Highland Mountain was built with a vision of creating a park that would cater to riders of all ages, abilities, and disciplines: a home for any style. This month Wayne, Anthony, Kyle, Dustin, and KaJay tell us about what they love to ride and how they’ve found a shared passion among the Highland family.
When Mark Hayes was first building Highland, he had a vision: to create a park that riders of all ages and ability levels could call home. The goal was to grow the sport of mountain biking by making it accessible to families, while also providing terrain that would attract professional riders who compete on a world-class level. It took a while to get the recipe quite right (our dedicated beginner trail used to be…wait for it…Fancy Feast) and even longer to overcome the stigma that Highland was too gnarly for non-expert riders. Trail Crew kept putting in work, building up everything from the entry-level Park Ready Zone to a slopestyle course that brings in more pro riders every season. Today, Highland truly offers something for everyone who wants to ride a bike.
If you’ve been at Highland on any given weekend in the last, oh, fourteen years, it’s more likely than not that you’ve run across Wayne DeVingo. (Maybe in the lift line, maybe at the bar, maybe in the parking lot trimming a fellow rider’s hair.) Wayne has been ripping around on mountain bikes since 1983, and the increasingly varied terrain at Highland has given him plenty of opportunities to keep branching out. “I like riding the big jumps as much as I like riding tech,” he says, and he absolutely shreds all of it.
Wayne turned sixty this summer and he’s shown no signs of slowing down. “I’m still learning, I’m still progressing,” he says. “I ride with a very young bunch of riders, and it keeps me young.”
On the other end of the age spectrum, fifteen-year-old Anthony Lombardi started riding at Highland when he was only seven. As a kid, he attended Highland’s one-day Kids Camp programs, where he remembers being coached by Training Director Chris “Green Tires” Chmielewski and the legendary Chad “Steak” DeLuca. Over the last six years Anthony has progressed swiftly through Highland’s camp programs, spending a few summers riding alongside the pros at Ayr Academy. Spectators at last year’s CLIF US Open of Slopestyle will remember Ant as one of the winners of the event’s whip-off, sharing the top spot with fellow grom Max Abrams.
Highland’s training facilities, from the dedicated beginner terrain in Central Park and the Park Ready Zone to the resis and the foam pit in the HTC, have provided Ant with plenty of progressive features to keep learning new tricks and take his riding to the next level, season after season. “I want to see other kids come here more and have the same kind of progression I’ve had,” Ant says. If his style on a bike at such a young age is any indication: the kids are alright.
An often-overlooked section of Highland’s terrain is our XC network, which has always been free and open to the public even when the lift is closed. Kyle Matzke is no stranger to these trails: he’s been using them as a training ground for years. When the enduro racing scene was first taking off, he’d come up to Highland after hours and do laps on his own. As he saw increasingly good results, more and more of his friends started joining him. “I’ve always been an advocate for earning your turns,” he says. “Whether it’s splitboarding out in the winter backcountry or here earning your turns cross-country trail riding.”
When it comes to earning your turns, Kyle’s not just an advocate: he’s basically the poster child. While Kyle obviously enjoys the occasional lift-accessed downhill lap, he’s best known for his constant, enthusiastic presence at Highland’s dedicated uphill nights. The weekly event is known as Wednesduro, and was officially adopted by Highland after years of encouragement from Kyle and his friends on Team Granite. When the lift stops spinning, we open Freedom Trail to uphill traffic and anyone can pedal to the summit then choose their favorite trail for the descent. To many people this may sound more grueling than fun, but don’t knock it until you try it. It’s about the fitness, sure, but it’s also about the camaraderie. As anyone who has met Kyle knows, he’s all about bringing people together. Having a place like Highland to gather and connect with other like-minded riders can make all the difference.
Dustin Iverson was introduced to the Highland Family by his coworkers at the bike shop he was working at in high school. “I was just a BMX kid who had never tried mountain bikes before,” he says. He was immediately hooked. He bought a bike and set about mastering…well, pretty much everything. Dustin may have entered the scene “just a BMX kid,” but nowadays he’s anything but.
Like much of the Highland Family who have been riding here for years, Dustin has taken advantage of Highland’s varied terrain and evolved into an incredibly well-rounded rider, styling his way through smooth dirt jump lines, rocky and rooty downhill trails, and the slopestyle course. He also serves as a mentor for many of the young local shredders who look up to him for his style, patience, and overall identity as a rad and good dude. “Every couple of years when I have an apartment lease come up, I move a little bit closer to Highland,” he says. He and his wife now live about four miles down the road: “I can’t get close enough to here. I want to ride here every single day.” (Spoiler alert: he does.)
KaJay Rooke has only been riding bikes for four years: and of those four years, she’s only been riding downhill for two. She found a home at Highland and in just two years her progression has been exponential. She credits the Highland Family with helping her to achieve so much on her bike in such a short period of time. Everyone at Highland, from her fellow lady shredders to her ‘dude friends’ have all been “unbelievably supportive.”
“Once everybody’s riding together, everybody feeds off of the energy,” KaJay says. “Everybody is stoked for you, whether you’re hitting your first drop ever and it’s in Central Park, or you’re doing Freebird and that’s the biggest thing that you’ve hit ever.” The mountain’s resident Hype Woman, KaJay has quickly become a prominent figure in the growing women’s freeride movement at Highland. A dedicated crew of ladies has been picking their way through increasingly challenging features and tricks all summer, and at every turn KaJay is there cheering on friends and strangers indiscriminately.