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Let's Go Ridin’: Downhill Mountain Bike Parks In The West
Resorts all over the West put gravity mountain biking on the top of the summer attractions. Those who crank up the lifts in the off-season put on bike racks and bring riders to great heights.
Most mountain bike systems offer a variety of trail difficulties, and also install jumps, ramps and other features to spice up the ride. Rentals, instruction and food come, too.
SnoCountry.com has been tracking the growth of mountain biking in Western resorts for years. This season, we took a deeper look into what’s out there and came up with a different variety all over the West.
Deer Valley embraced mountain biking as early as any. Now the Utah resort has 3,000 vert and 70 trails – just a few blacks, mostly blues -- and three distinct areas served by a trio of chairs: Silver Lake Express out of base area serves multiple blue runs, some winding through neighborhoods; Sterling Express to 9,400-foot Bald Mountain; and Ruby Express on Flagstaff Mt. (9,100 feet).
Keystone’s 2,300 feet of vert attract both ends of biking spectrum. On the front side, beginning and novice riders have a host of green trails and service roads on the west side to get your balance and build confidence. Experts track under Summit Express and to the east. A few blue trails intermingle to change in it up.
Experts flock to Northstar California as it has as many gnarly runs as anywhere. Easy runs feed off the Big Springs Express gondola, but experienced riders catch Vista Express or Tahoe Zephyr chairs for dozen of steep routes. Downhillers also can veer onto a myriad X-C trails California for a change of pace – and great views of Lake Tahoe.
At Silver Mountain, it helps having the longest gondola in North America, as riders get to the top of 3,400 vertical feet. The layout mostly has three options – expert, intermediate and easy-going – all over the mountain. Trails around Chair 3 area off the summit provide greatest challenge, but the real appeal is taking top-to-bottom ride at your own pace.
The first lift-access mountain biking in the Northwest, Stevens Pass ain’t huge, but the local MTB crowd loves it. The main Hogsback chair accesses 1,700 of vert on trails evenly divided into green, blue and black. Plans are in the works to greatly expand offering at the Washington state resort.
The trail system at Alyeska has grown quickly to more than 15 routes on 2,500 vert. Alaska’s only lift-served mountain biking system is slowly expanding, with Chair 7 as the focus. Some of the many hiking trails off the top of the tram may become multi-use to afford bikers more options. But you can’t beat riding a bike by the midnight sun!