Bike Park Reviews: Greek Peak, Cortland, NY

Unless you've lived in New York's southern tier or in central New York you've probably never heard of Greek Peak. But if you've ever driven I-81 between Scranton and Syracuse (a drive of underrated beauty) you've passed within a few minutes of it. Located in Cortland just north of Binghamton, it's more of a local stomping ground than regional draw. I skied there as a kid and added it to my list on a road trip to upstate NY to visit family. The park opened to MTBs in 2015 with three trails. It now boasts 16 trails and dual-slalom course that opened in 2020. Races are Wednesday evenings through the summer.

The park claims over 950 vertical feet, though I was recording about 750 feet of drop per run. I didn't time the lift but looking back at my file I estimate it was about 18 minutes between runs. That includes time on the lift as well as time waiting to load. Greek Peak opens its lift for scenic rides as well so there was often some waiting between runs. I spent a full day there and was able to get in 11 runs, averaging 1.4 miles and about 7 minutes each, not as good a lift to ride ratio as Blue Mountain where the average run length was half a mile longer.

Greek Peak is raw and steep. You can tell from the trail map that many of the runs don't follow wide meandering routes across the mountain, and take instead pretty direct lines. Nemesis and Down & Dirty in particular are hard-braking chutes through steep, rocky, rooty and narrow terrain where your primary occupation is keeping all your teeth. While trails like that aren't my favorite, I can appreciate that the builders found routes down the mountain at all in some of this terrain. And they are good practice at controlling your speed and maintaining sharp focus, in between runs of flowy berms and jumps.

Trident (a black diamond, shown here in red) is a bit of an exception in that it cuts across the mountain more than the others. But it has some other technical features that add to its challenge - rock drops, wooden drops with and without run-offs, a wooden creek gap jump and a log pyramid that nearly ended my day. Every man-made technical feature I saw at the park had some a bail out option to avoid it. As I picked my way down Trident, I saw the trail split - a steep drop to the right and a log pyramid to the left. I hadn't ridden the trail previously so didn't want to try the drop without inspecting it. So I chose instead to ride the pyramid and planned to stop afterwards to see the height of the drop and the run-off. It turns out that the drop was the bail out option and the pyramid was the more challenging feature. Because it wasn't a pyramid - it was a right triangle.

As I rode up, I lifted my front wheel over the largest log on top, intending to place it on the down ramp on the other side. But there wasn't a down ramp - only a straight drop down the 3' log pile, followed by another 2' or so of hill it was built on. I deftly combined a superman ejection with a swear word and managed to survive. A guy and his son were off their bikes a few yards further down the trail and saw the whole thing. He came running up to me asking if I was ok. "I just assumed I could roll down the back," I said, a little dazed. "Well why the hell did you assume that?" he responded. Lesson learned: pre-ride, re-ride, free ride from then on. It wasn't the first time I went down that day. Heavy rains the day before combined with steep rooty trails were a handful for me. But I think it was the last. I am an evolving being.

Some days you shred the mountain, other days the mountain shreds you. I lost track of how many times my Garmin threatened to notify my next of kin at Greek Peak.

The jump line at Greek Peak is called Freebird. It's designated a black but only because of two wooden features that are easily avoided. Most of the jumps are moderate height and angles, without boosty lips. They are a little narrower than in other parks, lending to a more organic feel. The berms that link jump sections on Freebird are also rockier than in many other parks and not as deep. The place feels a lot less manicured than other places I've been. You almost never lose the feeling that you're riding through the woods at Greek Peak. Some other parks have flow trails that feel more like amusement parks than forests.

I should point out though that jumps are not limited to Freebird. Blues and blacks like Calypso and Trident also have jump runs - shorter and often smaller in some cases but they're there. And don't be surprised also to find then in otherwise technical sections. Many of the park's trails defy categorization. Is this one technical, flow, natural, man-made? Yes.

They LOVE their wooden features at Greek Peak.

Someone at Greek Peak has a circular saw and isn't afraid to use it. Wooden features are everywhere, from tabletops through the trees (above) to drops and wooden gap jumps, including a fairly massive road gap. But they ride smoothly and predictably and require more courage than technical acumen. Be respectful of them to be sure, but don't be intimidated. They're fun.

Candidly, I was a little disappointed at the relative lack of flow trails when I first got there. But the unique features and challenging terrain won me over throughout the day. Plus Greek Peak is so convenient I can't imagine not planning on making a stop every time I drive I-81 to or from Syracuse. I'll definitely be back.


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