full dirt jump park, and a Woodward-style indoor training facility. The phrase "mini-Whistler" gets tossed around a lot in descriptions of the place. Here’s why Sasha thinks this place is so special.

 

Highland Sasha Yakovleff

Sasha Yakovleff sends a tabletop at the Highland Mountain Bike Park in New Hampshire. Photo: Ryan Denning

 

 

Highland offers a Find-your-Ride program designed to introduce beginners into the bike park scene and make sure they have a positive experience. This program includes a rental bike, lesson, and lift ticket for a great price. It takes the logistics out of downhill mountain biking and makes it that much easier to shred! At $99, it's actually cheaper than just renting a downhill bike, too.

 

The park’s top-to-bottom excavated beginner trail, Easy Rider, is smooth and fun for those just learning to ride DH.

 

For riders transitioning into DH with XC or all-mountain bikes, trails like Happy Hour, Fancy Feast, and Cat’s Paw offer rollable features, natural and man-made terrain, and endless berms and smiles.

 

For the jumpers out there, Highland has everything under the sun, from mellow rolling tabletop jumps to 30-plus-foot slopestyle course step-up jumps. Hellion is the classic top-to-bottom jump trail with tabletop jumps, hips, bridges, rollers, and wallrides of all sizes. Cat’s Paw offers smaller jumps and wallrides for intermediate riders. Bone Saw, NE Style, and Power Hour are high-speed, full-throttle modern jump trails with steep lips, chicane berms, curved walls, and creative wood features to help make any jumper or slopestyle rider’s day.

 

 

 

Threshold is the classic gnarly, rooty, rocky, fast and dirty DH trail. Pad up and scope it before you send it, preferably aboard a full downhill bike.

 

The smoothest trail at the park may be a toss-up as the trail crew is always dialing them in with machines and shovels. At the moment NE Style is under construction and riding fast and smooth, but classics like Cat’s Paw and Easy Rider are super mellow, fun, and buffed.

 

The most classically New England trail may be another toss-up as the mountain is constantly blending natural and excavated terrain into the ultimate downhill playground. From top to bottom, Fancy Feast has some of it all: rock wallrides, roots and stonework, steep and mellow sections, new and old growth forests and groundcover variations, and endless berms on the lower section.

 

One of the best times to ride it all is early September. The weather is usually perfect, the dirt is perfectly sculpted and baked after the summer heat, and the summer crowds have tapered off slightly.

 

The lodge serves up super tasty and nutritious burritos, paninis, sandwiches, local beers on tap, and more.  It you stray down into Tilton, check out the Tilton Diner and Green Ginger for more options.

 

One of the best places to stay is inside your tent in the Highland parking lot. You will encounter like-minded company, maybe a bonfire, and spend your time and money where it counts—at the park lapping the goods. You can also rent out the Beaver Den Cabin, which sleeps ten people in AMC-style bunk beds.