If there’s one drawback to summertime in Bend, it’s the lack of snow on the mountains. Skiing and snowboarding down Mt. Bachelor and the other wintertime slopes is an exhilarating experience that isn’t easily replicated. But just because the snow has melted, doesn’t mean those mountains are useless.
Mountainboarding is an alternative extreme sport that allows riders to carve and speed down dirt trails like a snowboarder or skateboarder. This relatively young sport incorporates elements of multiple board-focused sports to create a unique ride that is ideal for Bend’s rocky, mountainous environments.
Have board, will ride
A mountainboard is the Frankenstein's monster of extreme sports equipment. The first mountainboards were assembled out of skateboard and bike parts by snowboarders and surfers stuck at home during the off-season.
While the overall design resembles a skateboard, mountainboards take more cues from snowboards, with longer, wider decks made out wood and reinforced plastics, as well as bindings to provide stability. For its wheels, a mountainboard utilizes materials similar to BMX or mountain bike tires, which allow for traction and control on the uneven dirt trails.
The sport is only about 30 years old, so the equipment is constantly evolving. In recent years, riders have seen smaller boards that allow for increased speed, a handbrake attachment to complete tighter turns, and small motors to ascend uphill terrain. A basic mountain board usually starts at $200, while a newer or upgraded board can run about $500 and up.
Alex Rossiter is the founder of Mountainboards Northwest
, a mountainboarding club based out of Tumwater, WA. Rossiter has been riding moutainboards since he was 12, and praises their versatility and value.
"The freedom to ride wherever can't be beaten, the gear is like half the cost of a snowboard set-up, and you can ride all year," he said.
The sport is also growing in the competitive realm. Although it doesn’t receive the same attention as skateboarding or snowboarding, the mountainboard tournaments feature head-to-head races and trick runs similar to other board sports. World championships for the sport have been held in Italy, France, Russia and England.
Rossiter said the sport has grown quickly in the last few years.
"It was tough when I started because it felt like I was on an island with no other riders," he said. "Now I'm teaching classes, hosting competitions, working on a guidebook; all kinds of awesome stuff."
Carving around Bend
Bend has the potential to become a mountainboarding hotspot, according to Rossiter. Along with a few members of Mountainboards NW, he ran a handful of trails around Bend back in April.
“The trip to Bend ruled,” he said. “The tracks are super nice and well-maintained. There's a lot of range, a lot of unique stuff that each trail offers.”
All of the trails Rossiter and his crew rode are bike trails maintained by the Central Oregon Trail Alliance
, who Rossiter said deserves many thanks.
Rossiter recommended the Lower Whoops trail for first-time boarders, since it's a long, wide track with a gradual decline that makes for a slower, scenic ride.
For faster, more challenging rides, Rossiter was awed by Phil's Slalom and The Lair, which he "rode the hell out of."
"The Lair especially blew my mind. The size of the jumps on some of the trails were the tallest vert dirt jumps I've ever seen," he said.
Rossiter and his crew barely scratched the surface. The Central Oregon Trail Alliance maintains several other mountain biking trails, including Skyliner North, Horse Butte, the Deschutes River Trail and the Swampy Lakes Area. Additionally, two local sporting equipment stores—Kite-Line and Industrial Ride—sell moutainboards.
With its mix of awesome trails, extreme sport enthusiasts, and near-perfect weather, Bend is ideal for mountainboarding. Rossiter hopes the sport continues to grow here and throughout the Northwest region.
"I just want to see more sick people get into riding and come together," he said.
For anyone interested in learning more or jumping on a mountainboard for the first time, check out Mountainboard NW on Facebook or at shredlifestoke.com.