Downhill trending up

Downhill mountain biking at Powderhorn a hit for 2nd straight summer

Jon Freckleton races down a downhill trail recently at Powderhorn Mountain Resort. Powderhorn has three downhill trails and will soon open a fourth. The two singletrack trails — Pinball Alley and Blue Ribbon — are drawing rave reviews in their second season.



Conrad Turner cruises through a turn during a recent race at Powderhorn Mountain Resort. Powderhorn has three downhill trails and will soon open a fourth. The two singletrack trails — Pinball Alley and Blue Ribbon — are drawing rave reviews in their second season. Below, a rider gets some air on a jump on one of the singletrack trails.



A dounhill mountain bike rider gets some air on a jump on one of the singletrack trails at Powderhorn Mountain Resort. Powderhorn has three downhill trails and will soon open a fourth. The two singletrack trails — Pinball Alley and Blue Ribbon — are drawing rave reviews in their second season.



Jesse East catches some air off a jump on a singletrack downwhill trail at Powderhorn Mountain Resort during a recent race. Powderhorn has three downhill trails and will soon open a fourth. The two singletrack trails — Pinball Alley and Blue Ribbon — are drawing rave reviews in their second season.



One by one, mountain bikers cruised down a trail named Pinball Alley.

There were whoops and hollers, groans and profanities uttered as the riders weaved and zipped to the bottom.

Once they reached the end of the trail, some stuck around to share notes about the run. They laughed and smiled, then they went back to the Flat Top Flyer for another quick trip to the top and more downhill fun.

The aptly named trail challenged riders with jumps, berm, contoured curves and all kinds of mountain biking bells and whistles.

Summertime fun at Powderhorn Mountain Resort has been planned since 2011.

Powderhorn jumped into the downhill mountain bike game last summer, and it continues to grow in its second year.

“I love these trails,” Thomas Gardy said. “Fast, smooth, jumps, cool curves. It’s pretty awesome.”

The 28-year-old Ouray County mountain biker also said the trails are in better shape than last year.

“I can’t believe how much a year of riding on (the trails) has done for them. They are so much more packed and that makes for such a better ride, especially on those corners,” he said. “Once you get a good rhythm in some sections, it’s like surfing.”

Powderhorn has two singletrack trails — Pinball Alley and Blue Ribbon — and Stagecoach, a green-level trail, which is a maintenance road. But the mountain now has a fourth trail in the works.

When the trails were open, resort officials said they would consider adding new trails as they evaluated the popularity and growth of ridership.

The new Mutton Buster trail is a green trail that should appeal to the less experienced mountain biker.

Only about 1½ miles of the new trail is open, then it connects with Stagecoach.

Ryan Robinson, Powderhorn’s marketing and sales manager, said crews will continue to work on the trail, opening it in sections.

“We are on schedule to open Mutton Buster top to bottom by the end of the season,” Robinson said. “It’s definitely a trail that will be accessible for all ages and skill levels.”

After a recent mountain bike race at the resort, the rave reviews of Colorado’s newest downhill mountain biking destination continued.

Local rider Nick Currier of Fruita has noticed how much better the trails are in the second year.

“They are so much better, they’ve done so much to them,” the 17-year-old said. “They added some sand to them, so even if it’s wet, we can still ride. It’s super nice.”

Mountain biking and lift operations are open during the weekends and will continue through October, weather permitting.

After the $5 million capital improvement project was completed in 2015-16 and the Flat Top Flyer high-speed quad lift was opened, the owners were optimistic about the skiing and snowboarding potential for the future. They also touted the potential of making the resort a year-round destination.

Constructing about 15 miles of mountain bike trails were part of that capital improvement project.

“The second year of summer operations at the resort has been amazing,” Robinson said. “We’ve brought in a number of new events to the mountain this year.”

The cycling events, which bring riders in from around the state, are a natural way of marketing the resort.

“These events are a great way for us to showcase the bike park to new visitors and demonstrate that Powderhorn has become a legitimate summer destination,” Robinson said.

After the resort was sold to the new ownership group in 2011, the plan was to reinvest and make improvements to the resort.

The focal point of those improvements was the Flat Top Flyer. The chair lift was also essential in the plans to build a bike park. In the summer months, every other lift chair is equipped with bike carriers.

At the Flat Top Flyer ribbon cutting ceremony on Dec. 19, 2015, the resort’s owners — Ken Gart, and his brothers John and Tom, and Andy Daly — promoted the future and year-round possibilities of the resort.

“It really has the potential to be one of the top (mountain biking) destinations in the country,” Ken Gart said at that time.

Now in its second summer, the mountain biking popularity continues to grow, and that means the possibility of growing the bike park even more in the future.

“While we are thrilled with the response to the existing trail system, we aren’t going to slow mountain biking development at Powderhorn,” Robinson said. “We will continue to build out the trail infrastructure over the next few years to make the resort an exceptional bike destination for families and core riders alike.”

That sounds like an OK plan to local and out-of-town riders.

“That’s exciting to hear. The trails they already have are fun, but having more options to ride will make it even more fun.” Gardy said.


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