Over 100 resorts in North America are now offering lift-served mountain biking with increased rider demand for a range of gravity oriented trails, from fun, flowy green and blue singletrack to black and double black descents littered with jumps and other technical features.
Several resorts here in the Inland Northwest, including Schweitzer, Whitefish Mountain Resort, and Silver Mountain, have been tuned into this trend for some time and have been rolling out new trails and features over the years. But Silver Mountain’s launch of an overhauled bike park this summer is the biggest recent expansion and make-over of resort riding of this magnitude in the region.
Silver has always attracted downhill riders looking for fast laps down several thousand feet of steep, aggressive trails – the kind that rightfully intimidate many beginner and intermediate riders. And while the improvements so far have a lot to offer full-face helmeted and body armor clad riders, the majority of trails on the mountain are totally accessible for everyday riders used to pedaling their local trails on a modern xc bike.
“Roughly a third of our trails are green trails suitable for beginners and a third are intermediate blue trails,” explains Willy Bartlett, Silver’s Marketing Coordinator and avid Silver rider. Intermediate and beginner trails make up almost three quarters of Silver’s trail network. “We actually got rave reviews of some of the new and rebuilt sections of super polished, flowy blue trails after opening weekend,” he says. “Most people with newer xc bikes can come up and have a blast on the trails up here.” However, if your bike is showing its age and you want to try a completely different mountain biking experience on a new ride for a day, Silver has a new fleet of Kona Park Operators and Precept DLs available for rent at the base of the mountain at Silver Mountain Sports (208-783-1111 x8217).
So what all has changed on the ground and what’s in the works for the future? Silver’s trail crew has put some serious energy into tuning up and in some cases completely overhauling sections of trail in their existing network, as well as adding improved signage that makes navigating around the mountain and using the new trail map more straight forward. Then there are totally new trails, with more in the works that may materialize over the summer. And this is just the beginning of what Silver has in store as part of its 5-year plan for the mountain. That vision includes a well-developed trail system from top to bottom, a summer bike school, expanded race program, a host program to help show people around the mountain, and a seven day a week schedule.
Silver also plans to have new trails coming on line every year with enough options so that even on race days there will always be trails open at all levels of the mountain for non-racers. Bartlett says he’s especially excited about a new progression trail planned for the Chair 3 Zone that will be similar to “Crank it Up” at Whistler. The new progression trail will offer multiple options for different levels of riders to increase the level of difficulty as their skills develop. Once it’s completed, it will be the only trail of its kind in the region.
“The biggest thing for us right now is that our bike park plans are dependent on support from the riding community,” says Bartlett. “In order for us to move forward with all of the new trails and improvements, we need to have the riders coming out to support and ride the mountain.” With the contagious passion Bartlett and Silver’s trail crew have for riding and the mountain, that shouldn’t be a problem. (Like their bike park page on Facebook for regular updates, special deals, and regular riding inspiration).
For only $7 more than a lift ticket, you can also sign up for one of several races Silver has on the calendar this summer. The race series will satisfy seasoned racers and give riders who may have done little or no previous racing the chance to come out and give it a try in a mellow atmosphere. “For our first race of the season, we had a lot of people new to downhill racing and even a few who were relatively new to mountain biking who raced and had a blast,” says Bartlett. The races are divided up by age and ability level to keep it fair and fun. “We had young racers, women riders, and guys in their 60s racing and everyone who races no matter where they place gets their name in the hat for great raffled prizes.” The next two races are July 13 (Silver Race Series #3) and August 3 (Silver Race Series #4), with more on the schedule for September and October. More info on Facebook. //
Chair 3 Zone
The Chair 3 Zone offers 800 vertical feet of elevation drop for a less committing experience and gives new riders a chance to ease into the lifestyle with shorter pieces of trail, from wide double-track and mellow singletrack to full-on expert level downhill trails and jump lines. For expert level riders, it allows quick access to trails like Hammer, Log Jammin and Hot Mess for hot laps.
The Lower Mountain trails access the entire 3,400 vertical feet of descent. The fastest riders on the most direct route can reach the bottom in about 15 minutes, while the average rider on blue trails will take closer to 45 minutes. These trails include super flowy singletrack; rough, technical fall-line trails; and machine-built, hand-tuned jump lines.