Ride Report: Downhill Mountain Biking at Steamboat Ski Resort, Colorado

The final destination on my month-long road trip this summer was Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I had long heard rumors of the fantastic riding in Steamboat, and despite my impending relocation to Colorado, I decided to make Steamboat enough of a priority to hit it on the road trip. Due to the 3.5 hour distance from my future home of Salida, I figured that even if I worked outwards in a radiating circle from Salida when choosing new trails to ride, it could take me a decade to reach Steamboat. (Yup, that’s how awesome Colorado is.) So, to Steamboat we went!

The town of Steamboat Springs markets itself as “Bike Town, USA.” That’s a pretty tall claim, and one I’ll examine in a later blog post, but one major part of this claim is having the lift-accessed downhill trails at Steamboat Ski Resort.

Photo: Steamboat Ski Resort.

Steamboat Ski Resort features a complex network of singletrack trails. Of those trails, there are three different types:

  1. The bike park trails, which are downhill-only and require a lift ticket to ride, regardless of whether or not you took the lift up to the top.
  2. Two-way multi-use trails.
  3. One hiking-only trail, the Thunderhead Trail.

During my visit to Steamboat, I had the chance to sample all the bike park trails, as well as many of the multi-use trails. The bike park trails and the other multi-use trails intersect at many points, but in general they are ridden separately: if you’re out to ride the bike park, you’ll probably stick to the gravity trails with a long-travel bike. And if you’re out to ride the other trails, you’ll probably pedal to the top on a much more climbing-friendly rig. Still, the trails intertwine, and do offer the opportunity to mix-and-match for different ride options.

I never actually found this drop on the mountain. Photo: Steamboat Ski Resort.

However, if you’re here to ride downhill, it makes the most sense to stick to the Bike Park trails. The multi-use trails often have climbs thrown in, but the bike park trails just flow and descend!

Currently, there are only a few primary descents down the mountain (with a few connectors to move back and forth across the main face). Without further ado, here’s the low-down on the trails:

Tenderfoot

While this is rated as an intermediate trail, it’s much easier than some of the other intermediate trails on the mountain. Tenderfoot is a very flowy trail with some big berms and small jumps, but everything is rollable and accessible to even beginner riders. While we hit this trail as a warm up, after getting on some of the other trails on the mountain, we didn’t feel like it was worth our time to come back here. However, if you’re new to downhilling, Tenderfoot could be just the ticket!

Photo: Steamboat Ski Resort.

Rustler Ridge

Rustler Ridge is a fantastic flow-style trail. While rated a blue like Tenderfoot, Rustler Ridge is actually quite a bit more difficult. The berms are bigger, but most importantly, there are more and bigger air opportunities. With everything from table tops to rollers to drops to ledges, there are sections of Rustler Ridge where it feels like you are in the air more than you’re on the ground! Even if you’re not actually flying, the flow and swoop of the berms will make you feel like you’re weightless!

Plenty of big berms to rail! Photo: Steamboat Ski Resort.

Rustler Ridge is hands-down my favorite trail in the Steamboat Bike Park. The flow, speed, and easy air are just unrivaled! This trail isn’t hard (unless you push it), but it’s just pure, unadulterated fun!

Buckin’ Bronc

At only .3 miles long, Buckin’ Bronc might not seem like much at first, but it is well-worth a mention. Located at the bottom of the resort, this black diamond trail boasts the biggest features in the bike park. The trail begins with a wooden wall ride feature, and then feeds into a massive wooden drop. The drop is designed to be rollable, or boostable for some serious air. Then, the trail opens into a massive jump line, with the table top jumps getting progressively bigger as you descend down the mountain.

Photo: Steamboat Ski Resort.

Even if you’re not quite ready to air out all the jumps, you can still hit this section, since there are no gaps or mandatory airs.

Rawhide

Rawhide is currently under construction, but will be about 4-6 miles long once it is completed. While most of the other trails on the mountain are all about flow or air, Rawhide is all about gnar! The trail starts off with a massive rock roll that requires total commitment, but is very rideable. The rest of the upper section features slow speed tech sections with numerous drops of different sizes thrown in.

Rock roll on Rawhide. Photo: Steamboat Ski Resort.

The newer sections of the trail which have been recently added seem a little flowier, but once they get worn in the gnar will undoubtedly be revealed. The new sections also feature some fun wooden features, and it looks as if the lower section of the trail (currently under construction) will include lots of wooden features as well. While other trails on the mountain embrace new school flow, Rawhide is all about classic tech descending!

Expansion

While Steamboat’s bike park is currently rather small in the grand scheme of things, they are continuing to expand it. Even when I was out riding, the lower section of Rawhide was brand-new, and part of it was still under construction. Still, this bike park isn’t big: you can easily hit all the trails many times over in the course of one day of riding. But don’t let that fool you: these are real downhill trails, as my friend Max’s separated shoulder can attest to.

Also, Steamboat Ski Resort doesn’t currently feature any truly expert-level double black diamond runs. I wouldn’t count myself the most accomplished downhiller by any means, but I was able to shred everything at the park with relative ease on the single-crown freeride rental bikes. Of course, there’s plenty of opportunity to go way bigger on the jumps than I did!

Amenities and Prices

All the bike park trails are accessed by one high-speed detachable gondola.

The rental bikes we rode, provided by the Steamboat Bike Shop, were solid single-crown Specialized Statuses. A 3-hour bike rental from the on-mountain shop is $89 for, or $119 for all day. However, there are also numerous bike shops down in the town of Steamboat Springs that also offer bike rentals, including discounts for multi-day rentals.

Mountain bike lift ticket prices are currently not posted on the website, so it is quite possible that prices could change from the 2013 season to the 2014 season. However, expect a day ticket here to be much more affordable than larger at bike parks such as Winter Park or Whistler.

Finally, the Steamboat Bike School also offers a wide array of mountain bike lesson opportunities, from beginner to advanced and private or group lessons.

Bottom Line

While Steamboat Ski Resort’s Bike Park isn’t very big (yet), the lift-accessed downhill mountain biking is a crucial factor in Steamboat’s claim to the title of “Bike Town, USA.” And after a long week of doing pedal-powered rides, maybe a day of riding the lifts is just what you need!

Many thanks to Steamboat Ski Resort for the passes and rentals!

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