Dylan Gressett flies off a jump last year while riding the downhill mountain bike park at Steamboat Ski Area. The park opens Thursday for the summer with a Scholarship Day event. Passes are $15 and will benefit Routt County Riders.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Dylan Gressett flies off a jump last year while riding the downhill mountain bike park at Steamboat Ski Area. The park opens Thursday for the summer with a Scholarship Day event. Passes are $15 and will benefit Routt County Riders.

Steamboat Bike Park opens with new trails

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— It’s starting to come together at Steamboat Ski Area.

That’s what administrators of the ski area’s downhill bike park want users to know Thursday as the gondola fires up and riders begin firing down the directional mountain bike trails on Mount Werner.

The park was brand new three years ago. Trails and features have been added annually ever since, and now when the park opens with a Routt County Riders Scholarship Day for its third season, it will do so ever closer to the plans that had local riders licking their lips for years.

“We said from the get-go instead of throwing things on the mountain, we really wanted to make sure we were planning and designing the best we can from the terrain we have,” Steamboat Ski Area public relations manager Loryn Kasten said. “We are seeing that plan come to fruition, and adding to it as we see fit.”

The park will open Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m., and 100 percent of the first-day proceeds will go to Routt County Rider’s trail maintenance fund.

Passes will cost $15 for the day, and season passes will not be valid.

The park will debut this year with six directional trails and five two-way mountain bike trails.

Among those six directional trails will be several new additions:

— Rustler’s Ridge will remain the mountain’s premier downhill trail, a 4.02-mile trip with plenty of add-ons to keep experts interested.

“It’s got lots of jumps and excitement,” bike park manager Trevyn Newpher said. “It’s been remolded from the top of Christie Peak down, totally redesigned and rebuilt, so that’s pretty cool. We increased the flow, reworked some of the berms and added features.”

The main line should be accessible to most riders, while short breakoffs add more expert elements.

— Bull Rider is a double-black diamond run at the bottom of the mountain. An array of wooden features was added late last summer, but it’s been reworked again and represents the biggest, gnarliest jumps in the park.

“We learned a bit from last season, and this year we’ve tweaked a few of the features,” Newpher said. “Some of the jumps, there aren’t necessarily gaps, but there is a lot of reward if you make the distance and don’t come up short.”

— Tenderfoot is a green downhill-only trail. It existed a year ago but will open this season with nearly double the length. All downhill-only trails are meant for riders with mountain bikes — if you want to go slow and easy, the Yampa River Core Trail awaits — and Tenderfoot features turns and rollers. It’s more forgiving than most of the trails, however, and now offers nearly top-to-bottom access for beginner downhillers.

It’s largely completed, and the final sections are expected to come online early in the season. At 4.12 miles, it’s the longest trail on the mountain, starting at the top of the gondola and winding along the ski area’s northwest boundary.

EZ Rider, Wrangler’s Gulch and Buckin’ Bronco also will open as directional trails while Why Not, Elkhood Loop, Spur Run, Valley View and Zig Zag will open as multi-use trails.

Newpher said much of the summer will be spent working on a new gondola-to-base expert downhill trail called Flying Diamond. That isn’t likely to be finished this summer, but in the meantime, there won’t be a shortage of trails for riders to attack.

“It’s definitely exciting,” Newpher said. “It’s coming along. Slowly but surely, we’re getting there.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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