Head Uphill to Go Downhill at Powderhorn
Originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of SPOKE+BLOSSOM
The Grand Valley is a popular year-round destination for mountain bikers and cyclists. But come summer, when the weather gets hot, smart bikers go higher — to Powderhorn.
Offering cooler temperatures, long mountain views and downhill biking trails for riders of all ages and abilities, the Powderhorn Bike Park is a summer “must-do” for families that enjoy exploring, learning new skills and riding together.
NEW THIS SUMMER
As soon as the snow melts, Powderhorn will get to work constructing two new trails: a top-to-bottom beginner trail and a top-to-bottom intermediate trail. These new trails will expand the park from three to five trails, each descending over 1,600 vertical feet.
In addition, a pump track and learning area will be built at the base, and a beginner cross-country loop trail is planned at the top of the resort.
Finally, pending Forest Service approval, Powderhorn will construct a connector trail from the top of the Flat Top Flyer chairlift to the new Palisade Plunge trail.
New to downhill biking? Here’s what you need to know.
1. Rent a Bike Downhill biking is not just riding a mountain bike downhill. It’s a chairlift-served, gravity-driven experience that you control via braking and balancing on specialized bikes. While you don’t have to have a downhill bike to ride at Powderhorn, you’ll have more fun and be more stable on the trails if you do. Full-day rentals, including helmets and protective gear, are $69, while half-day rentals with helmets and protective gear are $49.
2. Wear the Body Armor While wearing a full-face helmet, gloves and body armor might seem alternatively silly or intimidating depending upon your point of view, protective gear will enhance your safety and comfort on the trails. MacKennea Broyles, a Powderhorn first-timer, explains why she wears body armor.
“Downhill mountain biking provides a controlled environment for me to practice things like turning and dealing with momentum. With a full-face helmet and full pads, it’s easier to feel in control and safe,” Broyles said. “Plus, everyone else is wearing the same gear; it’s not just you.”
3. Take a Lesson This summer, Powderhorn is offering two-hour “Learn to Downhill” lessons on weekends for $49. This includes a half-day bike rental, protective gear and a full-day lift ticket. As with learning to ski or snowboard, taking a lesson will help you and your family have more fun, more quickly. Plus, it’s a really good deal, and the skills you learn can be used at other western Colorado bike parks.
The Powderhorn Bike Park welcomes riders of all ages, with one caveat: everyone must be able to get on and off the chairlift independently. The bike park is open Fridays and weekends from mid-June through mid-September, snowmelt and weather conditions permitting. Full-day tickets are $25 and single rides are $12. Events including kids’ bike camps, women’s clinics, a local race series and professional racing are scheduled throughout the summer. In addition to the bike park, Powderhorn offers scenic chairlift rides, hiking and free parking lot camping on summer weekends.For more information visit powderhorn.com.
NEARBY DOWNHILL BIKE PARKS
So you’ve tried the Powderhorn Bike Park and you’re hooked? Here are three additional western Colorado downhill parks to experience.
Crested Butte Evolution Bike Park: As befits one of the towns where mountain biking is said to have originated, Crested Butte has a killer bike park with 29 downhill and cross-country trails covering 30 miles. Hotdogger is the trail to try first. Although rated green, it is fun for everyone and satisfying to ride on repeat. From here, the challenges go up and up. bike.skicb.com
Snowmass Bike Park: Snowmass Bike Park serves up primarily intermediate and advanced downhill biking on six trails. Valhalla is the resort’s premier downhill trail, a smooth winding wonder with jumps, step ups and wooden features. Verde is the park’s beginner trail, a mellow, 3.5-mile route good for working on skills like cornering. aspensnowmass.com
Telluride Bike Park: New for 2019, the Telluride Bike Park combines Telluride Ski Resort’s existing cross-country and technical mountain bike trail network with new downhill-specific freeride trails. The smooth freeride trails will emphasize flowing turns, dips and dives, as well as challenging features. tellurideskiresort.com
Bike and safety gear rentals are available at each of these bike parks.