IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — Dreams of more long, flowing mountain trails to zoom down on your bike are getting closer to reality with the soon to open Kelly Canyon Ski Resort bike park.
Resort co-owner Dave Stoddard told the Post Register the project so far boasts 19 miles of bike trails, about 1,000 feet of vertical drop over 688 acres of area. It has been in the making for more than three years. The bike park is slated to open at 9 a.m. June 29.
“This will be lift-served gravity trails,” Stoddard said. “People can come up and ride the trails on their own and go up the mountain, or they can access (the mountain) by lift 4.”
The lift will be in operation from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, noon to 7 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday to take riders and bikes to the top of the mountain. Cost is $10 self-serve to riders not using the lift or accessing on days when the lift isn’t running. Lift service is $15 on Thursday, $25 on Friday and $30 for all day Saturday.
The summer operation will be slimmed down at the resort. Resort officials plan to sell tickets and snacks from the rental shop and have the restrooms open in the restaurant. Bill’s Bike and Run hopes to provide a service tech and bike rentals at the resort on the days the lift is running.
“We’re just getting this figured out,” Stoddard said. “We’ve looked at a lot of other bike parks at other resorts trying to pick the best things that we find there and make it accessible and affordable for the biking public. We are also trying to listen closely to accomplished bikers and get their input about how to groom the trails and features on the trails.”
One group of bikers associated with Bill’s Bike has already tested out the trails to offer feedback.
“It’s fantastic. It has tons of potential,” said Able Hernandez, sales manager at Bill’s Bike & Run. “It’s very much an infant right now but they are planning on expanding quite a bit of it.”
Stoddard said 16 riders of mixed abilities and genders test-rode the trails recently and offered his crew valuable feedback.
“I think it’s going to be awesome,” said professional mountain biker Josh Hult of Idaho Falls who test rode the trails. “It’s a little bit rough right now trying to get started. But I think they’ve got a really good base to make something awesome.”
Hernandez, who was also part of the test group, said one of the messages sent was making the trails friendly to all abilities.
“The kid that’s just barely starting out can hit a small jump and the intermediate rider will have something bigger and for more advanced riders it will be bigger still,” he said.
The winter terrain park will do double duty during the summer offering bikers a 25-foot jump, rollers and banked corners. Other trails will offer riders a chance to flow down the mountain without the effort of riding up.
Stoddard said most of the park is beginner and intermediate friendly.
“One of the things that we’re hoping to tout with this particular bike park is that it will be family friendly,” he said. “A lot of the parks I’ve ridden at other ski resorts tend to be quite steep on the upper part of the mountain and rocky. We’ve got a mountain that is a little bit different than that. It tends to be less rocky, and it’s actually flat on top.”
Bike parks at ski resorts are the wave of the future. Now 11 of 18 ski resorts in Idaho have lift-served bike parks. It offers resorts summer income. Lookout Pass ski resort operates the Hiawatha Scenic Bike Trail during the summer to great success.
“The Hiawatha Trail is attracting 55,000 biker visits a season to their particular trail,” Stoddard said. “That’s a fairly significant number of visits to a smaller resort. Their ski resort is fairly similar to our resort, so we’ve taken a close look at that.”
The recent surge in ski resort bike parks got a congressional blessing when the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act was passed and signed into law in 2011. The act allows ski resorts using public land to charge for using resort-developed trails, disc golf and alpine slides on public land.
“The point was that with the Forest Service and other federal agencies one of their mission objectives is to get more people out in the forest enjoying public lands,” Stoddard said. “And they felt that passing this bill would be a way to encourage more recreation to take place on public lands.”
Despite federal encouragement, Stoddard said building new trails on public land is an involved process.
“It took us about three years to get through the entitlement formal process,” he said. “It involves a rather large number of specialists to come in and look at things. All the way from hydrologists to fish and wildlife specialists to archaeologists to historians.”
He said fee-accessed trails will be identified by signage on the mountain. One trail accessing the communications tower and beyond will remain free.
There are 20 more miles of trails still on the drawing board and plans for races and other bike events this summer.
When winter rolls back around, the bike trails will serve as cross-country ski trails, Stoddard said.
“I think it’s going to be outstanding going forward with it,” Hernandez said. “I think Kelly in the past has really missed the mark by not having something like this. Now that we have it locally, we’ve already seen a huge increase in mountain bike sales.”