Tim Reynolds is an elite cross country ski racer and native Vermonter. He contributes to The Buzz on all things related to our home state
Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom doesn’t play host to as many Phish shows as it once did. But if you passed through East Burke, VT last weekend, you would have thought otherwise.
Almost four thousand mud-covered, rain-spattered, costumed fanatics of all ages swarmed this sleepy northern Vermont town. Their tents covered the hills; their cars packed the streets and filled the fields.
Despite appearances, these folks didn’t come here to drift away to Trey Anastasio’s psychedelic riffs. They came to slide with the squeak of wet brake pads, jump with the smooth action of 30” suspension, and revel in the fanatacism (or rather… phanaticism) of mountain biking in Vermont.
That’s right – swap out the experimental drugs for some experiential riding and you’ve got the New England Mountain Bike Association’s (NEMBA) annual NEMBAFest, a weekend jam of all things mountain biking.
“It’s sort of a match made in heaven,” says NEMBA Director Philip Keyes of the collaboration between the Kingdom Trails Association, Burke Mountain Resort, and NEMBA. “You’ve got arguably the best network of trails in the region, some incredible lift serve riding with space for camping and parking at the mountain, and our connections within the industry and to our network of 10,000+ members.”
In only the second year of the event at Burke, there was a huge turnout of participants and bike industry players. A two-day Expo highlights the weekend. Over 70 companies let loose all the latest bikes and gear for demos on Vermont’s greatest single track treasures. Throw in some local BBQ, live music, and lift-serve camping, and even a light rain couldn’t spoil a weekend of fun.
“We definitely went all out to make it a great experience for everyone camping out for the weekend. That’s where we see the potential for a lot of growth in the event,” says Keyes. “I mean, we shelled out over ten grand to rent these fancy showers for the camping area. I think that made everyone pretty happy with the soggy trails and all.”
Take that, Phish. There’s no way anyone ever came home from a weekend jam show freshly laundered.
Put the NEMBAFest on your radar for next summer, June 20th-24th. There will be more days, more bikes, more festivities, more showers, and no more excuses to forgo the trek to Vermont’s north country to sample some of the sweetest singletrack this side of the Mississippi.
One thing is for certain – it will be a phun time.