Mammoth Mountain Bike Park Director Dave Geirman is undaunted, as usual
The face of audacity at the Mammoth Mountain Bike Park looks exactly like Dave Geirman.
He looks like the kind of guy who will let nothing stop him, and nothing does. His face is tanned and leathery, suggesting a man who has lived a career in the outdoors, at altitude. He doesn't brag on himself. When questions get a little too close, he deflects them.
He's tough. Rugged.
Geirman is in charge of lift operations at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area during the winter. After last winter, Geirman might have thought he was going to relax a bit in the summer.
"This," he said, looking over the mountain bike acreage from a perch at Main Lodge, "has been a challenge, but we're getting there. This is the most challenging season ever, what with the amount of snow we have. It's mid-July and we're going through eight feet of snow in some places."
Anyone who has spent decades on Mammoth Mountain knows Geirman. He's among the core people of a group commonly known as "Dave's Guys."
These are people (including women) who lived the Dave McCoy-inspired "Just Do It" life long before Nike came around.
One year, cycling enthusiast Bill Cockroft thought he saw a future in road cycling in Mammoth (he still does).
He teamed up with Sam Walker to create the first of several Whiskey Creek stage races, attracting some of the best cyclists in the U.S., including Andy Hampsten (1988 Giro d'Italia winner and winner of the Alpe d'Huez stage of the 1992 Tour de France) and Tour de France winner Greg LeMond.
Geirman jumped into the project and, through a circuitous route, ended up being one of the creators of what would become the Mammoth Mountain Bike Park.
"I was here at the beginning," Geirman said. In 1987, Geirman said, "We did a combination of a mountain bike race and road race, and it was kind of interesting."
One year, Geirman had an idea to open Kamikaze, the road stretching from the top of Mammoth Mountain to the bottom.
The next year, he and his crew opened Beach Cruiser – an old game trail. One year grew into the next, trails proliferated all over the place and today, Geirman's crew takes care of a trail network of 70 miles, two shuttles and the Panorama Gondola.
But then came this summer.
As the crews began to clear the lower trails even as the ski season droned on, Geirman did what was to be among his most audacious move ever. He would open Kamikaze by the Fourth of July.
He and his longtime trails supervisor, Mark Hendrickson, worked to figure out how that was going to be possible. Hendrickson has worked at the bike park for 14 years and is one of Geirman's most trusted lieutenants.
"Opening Kamikaze, we took snow cats up there and plowed through 20-foot (snow) banks," Hendrickson said.
"It was like the old days, just plowing through snow for two weeks," Hendrickson said.
"The amount of water that starts running is just unbelievable. The snow removal is one thing, and then you have to wrangle to the water."
But they did it.
On July Fourth, as skiers hung up their skis for the last time this season, mountain bikers hurtled down the hill on a soft but passable Kamikaze, with eight-foot banks of snow on the side of the trail.
There was (and is) more audacity coming.
Geirman's crew last week opened a single-track trail called "Velocity," hacking their way through deep snow on a steep grade.
This week they tried to make Techno Rock passable, and by mid-week Geirman and Hendrickson had the trail in their sights for a weekend opening. Nobody in their right mind would bet against them.
Last season was a tough opening too. It wasn't so much the snow as it was a long, cold spring. The melt-off was gradual and didn't help Geirman and his crew.
Combined with the big snow this year, Geirman said he has a new scheme. How long-term it will be is hard to figure.
"We'd like to open the whole east side of the park first," Geirman said, noting the lower elevation at Chair 15/Eagle Express.
"We'd like to work that in conjunction with Juniper Springs Lodge," he said.
Certainly the weather and elevation might form a combination that works.
That particular chairlift at one point actually carried bikes to the middle of that section of mountain, but closed that operation down for lack of demand. Even so, Geirman has plenty of experience in that neck of the woods.
Lately, even in a big snow year, Eagle Express (along with Canyon Lodge) usually closes down around the Easter holiday.
"If we can, we'll develop more of that area and work our way up." It's a bold idea but not the boldest he's had, certainly.
For Geirman, it's first things first, and right now the task at hand is to open the rest of the bike park.
"Were still optimistic this is going to be a good season," he said. "We have a bigger crew, and we're committing our resources in big machinery. It just so happens that we're doing it now after the biggest snow year on record."