Five Days in the Sierras

Last week I spent 5 days camping at Donner Memorial State park. I went up a day earlier than the rest of my family to race downhill at Northstar California Resort. I woke up at 4:30 AM on Sunday morning to drive 5 hours Northeast with my friend and teammate Nicky, along with his Dad and Sister.

One of the last corners of the course. Photo by Mary DiNapoli

We arrived at Northstar with plenty of time to gather our stuff and pay entry fees before the lifts started turning. After taking the Gondola from the village to mid-mountain we found out that the chairlifts were temporarily closed due to a fire on the backside of the mountain. While we waited for the lifts to open, we took a run down Lift Line which is a pretty mellow black diamond going back down to the village.

After a bit of waiting the lifts going to the top finally opened. My first practice run was pretty sketchy picking lines through countless rock gardens and getting used to the very loose corners. The race was on a double black diamond trail called Sticks and Stones named after the wooden bridges and many rocks gardens on the trail. Pro/Cat 1 riders raced Sticks and Stones all the way down. However I raced Cat 2 which was Upper Sticks and Stones then over to a trail called Speed Control and then back onto Lower Sticks and Stones


What really killed me in my race run was all of the flat sections. Right off the bat there are two jumps and then a flat section before you get to the steep downhill. Since I am used to riding and racing at sea level, it was hard for me to sprint at such a high altitude. My only two mistakes where not pedaling enough and coming un clipped a few corners away from the finish. I was able to recover and get clipped back in for the last few jumps though. At the end of the day I had rode to a sixth place finish and had a great time!
Almost at the top of the big climb on Hole in the Ground Trail.

On Tuesday my Brother and I went back to Northstar for the day. I rode my Specialized Status while he rented a Scott Voltage. Being a weekday, only half of the mountain was open. We still had a great time though. The trails we rode where Livewire, Northstar’s signature jump trail; Gypsy, a recently improved trail with lots of flowy corners and features; and a technical trail called Boondocks. Gypsy is worth mentioning because it was completely revamped this season. it features tons of wooden berms, jumps, drops, and a rock section where all the rocks are fit together like a puzzle!

My Dad on hole in the Ground Trail.

On Thursday, our last full day in Tahoe, my Dad and I went on an awesome all mountain ride. We got dropped off a bit down the highway and rode Hole in the Ground Trail. After a big climb from the start, the trail is mostly downhill with a few punchy climbs. This trail is the best example of an all mountain/enduro trail that I have ever ridden. It is 13 miles of dirt which is mostly single track. The trail is highly technical with tons of rocks. My Dad rode a Specialized Enduro while I managed on my Specialized Carve hard tail. I consider my self pretty good at riding a hard tail, but I would rather ride a full suspension for this trail. This trail is a must ride if you are ever in Northern California. I definitely want to go back!

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