Even the burliest of mountain biker has probably thought it at one time or another: Wouldn’t it be nice to get a lift back to the top of that sweet trail I just bombed down?
Thankfully, folks who run ski resorts and design mountain biking parks have felt the same way, and today, lift-accessed mountain biking has become a fast and fun way to extend the downhill season at peaks around the Northwest.
So, what exactly is lift-accessed mountain biking? it’s pretty much just what it sounds like — using ski lifts to haul riders and their bikes back up the hill after an exhilarating ride down. Ski resorts across the Northwest have teamed up with park designers to come up with trail systems that snake their way down through the ski area for riders of almost any ability.
For those who’ve never given lift-accessed mountain biking a try, fear not. It’s a sport you can ease in to and take at your own pace.
Most resort mountain biking parks in the Northwest offer introductory classes and riding lessons, which can be a great way to learn the basics and some insider tips. You’ll also learn how to get yourself — and your bike — on the lift.
Similarly, most resorts have bikes and gear for rent for those riders who haven’t fully outfitted themselves. In addition to a bike, other gear you’ll want includes a full-face helmet, elbow and knee pads, gloves, eye protection, proper riding clothing, a water bottle and snacks.
Like ski runs, mountain biking trails range from beginner to advanced and are marked with similar symbols: green circle for easy, blue square for more difficult, black diamond for most difficult and double-black diamond for the real hardcore riders. Take it easy when you’re first starting out and gradually move up to more difficult trails.
Where to ride
The only lift-served downhill bike park in the Evergreen State, Stevens Pass has close to 10 trails that range from beginner to advanced. It’s also got a bike school for riders who want a fun and informative introduction to riding in the mountains.
You’ll need your passport to get to this park in British Columbia, but it’ll be worth it. Whistler is world-renowned for its mountain biking park, which includes 70 different trails that wind and plunge through a range of alpine environments.
High on the slopes of Oregon’s Mt. Hood, the Timberline Bike Park at Timberline Lodge is Oregon’s newest offering in the lift-accessed mountain biking game. Opened in 2019, the park features about 10 miles of trails for all skill levels, with plans for more in the works.
Not only does this Central Oregon mountain sit near more than 300 miles of singletrack mountain biking trails, but it’s also home to the Mt. Bachelor Bike Park, which has lift-served access to more than 12 miles of downhill trails.
Whistler Mountain image by toos