Positioned in the hills northeast of downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas sits a place that people of this area have known to be a staple for years. A popular tourist attraction and unique to it's own, The Great Passion Play is recognized far and wide...however not really in the minds of us here at Gnarkansas. That is until it got on our radar that the Passion Play had opened its property to the public for a massive purpose-built mountain bike trail system spanning across 600 acres. We're listening.
Photo by Nick Gibson
We first met Jagged Axe Trail Designs when we interviewed partner and bike shredder Alex Scott in his interview with Gnarkansas. In that, he told us about the Passion Play trails and that we should take a look at their inaugural festival to mark the grand opening of the trails to the public. We wanted to see it all. From there, we coordinated with co-owner Kelsie Scott in preparation for the event.
Photo by Nick Gibson
The Passion Play Trail System started on March 18th, 2018 and was funded by NWA Trailblazers, partnered with the Great Passion Play with their contribution of the land for public use. It's a truly epic-level project that Jagged Axe Trail Designs has taken on and provided a trail system to be ranked as one of the best in the area. This adds to the already robust tourism market that has been bolstered by the explosion of purpose-built mountain bike trails in the Northwest Arkansas.
Photos by Nick Gibson
Before the festival even started, riders were showing up to get ride time in on the trails. Partially because they thought they would miss the rain in the forecast. With riders primed to rip, we got a chance to hang out catch some sessions before the event. We rode around with Alex Scott and Gravitas Racing representatives Grant Rogers and Garrett Hubbard on the trails for some pregame shredding.
Photos by Nick Gibson
Day one, riders from all over showed up to sign up for the cross country races and stage races sprinkled across the trail system. Attendance was admittedly low due to the forecast, but little did naysayers know, Arkansas weather is the more unpredictable than any other state. It's just something that we have to deal with here, so a tiny pocket computer telling us it's going to rain doesn't usually scare off the average Arkansan.
Photos by Kate Austin
A ton of action went down during the early parts of the day with clear skies and amped riders. The Harescramble event got everyone in the mode with a 5 mile trek around the property. The stage races for the Forgiveness, Deliverance and Nineveh courses were open for riders to get their timed runs in. After lunch, the weather decided to take a shift and shut down our opportunity for the best jump competition, but do not fret. We have something in the works for redemption. The highlight of the week was easily Grant Rogers astonishingly fast 1 minute 15 second run on Deliverance.
Photos by Dave Austin
Most of us took shelter when the rain came in and it ended up closing out the day. There was talk of tornado's so there was really no choice. Watching with weather, they called for another day of rain, but we had hope. Come morning time, the skies looked promising. The light precipitation was nothing that the Gnarkansas media team or the racers couldn't handle. Plus, Mojo Cycling was on site doing check ups everyone's rigs after their ride. We we were in good hands.
Photos by Hunter Gonzalez
The cross country races and the stage races for Good Samaritan and Holy Roller courses were on the schedule and honestly, we really didn't have to divert from the schedule much. Arkansas weather can't fool us! The rest of the day cleared up and we were able to shed some rain layers off. Since Jagged Axe Trail Designs handles their drainage so well, everything was suitable enough to ride without issue.
Kaedon Steinart on the whale tail. Sequence by Kate Austin
Prizes were given out as races took the podium. There was also a fairly large amount of raffle prizes given out and since participation was minimal, everyone got pretty hooked up with many people walking away with multiple mtb goodies. Maybe next year, more folks will get to reap the benefits along with us! In conclusion, the event was a success and will now be a staple event for Gnarkansas and the mountain bikers of Arkansas. See you next year!