The Steamboat Bike Park
● By Christina Freeman
On the lower slopes of the ski area, the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. has teamed up with Gravity Logic to create the Steamboat Bike Park -- a growing number of bike trails that bring the excitement of downhill, free-riding terrain to the mountain. Gravity Logic is the British Columbia team that first brought downhill biking to Whistler Mountain and since then, to a growing number of ski areas around the United States.
"It is a joint project," says Steamboat’s Loryn Kasten. "We have our own trail crew, while Gravity Logic provides the big-picture vision." Ski area officials and Gravity Logic first started working together in 2010 and opened the bike park in 2012. "It’s an evolving, ongoing project," says Kasten, "as we respond to feedback from riders and figure out what's next."
Tom “Pro” Prochazka, one of the principals of Gravity Logic, says most of the trails are natural and the only features added were bridges over sensitive areas and dirt rollers to create reverse grades for water management and general trail flow. "Bucking Bronc trail is a dedicated jump trail and it consists of dirt and wood features to create 'airtime' for the riders," he says. Some of the wood features on this trail are designed to be removed for winter operations and installed again for bike season.
Currently, the Steamboat Bike Park features six downhill trails, including Tenderfoot, Sitz, Wrangler Gulch, E-Z Ride, Rustlers Ridge and Buckin' Bronc. Opening this summer are Spur and Tenderfoot. Tenderfoot is a beginner trail, while Rustlers Ridge caters to all abilities. "In my view, Rustler’s is a super-fun trail to ride for any rider of intermediate and higher level," Prochazka says.
The growing popularity of downhill riding, based on experiences at Whistler and other mountain resorts, proves that fun, quality trails translate into increased visits, Prochazka says. Trails have to cater to all abilities of riders, especially at the beginner and intermediate level so new riders can be safely introduced to the sport and retain existing riders. "A good progression of trails is very important, as is having fun trails for experts," he says.
The expert trail contains step-down rollers, a wooden berm/wall ride, a large dirt berm, a 10-foot wooden ladder step-down, step-up, rollers and a line of nine table-top dirt jumps in rapid succession. The green trails feature dirt berms, banked turns and wooden slat and ladder bridges.
A ticket is required to access the Steamboat Bike Park downhill trails via the gondola, open during gondola operations. 970-879-6111/www.steamboat.com