By Gordon Dritschilo
For the next few weeks, Friday is ladies night at the Killington Bike Park.
The Divas of Dirt — an all-female mountain biking group organized by Killington Mountain Resort — held the inaugural ride of their second season last week.
“I know there’s a couple people coming from Burlington, and I’ve had calls from other places,” pro racer Amy Alton, who leads the group, said, as she perched by a Snowshed chairlift waiting for riders to assemble. “Last year, that’s what we would get on really good days, but there’s been so much more momentum coming in this year.”
The riders who arrived in the next few minutes ranged from a 12-year-old to a woman in her 60s.
“We welcome all levels,” Alton said. “We typically warm up for a few laps, so we stay on the green trails so I can assess everybody’s skill.”
From there, the riders are broken up into smaller groups and sent to the terrain best suited to them, each with a guide.
“Downhill biking is very different from learning how to bike when you’re a little kid in the cul-de-sac,” she said. “I think what’s helpful is doing it in community, riding with other women of the same ability.”
Alton said the work Killington has done to develop its trails is a boon to newcomers to the sport.
“You can come here as a beginner, invest in all the equipment and feel very safe going down the green trails,” she said.
It’s also a very social event, she said, with the group often retiring to the nearby umbrella bar at the end of their rides.
As the riders assembled, Alton checked their gear — advising one woman who arrived in a street helmet to go back and get the full-face helmet that came with her rental, and describing some of the nasty injuries that can result from a face-first tumble.
She also gave a quick overview on technique, warning the riders that they wouldn’t be sitting on their bikes’ seats.
“Downhill biking, bike-park biking, is on your feet,” she said.
Lindsey Harris, 31, of Rutland, said she had been mountain biking for two years.
“My husband — we live behind Pine Hill Park,” she said. “Having that access to all those trails — we started biking a lot and fell in love with it.”
Harris said she was at almost all of the group’s rides last year.
“It was really fun to get out and meet a bunch of other women who like to ride,” she said. “It’s fun and social, and Amy always has a lot of good tips.”
Harris said the different genders tend to have different approaches to mountain biking.
“When you’re riding with women, it’s more support and camaraderie,” she said. “When I ride with my husband and his friends, I’m always trying to keep up.”
Harris also said she thinks the women laugh more when they’re together.
She said her goal for this season is to get over her fear of some of the steeper trails.
“I’m just trying to get faster, get more aggressive, get more confident,” she said.
Hannah Abrams, 49, of Killington, said it was only her second time with the group.
“I love the idea of having a group of women experience and learn with a different pace and tempo and temperament than riding with the guys — which is nice also, but in a different way,” she said. “I feel like my mountain-biking sisters know what kind of trepidations and experiences I have that are different from the guys I ride with.”
Killington offers combined lift tickets and bike rentals for $39 for the two-hour sessions.