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Nick, right, and Max Williams try out their new mountain bikes last summer. Nick is headed to his second Vail Mountain Bike Camps session this summer with former pro rider Mia Stockdale.
Nick, right, and Max Williams try out their new mountain bikes last summer. Nick is headed to his second Vail Mountain Bike Camps session this summer with former pro rider Mia Stockdale.
By David O. Williams 
Kids help revive passion for past Vail mountain-biking ‘glory’
By David O. Williams

June 1, 2008 — My ignominious career as a mountain bike racer ended with a whimper more than a decade ago when I came to the stark realization that full suspension was not in my near future.

A tennis-shoe racer who never quite graduated to clip-ins, I just couldn’t justify paying more for my bike than my car. But guys I was burying on the climbs in the local race series were giving me dust facials on the descents.

It was either upgrade or go home. So I ditched my old Nishiki Cascade at a garage sale and got on with the business of getting married and having kids – activities I realize do not exclude mountain biking racing but certainly curtail it as even a recreational option.

Biking with kids
For more information on Mia Stockdale’s Vail Mountain Bike Camps, go to, call (970) 470-3431, or email The cost is $120 per three-day session for kids ages 7-13, which includes prizes, t-shirts and a water bottle.

For more information on where to ride in the Vail Valley, go to our complete resort guide on mountain biking at

I never graduated from Beginner to Sport class, nor do I consider that an especially glaring gap in my athletic resume.

My summers started filling up with more kid-friendly pursuits like running (jogger strollers are comparatively cheap), hiking (baby backpacks are the bomb) and water sports (teaching kids comfort in a liquid environment is tough but mandatory in the mountains).

As my mountain biking days faded into the rearview of life, the sport itself seemed to lose its luster. The glory days of 20,000 spectators watching the cross-country race at the World Mountain Bike Championships in Vail in 1994 gave way to the gradual fragmentation of the sport into a variety of different disciplines and circuits.

But it’s funny how life comes full circle. In March of 2007 while taking my then 6-year-old son Nick out for a spin on skate skis at the Vail Nordic Center, I ran into the co-owner and manager, Mia Stockdale, who I’d covered during her professional mountain biking days when I was a cub sports reporter for the Vail Daily.

She told me about her summer gig running the Vail Mountain Bike Camps, which has a kid’s program starting at age 7. Nick is a darn good alpine skier, fearless but with a proper amount of respect for the twin bugaboos of speed and gravity.

The same could be said of his prowess at the time – or lack thereof – in wheeled sports (Heelys, skateboarding, cycling). I told Mia we’d see how the cycling season progressed and get back to her come summertime.

Spring morphed into summer and Nick finally did cast off the training wheels on his little fixed-gear stunt jumper, but he was far from a confident biker when the first camp kicked off June 12 of last year. So we held off.

Then a friend of Nick’s held his seventh birthday party at the new Eagle Bike Skills Park in Eagle, designed by former pro rider John Bailey, who also designed the mountain bike course for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Nick struggled mightily and valiantly on his substandard ride, winning “Most Spirited Rider” honors, but it was apparent he needed to upgrade or go home. His interest in the sport now keenly kindled by seeing his well-equipped buddies in action, Nick’s clearly gear-negligent parents needed to pick up the pace.

So he got a new ride and registered in one of Stockdale’s kid’s camps – staffed by Vail sports luminaries such as current pro rider Jay Henry and mountain bike racer and mountaineer Ellen Miller, the only North American woman to climb Mount Everest from both sides.

Why not start at the top in terms of instruction? And who knows, with our move back into Vail last summer from the suburbs of Edwards, maybe my wife and I will get the mountain-bike bug again.

Nick is signed up for his second Vail Mountain Bike Camps session this June, after having the time of his life last summer, and Kristin and I have been eyeing new bikes and a trailer to haul around our youngest son, Rennick. Even 4-year-old Max has a new bike.

Now it’s time to quit talking and just get out there.



Comment on article  1 Comment on "Kids help revive passion for past Vail mountain-biking ‘glory’"


Mike Vandeman, Ph.D. — June 2, 2008

Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area. They are inanimate objects and have no rights. There is also no right to mountain bike. That was settled in federal court in 1994: It's dishonest of mountain bikers to say that they don't have access to trails closed to bikes. They have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else -- ON FOOT! Why isn't that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking....

A favorite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it's not true. To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts (see I found that of the seven studies they cited, (1) all were written by mountain bikers, and (2) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favored. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favor mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions.

Those were all experimental studies. Two other studies (by White et al and by Jeff Marion) used a survey design, which is inherently incapable of answering that question (comparing hiking with mountain biking). I only mention them because mountain bikers often cite them, but scientifically, they are worthless.

Mountain biking accelerates erosion, creates V-shaped ruts, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, drives wildlife and other trail users out of the
area, and (worst of all) teaches kids that the rough treatment of nature is okay (it's NOT!). What's good about THAT?



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