Mountain biker

A rider tackles the singletrack amid the fall colors at the Snowmass Bike Park. 

If you haven’t had a chance to ride the downhill mountain bike trails at the Snowmass Bike Park this summer, this weekend will be your last lift-accessed opportunity to get out there and see what you’ve been missing.

With this summer’s new additions, there are now 11 trails to choose from across all levels of biking ability and covering more than 22 miles of dedicated downhill terrain. The latest, a more-difficult-level (blue), free-ride trail currently named Trail 6, just opened in the middle of September on the lower part of the mountain.

“It’s sort of a step down in difficulty from Valhalla” which is one of the bike park’s original black, or most-difficult-level, trails, said Peter Santini, Aspen Skiing Co.’s director of business development. “It’s got wide berms and tabletops but smaller features than Valhalla.”

A step up in difficulty is this summer’s most heralded new trail, Gonzo, a lower-mountain, experts-only (double-black) offshoot from Valhalla that is not for the faint of heart.

“That’s the one people are talking about quite a bit,” said Santini. “It’s got a lot of large features and some pretty big wooden features, as well.”

The summer’s other newcomers are a pair of technical singletrack trails called Trail 8 and Trail 9. The former falls in the more-difficult category, while the latter is most difficult.

“The key to this summer is that we added a lot of diversity to the park,” said Santini. “We added some more technical trails, which we were missing. Trail 8 and Trail 9 give you that single-track, rocky, root-y sort of experience. And on the free-ride side we were able to add trails that sandwich Valhalla in difficulty, so something for people to start on with smaller features, and then, for our hard-core riders, something to challenge them with Gonzo.” 

Unsurprisingly, the increase in trail offerings has correlated to an increase in bikers over the summer, and though Santini didn’t have any hard numbers handy, he was “absolutely” certain that this has been the bike park’s busiest summer yet.

“It’s been a really exciting year,” he said. “The feedback’s been great. People are pretty excited about the added variety. You can go and spend all day or all weekend in the park and link together different combinations of trails and try to find your favorite line.”

Looking ahead to next summer, expect the bike park to expand again with additions to the upper-mountain offerings accessed from the top of the Elk Camp lift. There are currently three new trails approved as part of the bike park’s master plan, which will add another 3.5 miles of single track to the upper-mountain network.

“We’re going to hopefully get through building them next year,” said Santini. “The tricky part with those trails is that they are higher up on the mountain, so a lot of it depends on what kind of winter we have and when we can start. Luckily, this year everything we were planning to build was lower down. Even with that, we were pushed back by the crazy, fantastic winter we had.”

Sunday will be the final day of lift operations for the summer at Snowmass. After that both the gondola and Elk Camp lift will be shut down until ski season starts. The park will officially close when the lifts do, but there will still be all of Snowmass’s other trails, as well as those in nearby Sky Mountain Park, if you want to get out and see the fabulous fall colors on two wheels.

You’ll just have to do all the uphilling on your own.

Todd Hartley writes for the Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at todd@aspendailynews.com.