Park City is home to hundreds of miles of mostly buff, alpine trails with scenic vistas at nearly every turn. But some mountain bikers just want to get rad… and The Canyons Bike Park is the place to do it.
Most of the trails at the Canyons Bike Park drop into the Red Pine Lodge area and are accessible via one of two lifts with Whistler-style bike racks: High Meadow and Short Cut. From the top of the High Meadow lift (elevation: 8,300 ft), choose from the easiest-rated White Rabbit, Flying Salmon (beginner), Wild Mouse (intermediate), or the black diamond-rated Rally Cat trail.
Our group warmed up on White Rabbit first, but unless you’re really uncomfortable on a DH trail, I say skip it. The trail required a bit of pedaling and was pretty chunky, no doubt because this trail doesn’t get enough traffic to keep it packed down and smooth. Both Flying Salmon and Wild Mouse were a blast, though be prepared for some skinnier features and mandatory (but short) drops on the Wild Mouse trail.
I almost got into trouble on some of the doubles on Wild Mouse myself. The key, I learned, is to keep my speed up with the front wheel pointing down the mountain. Confidence and flow will get you over pretty much everything on these expertly-built trails!
Rally Cat is a true black diamond trail with mandatory gaps and a feature called a “log cannon,” a ladder bridge that shoots riders into the air with a landing that leads riders into a sweeping bermed turn. Our instructor and guide Sam Barco demonstrated a no-hander on the log cannon and it looked pretty awesome–but definitely not within my abilities. 🙂
The Short Cut lift provides access to Drop Kick (intermediate), Split Decision (double black diamond), and the Mid Mountain trail on the Red Pine Lodge side of the ridge. Drop Kick features a wall ride bridge over a rushing mountain stream (above) and is rootier than the trails in the High Meadow area.
Dropping off the other side of the ridge from the top of the Short Cut lift, riders can access the Mid Mountain trail plus Holly’s, Ricochet, and Insurgent. Ricochet is a longer trail that had my brake fingers cramping midway down–it’s long, steep in places, and features countless switchbacks as it winds down to the gondola.
Insurgent is a black diamond-rated run that roughly parallels Ricochet but takes a much more direct route down the mountain. The trail runs through the trees and the tread is black, loamy soil that looks like it dropped right out of a BC bike video. This trail is really a throwback to the early days of DH riding with narrow spacing, roots, and steep, fall line stuff that dares you to lock up your rear tire. Compared to the wider, machine-built trails in the Red Pine Lodge area, Ricochet and Insurgent are worlds apart.
During my visit, two new DH runs were under construction in the area around Ricochet and Insurgent: The GoPro Double Down and the Canyons Downhill. The Canyons Downhill is being built for the Go-Ride Gravity Series DH race on September 1, 2014. And later this month the North American Enduro Tour (NAET) will stop at the Canyons to sample both the singletrack and bike park trails.
I’ve been mountain biking for more than 20 years, which means I finally know what I don’t know–and that is how to ride downhill (among other things). For most of us, riding DH means learning new techniques for balancing the bike front to back, arm and leg positioning, and even how to point the bike through curves. Trust me when I say
even if especially if you’re an experienced XC rider, you should book some time with an instructor.
I got a chance to ride with Sam Barco, reportedly one of the top instructors at Canyons Bike Park, and after spending just a few hours with him on the mountain, it’s easy to see why he’s one of the best. Sam was patient and encouraging the entire time and, despite having riders of varying abilities in our group, he was able to cater his instruction to each of our abilities. The really cool thing is that Sam can really get rad on the trail too (see video above), leading me to the conclusion that “those who can send it, teach” at Canyons Bike Park.
Truthfully, most riders can probably get away with riding their own trail bike at Canyons but for the full DH experience (and for those with XC-style bikes), I highly recommend renting a DH rig at the resort. This year, Canyons has a fleet of GT Fury Elite bikes which are very capable–if slightly heavy–bikes. One note: if you prefer the feeling of being clipped into your pedals (not really a DH thing, but it’s more comfortable for some of us), be sure to bring your own pedals. The guys at the rental shop were able to scrounge up a pair of SPDs, but there are no loaner Crank Brothers pedals in shop.
For protective gear, the shop has your bases covered as well with rentals on full face helmets, knee/shin guards, elbow pads, Leatt braces, and even Teva Link shoes. The pads I used were brand new with tags, and even the helmet was super clean. I ended up riding in my own shoes, but probably could have used a pair of flats like the Tevas available at the shop.
The lifts at Canyons Bike Park run from 10am-5:30pm most days, with an extended 7:30pm session on Wednesdays. Tickets are $32 for adults and a 2-day pass is discounted at $55. Depending on the weather, the season typically runs through late September / early October.
During my visit we got in 10 uplifts (not counting the gondola) and still had time for a leisurely lunch at the Red Pine Lodge. I had a blast riding DH at Canyons Bike Park and I’m excited to continue honing the bike handling skills I learned there. After all, no matter what style of riding you’re into, the downhill is always the best part!
Thanks to the Park City lodging association for making this visit possible.