Spokes on Slopes: Pedaling Utah's Ski Resorts

Posted On
Apr 15, 2016

By Greg Scothern

Utah boasts a global reputation for offering some of the finest winter recreation on the planet.  With The Greatest Snow on Earth™, millions flock to Utah’s ski resorts to ski and board on an unparalleled mixture of epic, big terrain and unmatched snow quality.  But that brilliant snow eventually melts and gives way to summer. Although famous for skiing, Utah’s resorts are quickly garnering a world class reputation for another form of alpine recreation: mountain biking. 

For decades Utah’s resorts have been a haven for year-round recreation.  Hikers and wildlife enthusiasts frequently seek solitude in these high alpine bowls and cirques.  But the booming popularity of mountain biking has ushered in a new era of gravity-oriented alpine recreation.  Not only are many resorts offering lift-served access during the summer months, but most have developed or are actively developing extensive trail networks and parks specific to mountain biking.  Maybe you prefer spandex, hardtails, and lung-burning climbs.  Or perhaps full-face helmets, baggies, and eight inches of suspension.  Chances are, probably somewhere in between.  Regardless, Utah’s ski resorts have a playground for you.  While mountain biking can be enjoyed on service roads at all Utah resorts, following is a summary of those offering mountain bike-specific trails and services.

Beaver Mountain Resort

Nestled in strikingly beautiful Logan Canyon “The Beav” as locals call it, sits in the heart of a vast multi-sport haven.  Beaver Mountain does not offer lift-serviced access, but don’t get thinking it’s not a great destination for mountain biking.  Outstanding Forest Service single-track and hundreds of miles of scenic double-track are accessible from the resort.  Lodges, an RV park, yurts, and camping are all available, making it an excellent place to basecamp.   Notable trails include Jardine Juniper (to a 3,200 year old juniper tree – Utah’s oldest), Blind Hollow, and Bunchgrass. skithebeav.com


Nordic Valley

 A short 25-minute drive from Ogden and less than one hour from Salt Lake, Nordic Valley has had little to offer to mountain bikers.  But new ownership is changing things at this mountain as well with immediate plans to expand operations with additional lifts nearly doubling the vertical drop.  Trail development is a key component and a good portion was completed in early summer 2014.  The five-mile Squirrel Loop trail, designed specifically for cross-country racing, rises 600 feet from the resort base and features moderate climbing with fast, flowing descents.  Several successful pro and amateur races were held on this trail in 2014, and more are scheduled for 2015, including a Pro USA Cycling/UCI mountain stage race.  Perfect for training laps or just for fun, Nordic’s trails are free and open for riding when not being used for a race. Nordicvalley.com


Powder Mountain Resort

Forty five minutes from downtown Ogden, “PowMow” has been the quintessential favorite of locals for years.  No-frills day-lodges and a mellow, low-key vibe hearken back to skiing’s glory days in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  Historically, PowMow has had very little to offer mountain bikers.  But things are changing…dramatically.  The Summit Group recently purchased Powder Mountain and is already investing heavily in four-season improvements that include extensive trail and bike park development. While lift-serviced riding isn’t available yet, the mountain is absolutely massive: with over 10,000 acres of privately-owned land the resort has the largest skiable terrain in the U.S.  And most is top-down (meaning you can drive to the top).  The terrain traverses rolling hills and ridges with enormous views of four states, high-alpine meadows, and thick stands of fir and aspen.  In other words, it’s perfect for mountain biking.  Summit is dead-set on realizing this potential, as evidenced by their recent hire of BMX icon Fuzzy Hall as marketing director.  PowMow recently partnered with the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) to complete a flowy, seven-mile singletrack loop that features numerous side jumps and technical options for more advanced riders.  Slated for the next five years include a lift-serviced bike park and a 40-plus mile cross-country loop, as well as pump tracks and additional shorter loops geared towards varying levels of riding ability.  Keep an eye on Powder Mountain.  With 10,000 acres to play with, good capitalization, and momentum all working in their favor, PowMow could quickly become one of the premier mountain bike destinations in North America. powdermountain.com


Snowbasin Resort

Home of the 2002 Winter Olympic Downhill and Super G skiing events, Snowbasin’s world-class pedigree extends to mountain biking as well.  Just 20 minutes from Ogden and 50 minutes from Salt Lake, Snowbasin is easy to get to and offers outstanding access and trails that satisfy every riding appetite, from lung-busting climbs to long, fast, technical descents.  Lift-service is provided by the Needles Express Gondola, up over 2,300 vertical feet from the resort base.  Several excellent descending options can be stitched together from there.  Intermediate to advanced riders usually opt for the fast, flowy nature of the Needles Trail and Moonshine Trees.  Expert riders who prefer to bomb technically challenging terrain will love the Porcupine Trail.  In addition, there are over 40 miles of outstanding Forest Service singletrack immediately connected to the resort.  Of these, Sardine Peak is a ride that rewards a steady climb with stunning views of Ogden Valley and a buff, brilliant descent.  Lift service runs Fridays through Sundays throughout summer and fall, and Snowbasin’s full-service shop offers an impressive fleet of rental options. snowbasin.com


Park City Area: Canyons Resort, Deer Valley Resort, Park City Mountain Resort

Just 40 minutes east of Salt Lake lies the true Holy Grail of alpine riding in the mountain biking universe.  Park City’s three resorts are each fantastic and unique in their own way, but from a mountain biking perspective, they are all one brilliant, massive complex.  It’s simply not productive to talk about the merits of each resort individually when, as a whole, they comprise a pinnacle of alpine riding virtually unmatched by any other riding center in the world.  With abundance of trail, ease of access, and the intoxicating charm of one of the most vibrant and historic resort towns in the West, Park City has become a Mecca for destination mountain bikers.  Over 400 miles of buttery singletrack weave through the resorts and mountains surrounding Park City.  The quality and abundance of riding options are so special, that IMBA recently designated Park City as its first and only Gold-Level Riding Center.  Each of Park City’s three resorts offer full-service rental shops and multiple lift-serviced options that operate daily throughout summer and fall.  Each has outstanding uphill-only and downhill-only directional trails that offer climbers and downhillers alike the opportunity to open it up without the concern of oncoming traffic.  One feature unique to Canyons Resort is Utah’s only lift-serviced flow riding park with multiple downhill and freeride options for all riding abilities.  Of all the remarkable trails in the Park City area, two stand out as absolute must-rides: Mid Mountain and Wasatch Crest.  In its entirety, the Mid Mountain Trail stretches roughly 30 miles across all three resorts, undulating around the 8,000-foot level through thick stands of aspen and pine.  Multiple access points at each resort offer shorter options, making it easy to customize the ride for any riding ability.  The Wasatch Crest Trail is one of Utah’s highest and most scenic trails, with much of the trail ascending to the 10,000-foot level.  Access requires some sustained climbing, but the breathtaking 360-degree views at the top are a just reward as you traverse the high ridgelines.  Bottom line: with Park City’s outstanding lodging options, restaurants, nightlife, and access to world-class riding, it’s the ultimate basecamp for alpine mountain biking adventure. canyonsresort.com     deervalley.com      parkcitymountain.com


Cottonwood Canyons:

Solitude Mountain Resort

Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons immediately east of Salt Lake City are world famous for epic snow and terrain, but in the summer they offer mountain bikers a quick escape to cool mountain air only 30 minutes from downtown Salt Lake.  Big Cottonwood is home to Solitude and Brighton.  Of these two, only Solitude currently offers full-service mountain biking with over 20 miles of outstanding alpine single track.  Standout trails include Krüzer, a downhill-only romp, and Serenity, a gorgeous intermediate loop.  Lift-serviced riding and bike shop services at Solitude are offered weekends throughout summer and fall.  Although the trails are not as developed at Brighton, the resorts are connected and the terrain at Brighton is directly accessible from Solitude.  Several double-track routes at Brighton deliver less-technical, scenic riding, and Brighton also provides access to the aforementioned Wasatch Crest Trail for those seeking an epic, longer ride.  Great lodging options are available at both resorts.  skisolitude.com

Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort

Little Cottonwood hosts Snowbird and Alta.  Similar to Big Cottonwood, these two resorts are directly adjacent and connected.  Currently only Snowbird offers mountain biking services and lift-serviced riding, but Alta’s scenic and friendly double-track terrain is easily accessible from The Bird.  Snowbird’s legendary tram ushers riders 2,900 vertical feet to the top of Hidden Peak, where riders can choose an array of downhill options.  Newly completed in 2014, the Big Mountain Trail is a wickedly fun 7.5 mile descent with wide-open straightaways, tight forested turns, earthen tabletops, wooden bridges, and spectacular down-canyon views.  Snowbird’s world-class facilities offer excellent lodging, restaurants, and a passel of exciting family activities for non-riders as well.   Snowbird.com


Sundance Resort

Just an hour south of Salt Lake up Provo Canyon, Sundance delivers some of the most brilliant alpine scenery in the world.  Nestled below the stunning grandeur of Mount Timpanogos, riders can enjoy full service mountain biking amenities that include rentals, riding clinics, guided tours, and daily lift-service throughout summer and fall.  With over 25 miles of singletrack and excellent options for all rider abilities, looking for a competitive experience will not be disappointed.  With a weekly XC race series, 12-hour endurance race, and the Utah State Downhill Championship, Sundance delivers for competitive mountain bikers.  Outstanding lodging, shops and eateries complete Sundance’s impressive mountain biking résumé. Sundanceresort.com


Eagle Point

Eagle Point sits high in the majestic Tushar Mountains in Central Utah about three and a half hours south of Salt Lake City.  Relatively remote, Eagle Point is the ideal place to enjoy miles of excellent alpine riding free of crowds.  As a top-down mountain, uphill access for those that prefer less climbing is provided by a resort shuttle.  Full rental and retail services are available in addition to great lodging and restaurant options. The grueling Crusher in the Tushars is held here in July.  If you are looking for a quiet, intimate riding experience and stunning scenery in one of Utah’s lesser-known mountain ranges, Eagle Point is a sure bet.  Eaglepointresort.com


Brian Head Resort

Utah’s southernmost resort.  Five hours south of Salt Lake and one+ hour north of St. George, Brian Head Town rests at 10,000 feet - Utah’s highest incorporated city.  Brian Head is a true riding destination, with miles and miles of buttery alpine singletrack, full service shops, lodging, restaurants, and mind-blowing scenery.  Cedar Breaks National Monument is directly adjacent and offers riders some of the most unique, eye-popping views and stunning vistas they are likely to ever experience.  Lift-serviced riding is available Fridays through Sundays throughout summer and early-fall.  New is the Navajo Bike Park that features flow riding lines and technical features for virtually every ability.  Local shops offer shuttle service from several outstanding trails that begin at the resort and descend well beyond resort boundaries.  Two of these are among the best rides in all of Utah: Bunker Creek and Dark Hollow.  From the top of Brian Head Peak descending 3,000 and 5,300 feet respectively, these two are absolute musts when visiting Brian Head.  Brianhead.com