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I was new around here. My wife and I moved to Pennsylvania after 5 years in Washington, DC and despite the work of buying and working on a house, I was searching for a new hobby. I tried fishing. It was cheap, relaxing, and rewarding; but it wasn't fulfilling. At the end of the day, I turned to an old set of skills for a new hobby -- biking.

How I came to this decision is a long, laborious story and is outside of the "give-a-shit" factor for VitalMTB readers. But needless to say, I ended up with a freeride bike and found out that I actually lived about 30 minutes from a downhill/freeride bike park in Spring Mount, PA called Launch Bike Park. I loaded up the bike and headed out to the mountain.

I've been a part of the riding world for a long time and have always been impressed by the inclusive nature of the community. But I wasn't prepared for the amount of support I received from Launch from the moment I pulled into the parking lot. I was greeted with a smile at the lodge where I paid for a lift ticket (only $25 for a full day!), and headed down to the lift. Before the tires even hit the dirt I had been greeted by Wally (one of Launch's own guides and staff members -- and a former BMX stunt badass), Larry (the nicest lift operator on the planet), and several of the guys who were just out riding. Once I hit the ground at the top of the mountain, I had my choice of 11 different routes to the bottom, and I knew this was the place to be.

As an old hat at trail riding, but a noobie at freeride/downhill, I took a few runs down the beginner trails. They were the perfect warm-up and a great way to get oriented to my new bike and the new-to-me Pennsylvania terrain. I hit "Swirlz" with its smooth, winding dirt, and "Wally's Leg" (yes, named after the previously-mentioned guide) with it's rocky lines and smaller jumps, berms, and here-and-there gaps.

Once I had my dirt-legs under me again, I actually met a few other new-to-downhill riders in the parking lot; we rallied together and let Wally lead the way down a few of the other awesome trails at Launch. Wally tailored the routes for our skills and made sure we kept speed when we needed it and bled it off to avoid riding over our helmets. It was perfect.

And even though I stuck to the beginner and intermediate-level terrain, it's obvious that Launch is a place where riders can grow into the larger, sicker trails. There's "Walt's Erector Set" with awesome ladders and some challenging rock lines; there's the Toilet Bowl, a great intermediate level trail with a few big jumps (for the big boys) and zippy go-arounds for guys like me. And then there's the infamous parking lot drop -- a huge ladder that juts out into the parking lot where riders score hang time and some speed.

Since that first day, I haven't missed a Saturday in the saddle at Launch. Every time I go back, I'm greeted by the guides and staff, who continually help me improve my skills and challenge me to go bigger without pushing me beyond my own limits.

So no matter your skill level, throw the rig on the rack, and make the trek out to Launch this weekend. You won't be disappointed.
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From the Launch website (launchbikepark.com)
In 2010, Launch Bike Park was opened for lift accessed downhill and freeride mountain biking. It currently boasts 11 skillfully crafted trails which challenge riders of all levels. The trails feature roots, rocks, rock drops, bridges, berms, bridge drops, jumps, gaps, and a brand new dedicated jump line. At the base, riders experience a laid back, friendly atmosphere where people from all over can socialize, get tips, and swap stories. To experience all this and more, come see what Launch has to offer so close to home.

Launch Bike Park is located at the Spring Mountain Ski Area, in beautiful Spring Mount, Pennsylvania. It is less than an hour drive north from the city of Philadelphia and has established itself as the Philadelphia area’s year-round destination for outdoor fun and adventure.

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