Move over winter, spring is here, and summer is coming. So today, with summer just around the corner, we’ve got Northstar’s very own Luke Sheppard, affectionately known as Shep, to talk all things Northstar’s Specialized Bike Academy, which he heads up.
It’s no secret that this has been an all-time ski season. We’re talking 699 inches of snow at Northstar, a new record! But if you’re anything like me, then once April rolls around, you start setting your sights on summer. The snow starts receding and the trails—mountain biking trails that is—start emerging. And this year finds me heading up Northstar's mountain bike program for the 9th year. So with the summer mountain biking season just weeks away, I’m coming to you with a few reasons why you should make time for the Northstar Bike Academy this summer.
Northstar’s academy is the only Specialized Academy in the world. Specialized Bike Academy is to summer at Northstar what the Burton Snowboard Academy is to winter. Like the Burton Snowboard Academy, the Specialized Bike Academy is the only one in the world. Whether brand new or a seasoned mountain biker, it’s a great introduction to the only bike academy of its kind.
Specialized Academy’s bikes are world-class. We use two models of Specialized bikes, the S-Works Demo and Enduro. These are the Porsches of downhill mountain bikes. The S-Works Demo, for example, has been named “downhill mountain bike of the year” by Dirt Mountain Bike Magazine in the past, while both are often listed among the best mountain bikes by major outdoor and bicycling publications.
The equipment is customized to the rider. Furthermore, when guests come to the Specialized Bike Academy, their bike and gear is customized to them. After getting measurements, our coaches make the proper adjustments so that the bike is fitted specifically for guests. This sets guests up for the safest, most comfortable experience once on the mountain.
No prior mountain biking experience required. The Northstar Mountain Bike Park and Specialized Bike Academy is for all levels of athleticism and skill, from novices up to expert riders. As a downhill bike park serviced by chairlifts, it doesn’t require the same energy, skill and muscles that are required for traditional mountain biking. As such, you can often ride for much longer than if you were mountain biking a trail system. It’s not abnormal for riders, of all experience levels, to bicycle at least 10 laps in a day, which you wouldn’t be able to do if you were biking a trail with elevation change.
It’s a great workout. However, it’s no walk, or in this case, ride in the park just because it’s downhill. The Northstar Mountain Bike Park involves your entire body, including your arms, legs, and core. Furtheremore, the Specialized Bike Academy coaches teach you how to properly use all those muscles. While you’re on a suspension bike, you’re actively engaged in that suspension process. Plus, it’s a great mental exercise, as you’re using strategic techniques when taking corners, approaching jumps, and landing, just like you would when snowboarding.
Bike academy instructors are certified coaches. Our coaches aren’t merely mountain biking enthusiasts, but rather certified coaches, most of whom are level 2 certified through the International Mountain Bicycling Association Instructor Certification Program (ICP). Furthermore, many of them work as ski or snowboard instructors or ski patrol during the winter, so there’s no one who knows the mountain better than them.
Women can enjoy complimentary coaching on Friday nights during the summer. Approximately half of our staff is female, while many female riders take to the park and Specialized Bike Academy every summer. As such, we have a couple of events for women during the summer months. Women riders are invited every Friday evening during the summer from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. for Pumps and Pedals, a complimentary evening ride and coaching event. Rental bikes and equipment is available to rent, while there are discounted lift tickets for those who don't have their season passes yet. Additionally, we offer an exclusive women’s weekend during the summer, Her Mountain, which is a two-day Specialized Academy, designed specifically for females.
The terrain changes every year. What I perhaps love most about the Northstar Mountain Bike Park is that the terrain and trails change every year. Once the snow melts from the winter, our team is on the mountain, routing zones, shaping turns, constructing jumps, and building trails. That favorite downhill trail of yours from one year, may be different the next. The Specialized Bike Academy then is a great way to get reintroduced to the mountain.
See you on the mountain!