Mountain Biking in Snowmass

Snowmass is trying very hard to break into the mountain bike world. This year they started the Snowmass Demo Days to attract mountain bikers with this free event. They have also hired some of the best trail designers (Gravity Logic) to sculpt the ski resort into a freeride playground and the surrounding terrain makes for some great cross country fun. So far, Snowmass has succeeded in capturing some of the local market, but it will have to expand a bit more if they want to attract global or even Front Range attention. While the accommodations are great and the area dining is superb, it may not be enough to convince cyclists to visit or stay the night once they do arrive.

The lodging in Snowmass was very nice; as to be expected when your neighbor is nearby Aspen. Our condo was well appointed with a big screen television, cable, and wifi, and the kitchen had most of the basics. The greatest advantage that Snowmass has over other destinations, is that the lodging is so close to the outdoor adventure. The trails start where the streets end; there is no need to drive.

Complimenting the plush lodging are some great restaurants. The first night, we enjoyed some fantastic upscale Mexicsnowmass2an food with a plethora of margarita choices at Venga Venga. And the second night was Italian at Il Poggio, a delicious option after a full day on the trails. For breakfast we found Fuel to be the best, in fact we didn’t bother looking for another place. The prices were incredibly reasonable (considering the area’s resort status) and the food was just excellent.

The downhill mountain biking trails at Snowmass are fun. Point blank, they are fun, swoopy trails with berms and jumps that duck and dive in and out of the woods. What they lack in number and tech, they make up with accessibility. When the lifts close at four, you can still access the trails fairly easily from the cat tracks to extend your riding day. There are only four of these trails, Valhalla and Vapor being the more difficult trails, and Viking and Verde being the easier of the four. Vapor is probably the steepest with numerous switchbacks and even some rocky sections, but no serious technical moves. Valhalla has table top after table top and some great jumps. Viking is a small step down from Valhalla, with lots of smaller table tops, jumps, and berms. Verde is a mellow ride, but it’s still fun and a great place to start the kids out. There are future plans for more trails, this rider hopes they include some chunkier ones.

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Speaking of kids, Snowmass is a great place for them. There are mountain bike camps for kids and judging from the number and caliber of the groms on the mountain, they learn a lot and have a great time. They also have other camps and childcare for little ones that are not old enough for the program, or would just rather do something else. In short, the resort is very welcoming to families and accommodates them well.

There are quite a few cross country mountain bike trails snaking around the mountains surrounding the resort and they are working on adding more. I spent most of my time on the lift serviced trails, but the Government trail is worth noting. It starts in Snowmass and takes you to Aspen on this long time classic ribbon of dirt. There are a few technical sections, most notable being the Root (you’ll know when you see it). Give yourself an afternoon, it’s only 6.6 miles, but between the scenery, the altitude, and a few rock gardens, you’ll appreciate it more if you don’t have to hurry. One important note about the cross country trails, there are some seasonal closures for elk calving, May 15-June 20, please respect the closures and the wildlife.

I attended Snowmass Demo Days and found the event to be promising for it’s inaugural showing. It provided each participant a 10% discount on the lift tickets and all the bicycle demos were free. It attracted some heavy hitters in the cycling world, like Ibis, Yeti, and Cannondale, along with some other solid companies, such as Transition and YT Industries, and finally, it included some small, exclusive Colorado frame builders, Savvy Cycles and 22 Cycles. While there were waits for the demo bikes (as with all demo day events), once you had a bike, it was smooth sailing to get on the lifts and trails. In the future, it would be great to see more manufacturers involved; given the number of participants, it should not be too hard attracting them. It would also be great to see summer hours for the gondola. While the four o’clock closing time for the lift works well with short winter days, long summer evenings could be made better with more runs on the trails. It may even convince the nearby visitors from the Grand Valley to stay the night, instead of driving the short two hours back home.

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