VAIL — Two feet can take you to some amazing places, but two wheels can take you even farther.
There are views to be taken and wooded forests that you can roll through on quiet singletrack via bike on Vail Mountain that will take you from one end of the mountain to the other and even into the Back Bowls in the course of an afternoon. Take your pick from the whoop-inducing gravity trail Radio Flyer, the lesser trod track of Fred’s Lunch or the majestic views afforded on the Grand Traverse. You can haul your bike up the mountain via Gondola One from Vail Village or the Eagle Bahn from Lionshead. If you’re really looking for a challenge, then you can take the human-powered route up the cat track, although we’ll warn you that it’s an hour-plus grind to the top.
For every level
The resort’s riding is perfect for varied levels. Advanced riders can get some speed, lung-busting climbs and more technical trails, while intermediate and beginner riders can take the gondola and enjoy meandering, fun singletrack on the upper park of the mountain.
“There are trails that could challenge a world-class downhiller, but for the most part it’s a safe mountain with a combination of different level trails,” said mountain bike guide Steve Hill. “Plus, there’s great shopping and restaurants nearby, so you don’t have to go way out in the middle of nowhere to find some amazing singletrack.”
For those who might not be familiar with the mountain, or who want an instructional riding buddy, there are guided mountain bike tours. Think of it as riding with that friend who has the trails memorized and always picks the best lines.
This is the third summer that Vail Mountain has offered guided tours, and Lonnie Bredeson, team leader of hiking and biking at Vail Mountain, said that mountain biking is enjoying a bit of a renaissance on the resort.
Bredeson has been mountain biking on Vail Mountain long before today’s most popular trails were ever built. He led out World Cup downhill mountain bikers on a motorbike down Vail’s burliest trails in the ’90s and now said he’s excited to bring people down the mountain again — although this time it’s mostly families and trail enthusiasts.
Don’t worry — you likely won’t encounter any World Cup-style rock drops on your tour. These days, the mountain’s trail team sweeps the trails daily to for upkeep.
Riders at Vail Mountain can choose from two-hour or six-hour ride sessions. The tours are for two people minimum, with options to add on more participants. You can rent a bike and equipment if needed, and gondola passes and bike haul tickets are included in the price.
Guides will typically take you on a short loop at Eagle’s Nest to test your abilities, then decide your itinerary for the day. Beginners might breeze down the catwalks via LionDown and Village Way, or just ride around on the beginner trails at the top of the mountain and download the gondola. Note that you should know how to ride a bike, although that’s not always the case.
“We had a woman last week whom we found out had never ridden a bike,” said Hill. “I taught her how to ride a bike up there and she did great.”
Hill took us on a recent tour down the frontside classic route — Radio Flyer, Big Mamba and LionDown. Radio Flyer is one of the mountain’s newest trails, complete with big side berms, table tops that let you get some air if you so choose and a pump track section. It’s fast, it’s flowing and we exited the trail grinning.
Big Mamba offers more rocks and twists to challenge your skills, and then you can pedal your way down to the base for another round.
We were up for a little more pedaling, so Hill took us out onto the Grand Traverse, one of Vail’s older but most spectacular trails. You’ll drop into Game Creek Bowl and ride along the top of the bowl, looking down into fields of wildflowers. It’s a rolling ride, with a couple very short grunt sections, but it’s worth it for the view that allows you to see all the way into Edwards and on a clear day, beyond.
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.
“There are trails that could challenge a world-class downhiller, but for the most part it’s a safe mountain with a combination of different level trails.”
Mountain bike guide