I felt like an extremely ripe tomato at the top of a very tall cheese grater.
Let me start at the beginning.
After a day of guided XC biking with my brother-in-law, we thought we would take it up a notch and try some downhilling at Sunday River. My understanding is that Sunday River was the first place to offer lift-assisted mountain biking in the US (world?). It's a sizeable east coast mountain with the summit lodge perched 2,300' above the base.
So we grabbed bikes, gear, and power bars and made the 2hr drive to the mountain. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, we encountered the regulars clad in head-to-toe body armor - knee/shin pads, thigh pads, chest plates, back plates, elbow/forearm pads, arm pads, kidney belts, full face helmets, etc. We must have looked pretty cute with our baggie shorts, short-sleeve t-shirts, "half" helmets, and XC bikes because we were definitely getting some curious looks.
We bought our lift tickets and headed to the lift. I was feeling pretty good about myself as I pedaled past a downhiller pushing his bike up the hill to the lift (downhillers don't do much pedaling for a variety of reasons). Anyway this would be the peak of my downhilling performance for the day - ironic that it would occur while going uphill...
In the lift line the curious stares continued from the body-armor-full-face-helmet crowd so I broke the ice by commenting in a self-deprecating manner that "I feel a little out gunned." Nobody disagreed. The last clue was from the lift operator who asked, while loading our bikes into the lift, "hmmm, you guys are clipping in???" We nodded sheepishly and took the last big step down the proverbial slippery slope by hopping into the next chair.
The 1/2 mile vertical climb to the summit gave us plenty of time to yuck it up (nerves) and pick our first trail from the map (we elected to start with "Easy Tiger"). At the summit we took a few (last?) snapshots, mounted up, and headed off in search of Easy Tiger. The next few hundred yards was the ripe-tomato-and-cheese-grater part where we (the tomatoes) took a wrong turn and had to descend a massive expanse of treacherous ledge rock (the cheese grater). Fully armored with a full face helmet, this would have been rideable, barely. With short sleeve t-shirt and half-helmet, it was barely walkable.
Anyway we got ourselves down to the top of Easy Tiger and were treated to an awesome descent, probably 1,000' vertical, of VERY steep but flowing singletrack with seriously banked turns, some rollers, and a few stream crossings, and one bloodied rider awaiting the bike patrol (EMT on an ATV). Don't confuse Easy Tiger with the traditional bunny slope for skiers - this trail was a handful on an XC bike and not a place I would bring the wife and kids. Eventually we rolled down a dirt access road to the bottom of the lift.
This time the lift operator offered some free sage advice that if we decide to make this a habit we might treat ourselves to full-face helmets since just last week they had pulled a guy off the mountain "who will never be the same" due to lack of protective gear. Point taken - we decided to stick with Easy Tiger for the second run.
The second run went even better - we skipped the cheese grater part and pretty well nailed the Tiger part. At that point we had to wrap up for the day due to a family commitment. This was probably best as I think we had done all we could safely do as a couple of ripe tomatoes without proper equipment.
Add downhilling to the list of things "ventured and gained" but for now it's back to pedaling up hills for a while.
"I'll try it if you try it."