Only a short drive from Melbourne, Lake Mountain Resort is home to the legendary Cascades descent. Starting at the summit, the trail plunges 1,550 vertical metres over 28km, guiding you down to the town of Marysville below.
While winter made one last push with a November snowstorm, head trail builder Ben Reynolds has been hard at work tidying, and the summer festivities have already kicked off with the Cascades now open!
Ahead of our visit later this month, we caught up with Reynolds and Lake Mountain General Manager Sue Hendy to see what’s new at Lake Mountain for the coming summer.
Victoria has received an absolute lashing of wet weather, which, combined with a late-season snow, means much of the state is still drying out. Lake Mountain faired pretty well and managed to stick to its opening schedule, with the first riders rolling the lower section in mid-October and the upper half following at the start of November.
For those that have ridden Cascades before, memories of ‘The Lunch Room’ will bring a smile to your face, as a microwave plugged into a tree and a boom box out in the bush is not something you see every day. Unfortunately, it is no more.
“It got absolutely hammered by a tree; it lined it up perfectly,” laughs Reynolds. “But it means we can give it an update.”
The Lunch Room will get rebuilt, and Hendy hinted that they’re also planning to add a few similar landmarks along the trail, but didn’t want to ruin the surprise.
Novelty attractions aside, Reynolds put in a fair bit of work before winter with the machine tweaking the alignment of Cascades, adding some new features and picking rocks to help improve the rhythm of the gravity sections from The Lunch Room down.
He’s also spent a lot of time cleaning up after Lake Mountain’s messiest local residents.
“The Lyrebirds shift about 11 truckloads of dirt every year (Eds note: we fact-checked this, and they shift 155 tonnes of leaf litter and soil per hectare!). They love digging out the rocks. They’ll either dig around it (a rock in the trail) or dig them out of the bank and let it just fall in the middle of the trail,” he says.
Reynolds says Cascades will remain largely the same, but he’s always tinkering and trying to make improvements on the trail. And while the flagship descent is undoubtedly the main attraction, it’s not the only trail he’s been working on.
“We’ll be doing a bit more work on Lenny’s Loop to make that more accessible. Just change it up a bit to give people a beginners loop — we’ll look at adding in some rollers and little rock rollovers and that sort of thing,” says Reynolds.
Reynolds also tells us he will be heading into Bypass, the black trail on the summit, and Snakes Ridge, an intermediate XC loop also on the summit, which are overdue for a touch-up.
Up your skills and your air awareness
With its toboggan run, Lake Mountain has a set of magic carpets, which are a bit like the outdoor version of a travelator. They spin all winter long, moving folks back up the hill, but sit there during the summer, so the resort has decided to put them to good use.
“We’re going to get a couple of airbags. We’ll get a small one that’s only about 5ft high, and you can put the ramp right up against it — for the kids,” says Reynolds. “We’re also going to get a bigger version and have two different-sized ramps going onto that.”
Lake Mountain has been trying to get folks to hang around on the summit, and this is the latest attraction at the top of the mountain. The pump track we reported on last year was delayed thanks to a perfect storm of Covid and weather, but the project is out to tender now, and Reynolds predicts it will be ready to ride shortly after the new year.
But that’s not all that’s happening at the top.
“We’re also going to put in a skills park with rollovers and features people can learn on. And, we’re also going to have a team of bike leaders and instructors on staff, so the plan is to run clinics for schools, kids, families and women’s riding groups,” Hendy continues.
Rent a Rocky and hitch a ride up the hill
Lake Mountain will once again have a fleet of Rocky Mountain rental bikes. For this summer, they won’t have e-MTBs on offer, but the fleet will consist of Altitudes and Instincts.
Hendy also tells us they now have enough trailers to accommodate 60 bikes — not all on one, obviously. The resort runs the shuttle service, with uplifts every day except Christmas, from opening day through mid-May, regardless of numbers. It’s $35 for a single uplift, there are three shuttle runs on weekdays, and four on the weekend.
Adaptive friendly infrastructure
Lake Mountain is the Victorian hub for Breaking the Boundary. This group advocates for adaptive-friendly trails and has also created guidelines to help riding destinations cater to folks on adaptive mountain bikes.
Last summer, the resort completed the Kestrel Loop, an all-abilities trail at the summit specifically designed around the width and cornering radius of an adaptive mountain bike.
Hendy tells Flow that Lake Mountain Resort is pushing towards making all of its trails adaptive-friendly — including Cascades.
“We’ve had several adaptive riders ride Cascades (in its current form). The first time they flipped a few times on the first run, but the second time they got all the way through — with a bit of air,” says Hendy.
What else is new at Lake Mountain?
Lake Mountain is also putting in proper bike wash stations at the summit and in Marysville.
“They are these cool machines that it’s all enclosed, so you don’t get sprayed, and it will use an environmentally friendly cleaner.”
Hendy also tells Flow there is a new food and beverage manager.
“Our theme will be, come for the food, stay for the ride,” she laughs. “There is a fabulous new menu, and we’re also planning to do pre-made picnic hampers with a bottle of wine and go sit out in the beautiful scenery. There is a whole bunch of outdoor seating, and we’re putting in a few new picnic stations out in the hills.
Reynolds noted they are also looking at doing Pizza and beers on a Friday night and camping on the mountain — they already have facilities like hot showers, toilets and the like.
Lake Mountain is also in the process of filling out an events calendar. It’s all still being confirmed, but she did hint there would be a bike festival in the works.