MTBing at ski resorts, Winter Park to beat Whistler?



Ski resorts are catering to gravity-fed biking
Jonathan D. Woods © News

Dennis Kremenetskiy of Barnaul, Russia, leads riders around a turn in
the bike park at Winter Park Resort. Freeride mountain bike parks have
opened at several Colorado resorts.STORY TOOLS

Slide show: Gravity-fed mountain biking

By Brian Metzler, Special To The Rocky
July 30, 2007
A few weeks ago, Boulder resident Bill Hanson took his mountain bike
to Winter Park and was amazed to see signs prohibiting uphill riding.
"It was weird, almost like they were outlawing uphill riding," he
said. "It was pretty disappointing, so I left the resort and rode
other trails in Fraser."

To accommodate the fast-growing and lucrative trend of gravity-
oriented mountain biking, the resort has changed its uphill riding
policies this summer. Many trails prohibit uphill riding and hiking
between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

There still are places on the mountain for traditional cross- country-
style riding and uphill grinds during the day, but the downhill
movement is taking precedence at Winter Park and a growing number of
U.S. ski resorts eager to boost summer revenues.

Lift-served mountain biking has been around since the early 1990s, but
no Colorado resort has come close to matching the success of Whistler
resort in British Columbia.

The Canadian mountain-bike mecca topped 100,000 rider visits last
summer and has increased its summer bike participation by 500 percent
since 2000 by innovating and expanding the offerings for all levels of

Having worked through liability issues and slowly received clearance
from the U.S. Forest Service, many American resorts - including Winter
Park, Keystone and Silverton Mountain in Colorado - have made a big
push to become premier mountain-bike destinations.

Winter Park has hired a group called Gravity Logic, basically the team
that helped spur Whistler's success, to help redefine its mountain-
bike offerings with new downhill trails and skills parks.

This summer, it installed new bike carriers on the Zephyr Express
chair lift to increase uphill capacity and replaced its Fat Tire
Classic festival with Crankworx Colorado, a three-day, gravity-fueled
carnival that drew competitors from around the world and more than
1,000 spectators to some events.

If it receives U.S. Forest Service approval, the resort will open as
many as 20 new trails in the next five years, most geared toward
downhill riding, with rock gardens, dirt jumps, elevated wooden
bridges and big drops.

"Our goal is to provide a real big variety for gravity-fed riding,"
said Bob Holme, terrain park and youth marketing manager at Winter
Park Resort. "It takes time to build trails right so they're
sustainable and safe. But when you build it, people are going to start
showing up."

Money flows 'downhill'

What's pushing the trend? First and foremost, it's about money.
Resorts upping their mountain- bike offerings are eager to increase
summer profits, and a rider who skips the lift to ride uphill never
contributes to the bottom line.

But a gravity-inspired rider is buying a lift ticket to get carried to
the top of the mountain, either in the form of a single-ride ($15 to
$20), all-day ($20 to $30) or season pass ($100 to $250).

Second, it's about progression of the sport. Riders have been pushing
the envelope of possibility during the past decade, inspiring new bike
designs with greater mobility, handling and range of motion on
increasingly larger jumps and steeper trails.

While cross-country bikes for long trail rides have changed only
slightly, downhill bikes with massive front shocks and as much as 12
inches of travel in the rear of the frame resemble off-road
motorcycles and are capable of similar types of riding.

The evolution of the sport has occurred in places where high- speed,
gravity-inspired biking has been allowed - Whistler and other areas in
British Columbia, as well as renegade trails built in the

"It's been going on for a while in Colorado, but it's been happening
on illegal trails in the backcountry," said ***** Warren, a Colorado-
based ambassador and pro rider for Kona Bikes. "I think the Forest
Service is starting to realize that, if the resorts, which have
already bulldozed ski runs, can just build some bike trails, then it
all works out and it's all centered around one area."

Like Whistler, Winter Park and Keystone have stressed rider-
progression areas, sections of terrain geared to helping novice and
intermediate riders improve their skills on technical features.

But what about cross-country riders who enjoy long days on rolling
trails and generally avoid chair-lift rides?

At Whistler, they're encouraged to ride other parts of the adjacent
trail system away from the downhill. That's a model Winter Park is
promoting with the help of the Boulder-based International Mountain
Bicycling Association, which, in October, will designate the resort
and Fraser Valley as one of the inaugural trail systems in its new
Ride Center program.

The initiative is aimed at developing an entire mountain-biking
community by aligning land agencies, municipalities, user groups and
volunteers, IMBA communications manager Mark Eller said.

"And that's good for the sport because it will help people progress
their skills on the best trails for their preferred type of riding,"
he said.

Ride Center goals include developing funding for new trails or
reconstructing existing trails with sustainable, eco-friendly
construction techniques.

Coexistence the goal

The bottom line is it will help balance the needs of divergent riding
styles in the area.

"Downhill riding and cross- country riding require different muscles
and different skill sets, but they're both cool and they can both co-
exist in the same place," Holme said. "Developing the Ride Center
really turns the Fraser Valley into something that looks a heck of a
lot like Whistler.

"It also signals to the riders who have been here for a long time that
we're definitely not abandoning that kind of riding, but we're looking
to enhance the product downvalley for them. It shows we're really
interested in a valley that will support all types of riding."

Know the lingo

If you want to want to survive Colorado's best mountain bike trails,
you need to have a decent bike, acquire some skills and understand the
language. A sampling of slang you might hear when you're screaming
down the Paid-N-Full Trail at Keystone.

Auger: To involuntarily take samples of the local geology, usually
with one's face, during a crash. Might also be known as a digger or a
face plant.

Baby heads: Boulders the size of a newborn's skull that are
frustratingly difficult to ride around.

Bacon: Scabs on a rider's knees, elbows or other exposed body parts.

Clean: To negotiate a trail successfully without crashing, as in: "I
cleaned the rock garden at Hall Ranch."

Death cookies: Fist-size rocks that knock a bike's wheels in every
direction but the one you want.

Fred: A person who spends a lot of money on his bike and clothing but
has little to no biking ability.

Mach session: Descending a fire road with friends at great speed.

Stack: To crash, as in: "I stacked it on 5-foot drop."

Superman: The act of flying over the handlebars and sailing through
the air before hitting the ground.

Three-hour tour: A Sunday ride that winds up being a death march.
(Term derived from lyrics in the Gilligan's Island theme song.)

Winky: A bike reflector, nonexistent on high-end bikes and typically
frowned upon by serious riders.

You can do it

The Keystone Climax from Sept. 1-3 is the seventh and final event in
the Mountain States Cup regional mountain bike championship series. It
includes a full schedule of racing in cross country and gravity
disciplines, plus exhibitor booths and product demos. Visit for more details.

Resort riding

Four Colorado resorts boosting their support for lift-served mountain

Keystone Resort

Last year, Keystone amped up its offerings with The Drop Zone mountain
bike park (which includes rock gardens, berms, bridges and both
natural and manmade drops) plus new downhill trails Milky Way, High-
Speed Dirt and Jam Rock. Three new downhill trails (Money, Eye of the
Tiger and Even Flow) have debuted this year and three more will be
unveiled before the end of summer.

Prices: $18 (single lift), $30 (all-day pass), $229-$269 (season

Info: /info/biking.asp

Silverton Mountain

Just like its radical and highly acclaimed winter terrain, Silverton
Mountain offers the most extreme mountain biking terrain of any
Colorado resort, including 40-foot gap jumps and tantalizing skinny
bridges. Crazy Beaver Trail debuted this summer with 25 new hits,
including massive drops, elevated bridges and dirt jumps. But you'll
have to wait until next year to ride it because the resort's short
bike season already has ended.

Prices: $15 (single lift), $27 (all-day pass).


Sol Vista

This small resort near Granby proves it's not just the state's biggest
resorts that are getting into the downhill mountain game. It doesn't
have many jumps and doesn't have the terrain features as other
resorts, but it offers several high-speed, loose dirt trails for
riders of all abilities. It's a great place for beginners and young
riders. The $10,000 G3 Gravity Series will make a stop Aug. 18-19 at
Sol Vista.

Prices: Free chair lift rides on Saturday and Sunday through summer.


Winter Park

Intrawest is following the same model at Winter Park that it used to
make Whistler the world's No. 1 resort for mountain biking. It's
building aggressive downhill trails and features but also adding
progression areas that allow novice and intermediate riders to improve
their skills. As many as 10 new trails could open in 2008. The
Crankworx Colorado festival debuted in early July to great fanfare,
and a few jumps and features from the event will remain through the

Prices: $18 (one lift), $25 (all- day pass), $129 (season pass).

Info: SkiWinter summer-_trails.htm