Oh Let The Sun Beat Down Upon My Face
28 May 2014
Q&A: Whitefish Bike Park!
Who are you and what do you do at Whitefish Bike Park?
I am Riley Polumbus, PR Manager for Whitefish Mountain Resort.
How long ago did Whitefish become a Bike Park? Who or what was the driving force?
Our first lift-accessed trail, the Summit Trail, was completed in 1996. In 2008 we added our first downhill only trail, Runaway Train. Both trails have a vertical drop of over 2,000 feet. The summer of 2013 was our biggest year yet as we expanded our bike park by 5 miles adding 5 new trails. This included two top-to-bottom downhill trails named Kashmir and Freebird. With our main chairlift, “Big Mountain Express” (also known as Chair 1), we have excellent access from our mountain village to the summit of Big Mountain. The terrain lends itself well to flowy trails down our open bowls and forests. Josh Knight is the Recreation Manager and has overseen the proposal to the US Forest Service as well as the park’s expansion.
How many visitors do you get in a weekend/season? What was your biggest day ever on record?
We have been growing steadily over several years. Last summer we experienced 40% growth from the summer of 2012 with a total of 5,679 riders. Our biggest day on record was during the All Gravity Series race on 9/12/2012 with 150 riders. Last summer our biggest day was 145 riders on August 4, 2013. We expect even more this summer with a full summer of new trails.
What is the most popular trail at your bike park?
Kashmir is in one word, “Flow.” In more words: Kashmir is the backbone of the trail system here at Whitefish. It runs along the west ridge of the mountain towards the pod of existing trails in the Chair 3 area. Let the sun beat down upon your face while Kashmir crams as much flow under your two tires as it can! Another great thing about Kashmir is it also intersects with the Summit Trail six times so you can start small & work your way up to more advanced sections of trail.
Do you have plans for a new trail this year or plans to re-develop an existing trail?
Nothing new, our crew will maintain everything at its optimum level.
Describe the predominant “style” of riding at your park? (Natural vs. Manmade, DH/Tech/Steep vs. Flow/Features) Typically, what kind of terrain do you have? (Rocky, Dry-dusty, Tacky, Roots)…
We have a little something for everyone! Each major trail has its own personality and characteristics making the most of the terrain in which they were built. Runaway Train (built in 2008) is technical and rocky with some flow. Freebird is more about air with fun jump lines as it plummets down bowls and runs of the ski area directly under the chairlift. Kashmir is all about the flow as it follows the ridgeline of the mountain through the forest and across meadows. The Summit Trail is our top-to-bottom intermediate trail and allows uphill and downhill riding. We also have a series of other offshoots to Kashmir and Freebird creating more options while lapping. Plus, there’s a network of cross-country trails that are accessible without the lift.
What is the mountain bike scene like at your resort?
It is growing! While there is still a healthy, and laid-back, cross-country scene with a weekly Race Series, there’s a downhill contingent that is steadily growing. We also see lots of families, our hope is to add to our beginner and intermediate terrain and offer more trails for budding gravity riders. There’s a fun, down-to-earth vibe amongst riders here. Locals and visitors (from Missoula, Washington State, Alberta & British Columbia) intermingle on the trails and perhaps even go for an après ride beer.
Tell me a little bit about your town. Where do out-of-towners like to stay while visiting Whitefish? Are there any restaurants or bars that mtb-ers like to hang?
Downtown Whitefish is 8 miles (15min drive) from Whitefish Mountain Resort and the bike park. There is lodging available in town as well as the mountain, however since Whitefish is a popular summer destination (with Glacier National Park 25 miles away) accommodations in town fill up. On the mountain there are many lodging options from a budget hotel to condos to deluxe town homes (something for every size group and budget). There are several restaurants on the mountain open for lunch including one at the top of the mountain. Post ride beers on the Bierstube deck in the mountain village are a tradition (the bar also holds the Thursday Night Race League post parties July-August), or head to downtown for more bars and dining options.
Do you have any big events going on this summer at your bike park?
We will hold two Enduro Races: “Early” on June 28th and “Ender Enduro” on September 13. Our 7 race series Thursday Night Race League (TNRL) starts July 10 and ends August 21.
How has the snow been over the winter? Will it affect your opening date? Do you have an opening day in mind yet?
Our settled base on Closing Day (April 6th) was 146” at the summit. We are scheduled to open Saturday, June 14 NOTE: we have more activities than just our Bike Park… We offer scenic lift rides, zip line tours, alpine slide, aerial adventure park, and a Walk in the Treetops guided nature tour in the forest canopy. Plus we run two restaurants and we have over 5 miles of hiking… so that opening day is weather permitting and it’s for everything. Our Bike Park will open then weather permitting. Our new trails, the ones that were built last summer, are on south facing slopes so we hope that will help get them melted more quickly than our Runaway Train trail which melts more slowly.
What does the future hold for your resort?
We are very excited for THIS SUMMER! It will be the first full summer with our new trails. We received great reviews last summer and we expect they will perform better after being under snow. Plus our pricing is very competitive ($32 for full day and $185 for a season pass).
We are un-crowded, affordable and fun. People love Whitefish and our mountain because it’s beautiful, has amazing terrain and friendly people. We are very excited about the new trails, with all the great feedback from last summer and we know they will be in better shape than ever this summer. As we continue to attract more riders to our bike park, they will soon discover all the amazing mountain biking there is in our surrounding area. We feel our bike park helps complete a very comprehensive list of offerings to mountain bikers and will soon be on every mountain bikers “must do” list.