Editor’s Note: Have you already conquered these five? Check out our updated list of top downhill mountain biking resorts, 2014-style.
Now that summer is in full swing, it’s time to get back on the slopes and hurtle downhill as fast as you can. Just forget your board or skis this time of year and be sure to bring thick pads, helmet and a burly mountain bike with you instead. Since the early days of downhill racing on Repack Road in the 70s in Marin County, California, mountain bike technology has come a long way and ski resorts around the world have built up an amazing infrastructure to try to capture this warm-weather adventure market. If you want to see the best trails and latest innovations that ski resorts have to offer, you need to head to one of these 5 mountains immediately!
Whistler Mountain Bike Park in Whistler, British Columbia is renowned for having some of the best trails and most unique features in North America. They have 200km of well-maintained trails for all experience levels so that first-timers can have as much fun as experts, and guides are available too. With a full array of weekly events for all types of riders, plus the annual Crankworx freeride festival for 10 days in August, Whistler continues to lead the industry with an amazing park. Just watch out for black bears on the trails!
Bike Snowmass has spent the past several years playing catch-up to Whistler, but by continuing to add high-quality new downhill trails they are now the envy of Colorado. Valhalla – their latest and greatest trail built by industry-leading designers Gravity Logic, with 1,400 feet of vertical drop over 2.5 miles – just opened a few weeks ago (see picture) bringing Bike Snowmass to over 50 miles of singletrack, cross-country, freeride and downhill terrain. Beginners can take the Elk Camp Gondola halfway up the mountain and experts can continue to the top on the Elk Camp Chairlift for full vertical droppage. If you want to try everything from table tops, wall rides, and drop zones to fruit bowls and rainbows, then head to Valhalla to help break it in during its first season at Bike Snowmass!
Mont-Sainte-Anne, located just outside Quebec City, offers the best mountain biking in eastern Canada. Their cross-country network boasts 125 km of trails and 40 km of downhill trails, not to mention a pumptrack for some fun at the base. The highlight of the summer is when Vélirium 2012 takes over Mont-Sainte-Anne June 20 to July 8 for three weekends of bike action, including the UCI World Cup Downhill and Cross Country and the Canadian Downhill Championships.
Angel Fire Bike Park in New Mexico is bursting onto the scene like a real contender this season. They are working to DOUBLE the size of their network from 30 miles 15 months ago to 60 miles by the end of this season, with their newest trails focused on appealing to intermediate and beginner riders. They are jumping to the top tier of bike destinations with all of their building over the past 18 months, and they also boast the longest season in the Rockies with trails open May to October.
Killington Resort in Vermont is not only the East Coast’s largest ski resort, it is also the biggest downhill biking destination in the East. Killington offers 45 miles of trails, a 1,700 foot vertical drop and everything from cross-country single track to steep downhill rides. Best of all their Kona Mountain Bike Park is “Groove Approved.”
Finally, if you can’t get to one of these premier downhill mountain bike resorts this summer, check your local mountains and bike parks to see what they have to offer: you just might be surprised. From Northstar in California to Plattekill Mountain in the Catskills of New York, resorts are building crazy trails you have to see to believe and targeting bikers to get you up on the mountain long after the snow has melted.