VAIL, Colo. - Vail was among the first ski resorts to see opportunity in mountain biking as a way to boost summer business. That was in the late 1980s, and the gondola to the top of the mountain was outfitted so that bikes could be transported.
In 1994 and again in 2001, the ski area and town hosted the World Championships.
But while Whistler Blackcomb, Keystone Winter Park and other resorts have made bold efforts to cater to hard-core mountain bikers with rigorous downhill trails, Vail has chosen not to add substantially to its array of trails.
"The quality of Vail's trails are good - the two that they do have," said Jared Saul, a downhill rider. But the problem with just two, he told the Vail Daily , is that they become boring after not too many rides.
"We're the biggest single mountain," said Brian Peters, a downhill racer. "It's perfect for downhilling - it's not crazy steep, but not super flat. And it is huge. One run all the way down is pretty long."
Liz Biebl, a representative of Vail Resorts, the ski area operator, said that the expense of building difficult mountain bike trails is not justified by the income. "We will continue to improve and develop Vail's mountain bike experience, but we do not have plans to develop a park or constructed experience like Whistler or Keystone," she said.
Pirate trails targetted
LAKE TAHOE, Calif. - The U.S. Forest Service has told mountain bikers that they must quit building trails and terrain features in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Those trails, built in remote areas, endanger riders in case of accidents, but also threaten water quality and wildlife habitat, and in some cases disturb archaeological sites.
"Public lands belong to all of us, and the decision to build new trails needs to be made with participation from all," the Forest Service said in a press release.
The issue is not new in either Lake Tahoe or other locations. But observers, such as bike shop owner Kent Wattanachinda, argue that government agencies need to team up with serious mountain bikers, such as was done on Oregon's Black Rock Trail System.
"If you don't have anything for them, guess what, they're going to start building," he told the Sierra Sun .
But it's questionable whether such features will be possible on the national forest outside of ski areas, said Garrett Villanueva, assistant forester engineer for the U.S. Forest Service. Villanueva, an avid mountain biker himself, said mountain bike access is needed, but it comes with conditions.