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BIKERS PUT SKI SLOPES TO GOOD USE THIS SUMMER

The chair lift will be running at Ski Tamarack on Saturday, carrying competitors to the start of the downhill event of the Mountain Bike Race Festival Weekend.

The weekend, one of three monthly events held July through September at the ski area, will start at 10 a.m. with a slalom. There will be parallel courses for the slalom but racers will be judged on time; there will be no eliminations. The downhill will begin at 2 p.m.

National Off Road Biking Association classes will divide the field for the largest of the races, which will be run on the 4 1/2 -mile cross-country trail at 10 a.m. Sunday. Beginners will take two laps around the course, sport class three laps and experts five laps.

"Each race (the fields are) increased," said spokesperson Connie Stumpf of the four-year series. She expects a field of at least 30 for each of the two vertical events and 160 for the cross-country race. There is an entry fee.

Tamarack allows mountain biking from 9 a.m. to dusk each Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, but the lifts run only on race days. The final weekend event will be held Sept. 26-27.

Holiday Valley allows mountain bikers on its trails -- as long as they avoid the golf course -- every day but it never runs any lifts.

Marketing director Jane Eshbaugh said negotiating a slope is harder on a bike than on skis so Holiday Valley decided it wants only those who can get up the mountain themselves to try to get down.

A six-race series at the Ellicottville resort and a race held in conjunction with Holimont have been completed, but a NORBA-sanctioned race will be held Oct. 10 during Fall Festival. Registration will be held at the training center from 8-9:30 a.m. and the race will be held at 10. Registration is $15 in advance (those doing so get a T-shirt) and $20 the day of the race.

Novice racers -- there will be age group divisions as well as a class for women -- will do two laps of the four-mile course, which has a vertical climb of 630 feet. Experts must complete three laps.

Use of one of the most popular riding trails in Ellicottville was nearly lost to mountain bikers. The White Trail, part of the North Country Scenic Trail, "was muddy and torn up," according to Victor Anderson of the Department of Environmental Conservation.

He said he read the riot act to the Western New York Mountain Biking Association -- which does all of the maintenance on area trails -- and threatened to shut it down.

The North Country Trail is overseen by the National Parks Service but the White Trail is on state land and therefore not subject to federal law. A parks service inspector spotted the trail damage -- bikers create and then go around muddy sections, damaging fauna and widening trails -- and pointed it out to the DEC, "but we already knew it was a mess," Anderson said.

The biking association put together a work detail early this month, which put down fabric and filled holes with 22 tons of stone and gravel, carried up the hills in drywall buckets. Anderson said the repaired trail will remain open.
A mountain biking center will open today at Walnut Mountain near Liberty, in the Catskills. There are more than 20 miles of interconnected trails over 260 acres suitable for all skill levels. Bikes can be rented by calling (914) 340-1994. The Sullivan County information number is 800-882-CATS.

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