Last time I visited the bikepark in Winterberg, Germany, was in summer of 2010. I injured my shoulder after a couple of minutes when rolling through the practice area not paying proper attention and had to get to the hospital. Let’s just say I don’t have the best of personal memories when it comes to that name, “Winterberg”. Now, after 8 years, we went back there …
I am not at all used to riding bikepark tracks, do not like jumping and rather prefer natural single track usually. So keep that in mind when reading this post.
After the usual mess of organising an overnight stay without the kids we happily arrived in Winterberg on a nice, warm, sunny wednesday morning. There are two chairlifts that will get you atop the mountain. The one which starts at the bottom of the Conti track only runs on the weekend, so unfortunately, the lower part of that track was closed for us. We rented safety jackets and started our first ride on the lower part of the
track a nice, flowy, rather flat, beginners-, even family friendly, track without any obstacles, jumps or drops. However, once you manage to not touch your brakes too much, this track can generate a lot of speed and makes for some awesome moments when cornering around a large tree or flowing from a lefthand berm into a righthand berm. Again: I am not used to ride this kind of track at all, so these features might be very common for many of you, they are not for me. They made me smile a lot though :) This track ends at the bottom of the second, and I’d call it the “main”, chairlift, the same place all tracks but the Conti track end.
I’ll try to order the track descriptions by how difficult to ride I found them (being a single track focussed rider)
The “Conti” is basically the same concept as the flowcountry track, just everything is a little bigger. The berms are way higher and the tables are steeper but still, there are no necessary jumps or obstacles.
This is only half a track actually. It starts on a wide, wavy “northshore” wooden bridge element which then leads into a giant lefthand wooden wall ride corner. This looked really intimidating in the first place but once we accepted that there is indeed a lot of grip to be had on those wooden planks, it was a lot of fun riding that. By the 5th time I rode it I felt like riding almost at the top of that wallride. The pictures say something different but it still felt totally amazing. You then head into either a little gap drop on the left or a rollable mini-drop on the right side of the track and then have to make it up onto a wooden bridge. Then again, the track splits up to a drop on the left (which we did not ride) and a steep and rollable smaller drop on the right side. After that, the track leads to the previous track, the Conti and you can follow it down.
From the middle part of the Conti/Woodpecker track, we once again rode the lower part of the flowcountry track and then looked at all the tracks located around the “main” chairlift. The easiest of those tracks is possibly the
track. It sticks to the left side of what is the ski slope during the winter season. It features over 30 180° berms and focusses on table jumps in between those berms. There were a lot of braking bumps in those corners, so having a bit of travel on your bike definitely helps riding this track smoothly. It shakes you up real good otherwise.
Half way down, there is a small (easily missable when being in full throttle tunnel mode) sign to the left, which leads the way to the road gap and drop battery. The road gap was way out of reach for our riding abilities, but the drop battery raging from roughly 20cm to 1m drops with a little gap towards the very steep landing was a lot of run to ride and progress upon.
My favorite track of the bikepark. Let’s just start with that. Even larger berms than the Conti track offers, steeper shoots towards those berms, and a lot of those super fun left/right/left/right berm/jump constructions. It took some tries for me to ride those berms with enough speed but once I got the hang of it, man was I blown away. A totally different kind of fun to be had on a bike. To open the brakes and enjoy gravity rather than slowly managing your way down a gnarly singletrack (which I am rather used to) was a really different story.
Home soil I’d say. While the track description suggested this to be the most difficult track, it seemed like the most natural track to us. Like a challenging, narrow, steep singletrack on natural terrain with a lot of roots, rocks, tight corners, off-camber corners and some steep shoots. Just like we enjoy them most on our home trails. Definitely not your average bikepark track if I compare this to the rest of the tracks. Depending on what your riding history is (like if you are more of a bikepark rider than I am), your impression of this track may vary vastly from mine.
This is a race track in the iXS Downhill Cup and its characteristics vary a lot from part to part. Some parts are flat out bikepark like with built berms and high speed, some are a little like the Blackline, while never as narrow as the blackline is most of the time. There are some double jumps in the track, but an easier alternative is present at all times, you do not have to be able to clear those jumps in order to ride the track. Good for me, because I was almost never fast enough to be able to… Then there is two man made rock gardens. One is directly behind a road crossing and rather steep, the other one is almost flat and it felt like a total pain to get over it. With the speed of a downhill racer, this might be a different story, but for me, that was not fun at all. I’m propably not the intended audience for the track anyway, so … Then there is a massive left handed wallride leading to the high speed finish area where you can try to clear some massive table jumps.
This – to me – was the most challenging track to ride. The second part of the track was closed, so I can only describe its very first and the third to last parts of it. The northshore elements in the upper part are very mellow. Not skinny, not steep, no drops. However, this quickly changes in the lower sections of the track. There are two places where you have to choose between dropping off of the wooden bridges on the left way or riding another line on the right way where you do not have to jump. Now that I write this, I don’t know whether the pattern “left: jump, right: roll” is actually an intended pattern or just a coincidence.
About half way down the northshore track, there is a rather unpleasantly long wooden bridge that even has three 180° corners. The fact that you cannot actually see this bridge from anywhere that would let you abort the track was rather disappointing in my opinion. Okay, there should not be any beginners on this track, but the difficulty of this single feature is so vastly higher than the rest of the track, that a sign would make a lot of sense in my opinion.
Other than this very bridge, we found the track to be a lot of fun to ride. One particular corner made me smile for the rest of the track: You descend on a wooden bridge, shoot almost straight up onto an about 140° dirt corner and then once again descend on a wooden bridge just to once again shoot up onto another wooden feature. Such an awesome feeling I was totally unfamiliar with.
I have absolutely no comparison, but to me, 50 Euros for safety jacket rental and all day lift ticket seemed a bit much.
Near the practice course and bikeshop, there is a chip shop that serves the average overpriced chips and german Currywurst. Nothing special, but it will give you a lot of calories to burn. There is a restaurant near the top station of the lift. They offer a wider variety of food for slightly higher prices. We did not eat there though, so I cannot comment on that.
To be honest, I didn’t really expect much. I was literally scared to return to this place after the stupid accident that happened last time. However, I found that time hasn’t stopped and my skills evolved since I was here last time (and thankfully so!). All tracks were in okayish condition and well ridable. There was a lot of fun to be had, even for a singletrail rider like myself. The memories will likely “carry” me for a couple of weeks. Be back soon…