Hey Making Matters fans; I goofed. This installment of our 1MillionCups entrepreneur presentations was over a month ago, but I was so intrigued by our speaker (Mark Hayes of Highland Mountain Bike Park) and his vision of getting more people into the sport that I was going to follow up and spend a day on the hill and make that part of this blog entry. It still seems like an excellent idea, but it hasn’t happened yet and it is unfair to postpone the summary any longer. So if I ever conquer my fear of doing mountains on wheels rather than skis, I will update this post.
Back in 2003, you could apparently buy an abandoned ski resort for less than some houses in Concord. No matter how great a steal that was, most of us probably would have lacked the courage and conviction of Mark Hayes when he took it and turned it into the two-time Top Mountain Bike Park in the Northeast. Although it is a magnet for thrill seekers, Highland Park is also committed to providing well built, well maintained trails for all levels of ability and to introducing more people to the sport. In the 12 years they have been in operation they have expanded their ridership to include more youth riders and more women, in no small part to offering overnight experiences to both groups. Children under six are so welcome, they get to bike for free.
Mark, who started out with a degree in ocean engineering, is also putting his mark on the sport by assisting other parks and ski resorts that want to branch out to build bike-specific trails that last; they are keen on preventing erosion and helping outdoor recreation thrive as our weather patterns change. Other planned initiatives include building their own on-site housing (they currently rent dorm space at the Tilton School for their camps), and investing in infrastructure in the form of an additional lift.
This would not have been a 1MillionCups event without the audience offering fresh ideas. It seems I was not the only person left wondering why I hadn’t thought about going mountain biking before, now that we had seen Mark’s Power Point capturing the fun and learned about the care his staff take to welcome the timid and the white-knuckled. A great suggestion was made that Highland widen its prospects by hosting a “Tough Mudder” race, which would give otherwise athletic types a chance to see the mountain and view the downhills with fresh eyes.
As noted, Highland Park has won several awards for the quality of the hill and breadth of skill levels they cater to. Upcoming events can be found here.