Fueling The Fire: Angel Fire bike resort hits milestone, remains unnoticed by mayor

By Juan Labreche / CJ 475 Reporter
Posted Oct. 30, 2012

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By Juan Labreche

Collegiate National Mountain Biking Championships add to Angel Fire Bike Park resort's clout while the surrounding community stands behind the development.

In the spirit of total dominance, Angel Fire Mountain Resort wrapped up its second consecutive hosting of the Collegiate National Mountain Biking Championships. This year's event makes it the second of four that are planned to take place at the Northern New Mexico resort.

The seemingly perpetually progressing mountain biking hot spot was the location for the two-wheeled race, in which riders from over 60 different colleges participated.

The event itself was a testament to work- and man-hours that the Angel Fire Mountain Bike Park trail crew dedicated to expanding the resort that the mountain employees will attest to. The payoff turned out to be a promotion to a hailed spot in the top five best Downhill Mountain Biking resorts in North America.

Hogan Koesis, bike park director for Angel Fire, freeride mountain biker and former trail-building business owner, is using his knowledge to move the resort in an accelerated direction of sizeable growth.

"When I arrived here it was pretty crazy, there was a lot of slash in the fall zones, many of the bridges were dilapidated and the place just needed a lot of repairing," Koesis said. "We went from having 1,200 riders a season to having just passed the 8,000 mark in two years."

All of the development is not going unnoticed in the small mountain community of 1,200. But the mayor's office refrained from acknowledging the success of mountain biking at the resort to the same degree as Koesis, other Angel Fire Resort employees and many residents.

Tracy Orr, Angel Fire grants administrator who spoke for the mayor, conceded that the resort was definitely the biggest boost to the local economy, as well as the largest employer in town.

"Increases in local economy, however, have only been slightly noticeable since major developments of the mountain have begun," Orr said. "I do foresee a slight increase in coming years."

"Since Hogan took over (the mountain biking operation) two years ago, we have expanded substantially," said Jamie Seifert, director of Mountain Operations at the resort. "In two years we have cut 50 miles of new trails and increased the number of rental bikes to 45."

There are many factors at play in the rapid growth and success of Angle Fire's mountain bike park. Aside from the fact that it is the only mountain biking resort of its kind and magnitude in New Mexico, Koesis said he has much more freedom to expand and play with trails and trail-feature ideas due to the resort's location on private land.

"The majority of bike parks across the country are located in national forests. The parks that I have seen experience the most success have been on private land," Koesis said.

Koesis added that in order to add new features to any part of a trail located in a national forest, a plan must be written up and a proposal presented to the U.S. Forest Service. "If I want to add a wall ride to a trail, I just put one up," he said.

There is a resounding and collective desire among the mountain employees to compete on the same level as the grand Northwest coast's Whistler Blackcomb, often referred to as the mountain biking Mecca. "Our long-term goal is to create more energy and excitement around the resort ... just spruce up the place, become the baby Whistler Blackcomb of Northern New Mexico," Seifert said.

Forty-year Angel Fire resident and rancher Ramon Gonzales said he has personally witnessed the birth and progression of the resort and sees it quite differently than the mayor's office.

"We (the resort) never used to run the lifts in the summertime, now you can buy a pass and ride the lifts all summer long. Skiing never could pull in races of the same magnitude that mountain biking can," Gonzales said.

"I see it (mountain biking) adding to the economy. People come in to ride the lifts, take part in the races and they spend money in our stores and restaurants. That's a plus, that's beneficial," he added.