11 Best Bike-Parks in the West | Data Crunch Reveals
24 Apr 2016
Data Crunch Reveals The 1 for You
We offer you a quick and easy way to identify which bike park is right for you. If a picture is worth a 1000 words, then a chart or a graph containing pertinent data is even more valuable. However, the results may surprise some of you and provide a dose of controversy. Initially, a few of the final rankings did leave us a bit puzzled as well, but after some thoughtful reflection on our bike park visits, it all made perfect sense. For a detailed explanation, please scroll to the end of this article to view our methods of data collection and the final analysis.
Not surprising, on tour last summer, we ran out of time trying to squeeze in a visit to as many bike parks as possible in the western states. Lucky number 11 is where we settled for the season, and we think our visits included the best-in-the-west at the time.
Combined, our team has made 67 bike park visits worldwide, and our goal is to provide insight to riders and feedback to the bike parks, while continuing to do what we love most...RIDE PARK! Collecting the pertinent data at each bike park has been a priority, and it’s now time to start publishing that data in a meaningful visual format.
Total Vert and Number of Trails
First off, you can’t have mountain biking without a mountain, and straight away, you’ve probably noticed that Snowmass Bike Park offers the most vertical descent while offering the least # of trails.
This brings up an important point to keep in mind when is comes to the # of trails at individual bike parks. In defense of Snowmass, each of those 4 trails, separately, provides riders with ~1,400ft of vertical! Also, be aware that bike parks will routinely split-up their trails into “upper & lower” or breakup trails into smaller sections...thereby instantly doubling their trail count. That being said, we do believe that more trails generally equals more variety and fun!
In summary, Keystone (1st), Mammoth (2nd), and Angel Fire (3rd) had the most impressive combination of Vertical and #of Trails.
Value for Money
Everyone wants good value for his or her money, and buying your day pass is one of the first things that need to be done upon arrival for a day of shred at your favorite bike park. Not surprising, the 2 California bike parks, Northstar & Mammoth, are the most expensive for the day. But, do they deserve your hard earned money? We have attempted to answer that question by calculating a “Day Pass Value Rating”. Besides the actual dollar amount, our value rating takes into account a multitude of other factors such as the ease of parking, village vibe & amenities, affordable accommodations, easy access to bathrooms, availability of water on the mountain, a bike wash, efficiency of the uplift, and of course the overall quality and # of trails.
Trestle (1st) beats out the competition with Keystone (2nd) and Angel Fire (3rd) rounding out the podium spots for the Day Pass Value Rating. Conspicuously, Mammoth fell off this leaderboard in a big way. To put it simply, Mammoth Mountain Bike Park is a complex network of trails, spread out over a large area, which requires uplift via gondola, chairlift, and multiple shuttle bus pick up spots. The disjointed nature of the trail system, time consuming uplift methods, and inconvenient village amenities resulted in its’ fall to 7th place in this category.
Let’s be honest, all things being equal, the quality, the variety, and the number of trails is what’s most important, because if you build it...they will come!
This bar chart represents our rating for each category of trail. Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced trail ratings need no specific explanation, but we’ve included separate ratings for Technical & Jump/Flow trails. Particular bike parks are well known and held in high regard for their predominant style of trail system. A great example of this is Keystone’s reputation as the go-to bike park for Tech-Riders, while Trestle is highly coveted by the Jump & Flow crowd. That common opinion holds true if you take a close look at our trails chart.
Another quick glance at the chart reveals Snowmass is sorely lacking in the Advanced & Technical trail categories, while Snow Summit is maybe not the right choice for Beginner riders.
Trail Category Distribution
We really “geeked” out with this chart, but it was totally worth it to be able to easily visualize the % (of the total) distribution for the varying trail categories. Immediately, our eyes were drawn to the bright red (Expert/Pro) category bar for Mammoth. We knew they had a high percentage of difficult trails, but damn...53%!
Surprisingly, Snowmass and Stevens Pass completely lack any trails in the Expert/Pro category. Snowmass has the terrain for it, but they seem to lack the will. Stevens Pass does have some expert lines on their mountain. It’s just a matter of time before they step up their game and provide more for the for the elite rider.
Trail Variety, conditions, and Signage
Variety is the spice of life, and the usual suspects top this chart with their diverse mixture of trails. However, when it comes to trail conditions and signage, the data offers some interesting points to consider.
First of all, lets consider the Trail Conditions category. Northstar received the lowest rating for good reason. California was baking in the sun during a record drought, and Northstar isn’t commonly referred to as “dust-star” for nothing. However, their Trail Signage Rating is also tied with Angel Fire for the worst in the group. Angel Fire, especially had major issues because their hand-drawn trail map did not match up with their trail signage on the mountain. It was a huge time-suck for us as we tried to reconcile the issue.
A bike park shootout isn’t worth a grain of salt if you don’t end up crowning a victor. So, we generated standard values for each bike park category rating and calculated the average to then plot the overall ranking of the bike parks from 1st thru to 11th.
Most surprising was Northstar placing 8th and Crested Butte coming in 9th. Northstar really suffered from poor trail conditions, a low trail signage rating, and the highest cost for a day pass. Crested Butte, on the other hand, settled in towards the bottom of the ranking as well because they have the least amount of vertical descent, the trail signage and conditions were not that great, and they don’t have that many trails on their mountain.
Final Thoughts: Size does matter, but it’s not everything. The quality and variety of your trails is more important than your total (named) trail count. Maintaining those trails is tough work and it costs money. The best bike parks have skilled trail crews and a healthy budget to support their work. If trails are appropriately signed at all intersections and the bike park map is accurate, then the user experience greatly improves. Providing trails for all skill levels of riders while continuing to offer a challenge for even the pros will bring them back again and again. Our mission with this bike park exposé is to share, in a meaningful visual format, our objective data and subjective ratings to help mountain bikers choose the right bike park for their needs and desires. Speak up and please tell us what you think. Look for the “14 Best Bike-Parks in the East” coming soon.
CLICK HERE to check out these Bike Parks on the new BikeParkPRO App for iPhone and Android.