The text read something like, ‘You just skied the Middle so I’m not too worried about pushing your limits (on the Parallel Trail).’ Despite the prior day’s skiing, I was a bit apprehensive about taking up Michelle Good’s offer to join in on getting my blazing downhill on. I barely rode a mountain bike last ‘season,’ partly because I was skiing into August, partly for other reasons.
Still, a Spring visit to Jackson offers outdoor opportunity aplenty in every mountain discipline, so who am I to turn down a downhilling invite? As we’d discussed the wee possibility that I might possibly maybe consider almost thinking about joining in before I left SLC, I’d packed a box full of beetle style armor.
As we nailed down the final plans, I looked at the diminutive XC helmet in the box. ‘Got a spare full-face helmet I can borrow?’ was my next text. I may seek thrill, but I’m not entirely stupid…
With a borrowed full face helmet, pad armor, gloves, and high performance jeans, I was ready to launch. Fortunately Michelle also had a bike or two to loan. The day’s selection included a hardtail Canfield Bros Yelli Screamy (a 29’er) and a Canfield Brothers Jedi. I was super curious about the ride of a 29’er, since I’ve heard about these bikes for a very long time. However, as mentioned, I’m not entirely stupid. I started off on the Jedi, a downhill machine that offers up enough suspension that even the infamous Pea Princess wouldn’t notice that she’d just rolled over a stone.
Of course, the DH scene is all about shuttling or chairlifts, so we drove up the Pass to the trailhead. Parking in sight of Glory Bowl, which still offers plenty of snow coverage on the upper half, I mused about whether we were doing the wrong sport. There’s still snow – not for long – and I like to milk skiing as long as possible. What could I be thinking?
Mostly, I was thinking I could get down the trail in one piece if only I lived right. Well, this was a step in that direction. The bikes were hoisted over the guardrail and we were off. Not ten feet of trail rolled by before I noticed the extra width of the handlebars. Much wider than any I’ve used before. Other than that, the bike floated down the trail, offering a ride as soft as melted butter.
Since my downhilling skills wouldn’t really be classified as ‘skills’ by anyone who was judging, I avoided the parts that make the Parallel Trail a must-do for any avid DH’er. This meant going around each gap jump. Which, on the whole, is every jump on the trail. Some are smaller, with just 4-5 foot gaps. And then there’s the meat and potatoes of the trail. Several sets of double and triple gap jumps await the enterprising airist. These are much larger, with 10-15 foot gaps on the offer.
Halfway down, Michelle and I switched bikes so I could get some time on a 29 incher. This added technical difficulty, but was manageable. As we rode down to the Stagecoach to land a shuttle back up to the waiting vehicle, there was only one question to ask. ‘Another lap?’ Sticking out our thumbs landed us a ride within five minutes. This time I rode the 29’er for the first half, and finally experienced what enthusiasts have known about for years: those larger wheels offer noticeable stability and roll over trail detritus smoothly. Still, nothing beats the feel of a fully suspended downhill machine on a rugged trail. Except skiing. Just a quick reality check there.
Both laps went really well, and it was hard to avoid smiling in the face of Michelle’s abundant enthusiasm. And the fact is, I really enjoyed the riding. It was a great way to round out a fuller Jackson experience on what was essentially a ski trip. Naturally we took it to the next level by stopping at the Coach yet again and loading up on dollar tacos before I pulled out of town!
If I had to guess, I’d put it out there that the Parallel Trail derives its name from the fact that it runs almost perfectly parallel to the (present, not old) Teton Pass road. And that’s the only locational hint I’ll give. If you want to find it, you will. And you do want to find it. The Parallel is as much of a Jackson must-do as is the infamous Bobsled trail in SLC. Even without the gap jumps..