Journey to Aspen Snowmass
Last week, I embarked on a journey from Telluride, CO to the hamlet of Aspen, CO after the recommendation of my friend Ben, a contractor with Gravity Logic. With the blessings of Tucker Vest Burton, a full tank of gas, and plenty of cheese in my cooler, fate sealed the deal and I headed on my sojourn North in search of my own slice of Valhalla.
The Trails at Snowmass Bike Park
Snowmass Bike Park contains an excellent selection of trails. A few of these I found to be absolutely mind-blowing in their quality of construction. Naturally, Gravity Logic is still at working hard building new trails. Although the downhill park is still quite small – there are really only six “full-size” downhill trails – the park is set to increase in size 50% by the end of the summer with the addition of Gonzo (double black freeride), “New Trail 6” and “New Trail 8” (both blue freeride trails). Moreover, there is a plethora of cross-country accessible right from the lifts.
In fact, for most people visiting Snowmass bike park, its small size and easily navigable nature is a distinct advantage. My friend Ben at gravity logic even mentioned this in his recommendation. You don’t want to have to spend too much of your trip learning how to navigate a new area and getting lost in countless miles of downhill track.
What to Ride?
Instead, it is important to ride only a few trails as many times as possible in order to orchestrate a “line” for that trail. That is to say, it is imperative to know where and when obstacles and jumps will appear, the various idiosyncrasies of each trail, and how to deal with them without getting completely wrecked. The better you know the trail, the more fun it is to ride.
To put this in perspective, I rode 0 Verdes, 1 Vapor, 1 Viking, 3 Animal Crackers, ~ 10 French Presses, and ~15-20 Valhallas. I’ve heard verde is a nice, flowy green trail. Vapor and Viking are solid intermediate trails with some nice features, Vapor being the more rugged and less-built up of the two.
On the other hand, Animal Crackers is an excellent track which I would’ve ridden more if it hadn’t been so dry and riddled with moondust. It is an EWS (Enduro World Series) track from a couple years ago and has some fun techy features and a very manageable road gap. Along with Vapor, it is lapable from the Elk Camp Gondola.
The Holy Grail: French Press and Valhalla Combo
Currently, the highlight of the park for any competent rider is going to be the French Press – Papa Smurf – Valhalla combo. This route takes you some 2700 feet of vertical to the gondola angle station near the bottom of the mountain. The aforementioned blowing of my mind occurred as a result of riding these trails as fast and hard as I could.
French Press is an intermediate freeride trail that begins near the top of the Elk Camp Gondola. Fast, well-engineered berms and flow are the name of the game on this trail. Although their are no technical or “difficult” features, if you don’t like this trail you don’t like mountain biking. Moreover, there are several wood features and small jumps abound. You an ride this trail to the base or link it with Valhalla via Papa Smurf. Finally, the views make this trail even if you hate mountain biking.
Valhalla trail is the most aptly name trail on the mountain. As the name would suggest, it is the best. Valhalla is a black freeride trail. More specifically, it is a jump line, with a few high-speed berms thrown in for good measure.
First of all, there are probably about 30 jumps on this 2.8-mile-long trail. Most of these jumps are quite large and capable of floating you 30, or even 40 feet in spots. Consequently, it is possible to spend over 1 minute in the air on each lap. That would equate to at least a few percent of the total of each lap being spent in the air. While in the air, one can do all sorts of twists, contortions, and disco moves to the beat of nature.
Secondly, the trail is so well constructed that nothing is overly sketchy. While traveling at high speed and launching off jumps is inherently dangerous, there aren’t really any oddly placed rocks, trees, or other features that might throw you off. Nevertheless, I would suggest riding this a few times to scope before truly sending.
Lastly, this trail contains the most man-made features. Cool wall-rides, bridges, and the big wooden jump features at the bottom all make the grade.
You really can have your own slice of Valhalla at Snowmass Bike Park. There is simply nobody else there to compete with you for it. The lack of crowds here is really astonishing. In fact, there were so few people that it was hard to find any riding partners or even people to take pictures of.
SBP Race Series
Snowmass Bike Park also has their own weekly race series. These races are very popular and competitive. It is the only thing I missed on my trip, as my bike was in the shop and I was pretty tired already. More Information here: SBP Race Series
Not only did I enjoy my trip to Snowmass Bike Park, I was actually sad to leave. I’m sitting here now just thinking about how awesome those jumps on Valhalla were and how amazing it was to have a place to recover after riding (Snowmass Rec Center). Not to mention the friendly staff, beautiful weather, and excellent public transportation. Until next time!