The modern day ski resort has a new opportunity for retaining it’s customers year round attention with the recent popularity of downhill mountain biking. No longer do the lifts remain idle for eight long summer months, instead resort sight see’ers and hikers are now sharing a chairlift with a huge influx of cross country and downhill mountain bikers who’re flocking to ski resorts for endless vertical dirt runs.
I’ve been a mountain biker for over 25 years now and have just recently re-discovered my passion for the sport thanks to the enthusiasm of my 13 yr old son (who rips by the way). Not wanting to miss the opportunity to ride with him, I invested in a new Rocky Mountain Altitude full suspension bike and started to get re-aquatinted with our local trails here in Nelson, BC. Just like with ski touring, I love the (pedal) up as much as the down but hearing about all these incredibly meticulous machine built trails at ski resorts I decided it was time to check them out. Our plan was a week and a half long road trip through Idaho and down to the norther part of Utah around Salt Lake City. After comparing and contrasting all the options that lay before us (10 bike parks in Utah and 7 in Idaho) we settled on riding Schweitzer Mountain Bike Park, Deer Valley Resort Bike Park and Silver Mountain Bike Park with some additional human powered riding in and around Park City.
When your 13yr old son gets more air than you it's time to up your game.
The first stop on our 12 day road trip was Schweitzer Mountain Bike Park in Sand Point, Idaho. Schweitzer is home to world class skiing and riding over the winter months, which we got a good taste of this spring after wrapping up the ski season here in Nelson at Whitewater Ski Resort. Already having a good appreciation of Schweitzer’s terrain from our winter laps I was excited by the prospect of riding the lift accessed dirt trails. With only 13 designated bike trails on the mountain proper Schweitzer may not seem like the largest bike park around but add to this their many miles of cross country and recreational trails (a good number of these lift accessible) and you quickly learn that Schweitzer has more to offer than meets the eye.
We spent much of the day sampling trails such as Pinch Flat, Moffits Edge and The Collector, however one of our favourite trails was the Highpoint/Sidewinder combo. Highpoint is accessed by the Great Escape high speed quad that provides access to all the trails on the mountain. Highpoint is a relatively new trail that opened the same week we were riding at Schweitzer so the dirt was still fresh in section but it provided a long flowy decent down the south side of the mountain where it hooks into a series of trails with something for everyone. We chose to ride Sidewinder as we were promised that it was full of burms & bumps, and we were not disappointed.
Over the course of the day we managed to ride every trail on the mountain, as well as a few—more than once. We only wished that we’d left enough gas in the tank for a second lap of Highpoint/Sidewinder, but this will have to wait until we visit again.
Location: Sand Point, Idaho
Cost: $25 US
Number of Trails: 13, 4 Green, 4 Blue, 4, Black, 1 Double Black, plus unlimited XC and recreational trails
Total Length of trails: 20 miles
Number of Lifts: 1 high speed quad
Vertical: 518’ / 1,700’
Operation: 11:00 am - 5:00 pm, June 24 - September 5, 2016
Favourite Trail: Pinch Flat to Moffits Edge to The Collector or from the top of the lift to the village via Highpoint to Sidewinder
The second stop on our road trip was Deer Valley Resort Bike Park which is located a quick 25 minute drive from downtown Salt Lake City. With a base elevation of 7,200’, Deer Valley is much cooler and more hospitable for biking and hiking than the busy city below. With 100’s of miles of trails accessible from Deer Valley and neighbouring Park City it makes for an ideal location for some serious mountain vacation time.
Deer Valley Ski Resort is know for it’s high end skiing and meticulously groomed ski runs and in summer their dirt trails were no exception. I was told that they rake the rocks off the bike trails regularly and I’d have to agree as the dirt was hard packed and smooth, even though it hadn’t rained in weeks. With two high speed chairs the 2,200’ ascent to the summit of 9,400’ Bald Mountain is incredibly fast. The Silver Lake Express takes you from the base village up to Silver Lake Village which is referred to as mid mountain, from there the Sterling Express Quad gets you the rest of the way up to the very tippy-top of the mountain. The vast majority of trails are located above mid mountain so most of our time was spent riding the Sterling Express to access long flowy trails such as Tidal Wave (my personal favourite), technical trails such as Aspen Slalom and Twist & Shout and long cruisers like NailDriver. When the time came to call it a day, the Dear Crest trail was a super long decent back down to the Lodges At Deer Valley where we stayed the night.
Location: Park City, Utah
Number of Trails: 33, 2 Green, 17 Blue, 10 Black, 4 Double Black
Total Length of trails: 70 miles
Number of Lifts: 2 high speed quads
Vertical: 670m / 2,200’
Operation: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm, June 17 2016 - September 18, 2016
Favourite Trail: Tidal Wave to Deer Crest
The third and final stop on our southern bike adventure was Silver Mountain Bike Park which is located on the border of Idaho and Montana in the small, quaint mining town of Kellog. Having driven by Silver Mountain Resort on several occasions, I’d always wanted to stop and get the low down on their winter operations since you can’t really see any of the ski terrain from the highway or town. The same is true in summer as all of the bike trails are accessed via a 3.1 mile long gondola that rises an impressive 3,400’. Much to our amazement all of this vertical is bike-able with a few trails going from the summit all the way back down to town. There is however an obligatory 1.5 mile bike along a paved path after your decent in order to get you back to the gondi base, but not to worry it’s super fast and simple.
Location: Kellog, Idaho
Cost: $35 US
Number of Trails: 35, 9 Green, 10 Blue, 13 Black, 3 Double Black
Total Length of trails: miles
Number of Lifts: 1 Gondola, 1 triple chair
Vertical: 1,036m’ / 3,400’
Operation: 9:30 am - 5:00 pm, June 27- September 5, 2016
Favourite Trail: Jackass to Lower Hammer to Old School to Spooky Woods to Wide Open to Man Child
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