Cross-country trails have been the bread and butter of Park City mountain biking for years. Roughly 400 miles of multiuse trails wind among the city’s old mining ruins and through aspen forests before cresting atop one of many panoramic ridgelines at altitude. Smooth, unobstructed descents wait at the top of lung-busting climbs (or efficient chairlifts), and dozens of trailheads around town transform even the smallest shanty into a bike-in/bike-out chalet.
In other words, it’s nothing short of a biker’s paradise. But lately, the sport of mountain biking has evolved to embrace a new style of riding that has likewise found a welcome home in Park City. From ski resorts to community parks, bikers are saddling up on rugged, two-wheeled steeds that boast aggressive designs and allow gravity to work harder than the pedals. Bike-specific parks and freeride trails, built for fast speeds and rhythmic flow, are cropping up all over, spiked with a mélange of obstacles that include rocks and logs, bridges, teeter-totters, jumps, and berms to test riders’ skills and gumption.
For more than a decade, downhill bikers have fueled their adrenaline with gravity-fed runs at Deer Valley Resort (deervalley.com). Known for their steep, technical terrain, these lift-served trails require nimble handling through tight sections of rocks, roots, ledges, and trees. “The majority of our terrain is classic [downhill] mountain biking,” explains Deer Valley bike patrol manager Steve Graff. “When we first started building trails, bikers wanted harder and more technical terrain, and that’s what we built.” Indeed, any rider will be challenged with Deer Valley’s twisted singletrack, but the resort has responded to today’s new style of biking by retrofitting existing trails with small berms and rollers for a modern twist on old-school downhilling.
These days, however, many riders are also heading to Canyons Resort (canyonsresort.com) for the newest standard of freeride trails. “We’re bringing in another element of biking that Utah hasn’t seen before,” says Canyons Bike Park manager Steve Duke, who explains that Canyons is the only Utah resort to offer this caliber of lift-served freeriding. Consulting with Gravity Logic, a design group known for its innovative construction at Whistler Mountain Bike Park, Canyons has laid the framework for an evolving playground of dirt and worked with its existing winter infrastructure to maximize the flow and fun.
Now in its second full summer of bike-park antics, Canyons riders can choose from a cluster of downhill-only trails that snake along High Meadow and Short Cut chairlifts. Ranging from mellow beginner trails to technical expert lines, a total of two skills parks and seven trails are filled with berms, jumps, and wooden ladders that give two-wheeled bikers plenty of room to rip. Over the coming years, Canyons will debut even more bike-park designs as the resort constructs an additional network of top-to-bottom trails for a seamless descent.
But while riders may need a lift ticket to access the full-service trail systems at Canyons and Deer Valley, not all bike parks require a pay-to-play commitment. A number of free community bike parks are as welcoming to courageous kids as they are to the parents who want in on some of the action.
This summer, the two-year-old Trailside Bike Park (basinrecreation.org), on the backside of the popular Round Valley cross-country trail system, will undergo an expansion that builds upon its existing terrain. Beginner and intermediate riders come here to follow the rolling contours of Trailside’s hills and spend all day perfecting their techniques on the pump track, in the skills park, or along the two swooping freeride trails. By the end of this summer, advanced riders will be treated to a larger pump track and an expert trail with even bigger challenges.
Closer to town, the Park City Dirt Jump Park (parkcity.org) has proven to be a significant boon for the whole community. Tucked behind the Park Meadows Fire Station, the city-managed Dirt Jump Park was originally built as a temporary solution for a growing sport. That all changed, however, when the city deemed the park a permanent fixture in 2010, after a five-year trial period. With municipal funding at hand, a team of local riders, including industry professionals Eric Porter and Chris Van Dine, set out to rebuild the entire park and create a new outlet for bikers in need of more air time. After a major overhaul, the park reopened in late 2011 with eight different jump lines divvied up among four skill levels, letting all riders progress at their own pace.
If you’re a first-timer, camps and clinics are offered throughout the summer at each bike park, designed for riders of all ages and all abilities. And even bystanders can enjoy the rush of the action, leaving little excuse for anyone to bypass the thrills and spills of riding in Park City—a surefire cure for any slopehound’s summertime blues.
Get the Gear
Gravity-induced mountain biking doesn’t come without its share of crashes, and investing in tech-driven protective gear is cheaper than the copay on your health insurance. Check out these tried-and-true essentials before you hit the bike park.
Protect your peepers from rocks and dust with the POC Iris DH goggles, which include a silicone strap for a secure helmet grip. $70, pocsports.com
Troy Lee Designs’ GP gloves are injected with impact-resistant foam to keep your digits out of harm’s way. $34, troyleedesigns.com
Pad up your protruding limbs before an impact with ventilated elbow and knee guards from One Industries. $65–75, oneindustries.com
Dakine’s quick-drying, moisture-wicking Oakridge flannel is designed for postride comfort as much as midride performance. $75, dakine.com