Highland Mountain Bike Park: A Story of Passion, Perseverance and Partnership
In the world of mountain biking, Mark Hayes, the founder of Highland Mountain Bike Park is a true trailblazer. His journey creating one of the East Coast’s premier mountain biking destinations is a story of passion, perseverance and a valuable partnership with Bank of New Hampshire.
Mark’s background was firmly rooted in the high-tech world but his love for mountain biking started as a casual hobby in the early ’90s. Over time, that hobby evolved into a deep passion leading him to ride several times a week, often for hours on end. It was during these rides that the idea sparked to create a mountain biking park on the East Coast.
His vision was inspired by Whistler Mountain Bike Park in British Columbia where trails were expertly designed and maintained featuring jumps, drop-offs and routes for riders of all skill levels. After leaving the tech industry he went on an extensive search for the perfect property, and discovered the ideal location for his vision in Northfield, New Hampshire.
Mark’s dream property had it all—a chairlift, existing infrastructure and a prime location. Fortunately, the sale of his previous business had provided Mark with the capital necessary to kickstart his new venture.
In 2003, Mark acquired the property and, after extensive renovations and trail building, Highland Mountain Bike Park officially opened its doors to the public in 2006. The park was designed to cater to riders of all levels ensuring a welcoming environment for both beginners and seasoned pros.
The early days of Highland Mountain Bike Park were filled with challenges and Mark soon realized the importance of financial support from a banking partner who believed in his vision. Mark’s initial banking experience was less than ideal as they were primarily interested in his personal assets and saw little value in Highland.
It was around this time that Mark connected with Deb Tessier, Vice President, Commercial Banker at Bank of New Hampshire. Mark and Deb had known each other for some time through local business events and collaborations. Deb saw the potential in Highland Mountain Bike Park and offered to help with the support of Bank of New Hampshire. She understood the unique needs of Mark’s business and was eager to help facilitate its growth.
Together they explored the vision for Highland Mountain Bike Park, initiated restructuring the debt and evaluated the property’s worth. The financial backing was crucial to Highland’s success allowing Mark to invest in the park’s development and expansion. Highland Mountain Bike Park was now on a trajectory to achieve its potential.
“One of the things I’ve learned from this whole process is always work with a local bank When you’re building a business,” said Mark. “And then work with good people, people that you trust and that you can work with. Deb and Bank of New Hampshire are those people.”
Over the years, Highland Mountain Bike Park has thrived as a business with three primary platforms: the park itself, hosting ticket sales, lessons, food and beverage services, a bike shop, events and retail; a popular camp platform offering overnight programs; and a trail-building platform that caters to consulting and trail construction.
Highland’s expansion plans include building a dedicated camp village designed to accommodate over 1,000 campers. This initiative not only aims to enhance the economy but also provide campers with a memorable and immersive experience. Campers will be housed on the park property ensuring an unforgettable mountain biking adventure.
Recent years have witnessed remarkable growth in the sport of mountain biking driven by the passion and dedication of riders and the accessibility of world-class mountain biking destinations like Highland Mountain Bike Park. The park now sees the number of visitors in a single weekend that they would see in a full year in 2006.
Highland Mountain Bike Park’s future success is deeply rooted in engaging youth and fostering their passion for the sport. Mark’s commitment to the young generation is reflected in the park’s after-school programs, summer camps, and the Young Worker Program offering an opportunity for young riders to immerse themselves in mountain biking and gain valuable work experience within the company.
The establishment of partnerships with local schools and the creation of outdoor recreation and trail-building programs will not only inspire the next generation of riders but also help address the pressing challenges of housing and workforce development in New Hampshire.
Mark’s journey from a high-tech entrepreneur to the founder of Highland Mountain Bike Park is an inspiring tale of following one’s passion and transforming it into a thriving business. The pivotal role played by Bank of New Hampshire in supporting Highland’s vision and growth underscores the value of local partnerships in fostering economic development.
The continued success and expansion of Highland Mountain Bike Park are testament to the vibrant growth of mountain biking in the region. By focusing on youth engagement, accessible trails, and a commitment to the sport, Highland is well-positioned to shape the future of mountain biking and contribute to the growth of the local economy in New Hampshire.
Learn more about Highland Mountain Bike Park by visiting highlandmountain.com and be sure to follow them on Facebook and Instagram.