Little Cottonwood Canyon • Jenn Berg is no stranger to the famous mountain terrain of Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort. Berg is, however, accustomed to a world of white when she is streaking down the slopes.
Berg, a professional skier living in Cottonwood Heights, found a new way to enjoy her home resort when Snowbird opened the nearly 8-mile Big Mountain Trail for mountain bikers in July.
Big Mountain Trail at Snowbird
Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort opened its new Big Mountain Trail for mountain bikers in July. The 7.9-mile single track descends nearly 3,000 feet from the top of Hidden Peak at 11,000 feet. The trail can be accessed via the tram. Riders can get a 3-hour Tram pass for $19 or a day pass for $29. The trail is open from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., after which it is open to downhill traffic only. The trail will remain open daily through Labor Day weekend, and only on weekends thereafter until weather closes it for the winter. Bring your own bike or rent one at Snowbird.
"Being able to see it in the summer is so great," said Berg, who has hit the Big Mountain Trail every weekend since it opened in mid-July. "There are all these terrain features that are just completely buried in the snow."
Brilliant wildflowers, stunning views, occasional glimpses of wildlife and a varied trail — not to mention the exercise and thrill of riding downhill — highlight Big Mountain and fully brings Snowbird into the mountain biking scene that many other resorts embraced long ago.
Snowbird has offered mountain biking for years, but it was limited to maintenance roads.
"A lot of Snowbird employees are avid cyclists, both road and mountain," said Dave Fields, vice president of operations at Snowbird. "We know what’s out there and we knew we had a lot of potential."
The resort hired Alpine Trails to get riders from the top of Hidden Peak, where the tram drops them off at 11,000 feet, into the Gad Valley and eventually back to base operations. The trail’s vertical drop is nearly 3,000 feet.
"The Big Mountain Trail is one of the most scenic and varied trails we have built," Ben Blitch, president of Park City-based Alpine Trails, said in a release.
"The trail is also extremely long and varied. It will be fun for experts and intermediates alike with different aspects, views and terrain. It has five different personalities, which is what makes it such an awesome trail."
Berg agrees that the trail has multiple personalties and just seems to keep getting better as more riders experience Big Mountain.
"The crew has been out cleaning up the trail, and the more mileage people put down on the trail, the better it gets," she said. "The middle part of the trail is my favorite — it has the best flow. There are some nice rounded-out berm turns and it just helps get you in the groove. To me it is a lot like skiing, where you are almost weightless and using gravity and the weight of your body to flow around the corners."
The upper portions of the single-track trail include switchbacks as riders descend from Hidden Peak into Gad Valley. The trail provides whoop-de-dos almost its entire length and has some technical features that earn it the intermediate to intermediate-advanced rating.
There are stretches through the pine stands and then large quaking aspen groups before the trail bids riders farewell with a speedy departure through large meadows of wildflowers, which included a moose cow and a calf on a recent ride earlier this week.
Wood bridges get riders through areas with water or other obstacles.
The success of the Big Mountain opening has Snowbird officials looking ahead to more trails.
"We have a great first step and want to take more time and work with the Forest Service to see what a long-term mountain bike plan would look like," Fields said. "There is a wide variety of options: downhill flow parks, learning centers and beginner trails. We want to consider these options, but also pay attention to others who want to use the mountain."
Berg is excited about the possibilities for more riding at Snowbird. For now she is just glad to have somewhere close to home to quell her desire to race down a mountain.
"It might take a while [for Snowbird] to get where some other resorts are with mountain biking, but there is such huge potential for catering to all the mountain bikers in the valley," said Berg, who has two young children. "It is awesome for me to be able to bang out some fun miles in a brief amount of time. I can do a couple of tram laps and be satisfied."
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.