Careening down a hill pell-mell, seemingly on the verge of control may be one way of looking at mountain biking on ski slopes designed to create speed for winter adrenaline junkies.
But that’s not always what ski-slope mountain biking is all about.
Taos Ski Valley, renowned for its steep verticals, just opened its first mountain bike trail in July that is designed to delight riders of all ages and abilities, said CEO David Norden.
“This is the first piece of what will be a number of trails,” he said. “The Green Chile Flow Trail. Our goal was to make it as user friendly as possible. We created a trail that welcomes a wide range of people.”
The 3.5-mile trail built by Gravity Logic out of Whistler, Canada, starts at the top of Kachina Basin’s Lift 4, with views across northern New Mexico and southern Colorado offering a backdrop to the ride.
“Our goal was to really tie it in with nature,” Norden said. “And not have a great impact on the skiing. I think they absolutely nailed it. There’s a lot of roll. A lot of bank turns. Broad stream crossings. You start at over 10,000 feet with vies toward Wheeler and other mountains, the Sangre de Cristos. I got a lot of thrill out of it. There were families with kids using the trail. It’s a lot of fun with winding turns and some meadows so the views are outstanding.”
It’s called a flow trail, he said, because it has a certain rhythm to it.
“The concept is, if it’s designed well, you’re riding down the trail, traversing and you will have very little pedaling and very little breaking,” Norden said. “It’s not a hard thing to do. You’re rolling and then ride through the banked turns. It’s a beautiful rhythm on your bike so it’s a really wonderful ride.”
Of course, some riders feel the need for speed and Angel Fire Resort’s fully developed trail system offers the downhill demons the thrilling rush of plummeting from the top to the bottom of the ski hill.
“We have a wide variety of trails from beginner to double black,” said Patrick West, mountain bike manager.
Angel Fire has 60 miles of gravity access via its lifts, with 38 trails covering some 2,000 vertical feet of descent.
“We have green trails like Easy Street which is a super beginner and covers seven or eight miles, and then we have the black trails that go straight down for two miles,” West said. “It can take you up to two hours to go down or as little as four minutes if you’re a pro.”
You can find pretty much any type of ride that suits you style, he said.
“Every trail has different berms and rollers,” West said. “There’s a lot of creativity on each trail. We have a wide range of non-catching-air trails. Basic trails, with single track, that’s not very steep. I wouldn’t call it super beginner, more intermediate. Green trails with rollers where you’re not meant to catch air, not that you can’t, buy they’re not really rated toward that.”
Leisurely rides also allow cyclists to enjoy their surroundings.
“We do have such a large valley at the bottom,” West said. “Once you go up our hill, there are uninterrupted hills. Wheeler Peak, Taos, Colorado mountain ranges. It’s pretty vast how far you can see. And there’s a ton of wildlife. You’re always going to see elk or deer, the occasional bear or mountain lion or bobcat. It’s a very alive mountain.”
TAOS SKI VALLEY
For those who seek a different type of challenge – like a grueling ride up before a fly ride down – Pajarito near Los Alamos may be the place to go.
COVID-19 has shuttered the ski area, but the bike trails are still open. It just means that riders have to climb the mountain the old-fashioned way, via their own power.
“About a medium rider in fitness can do it,” said Neal Pederson, who is one of a group of volunteers who are keeping the trails maintained. “It’s high elevation and relatively steep but any good mountain bike rider of an intermediate level as far as steepness can make it up.”
TAOS SKI VALLEY
Pajarito has an extensive series of trails, as well, ranging from the easiest, green, to the hardest, black.
Pederson said he usually uses a cross country bike because it makes the climbing easier, then he’ll mix his rides down, with maybe Aspeñola among the favorites.
“It’s pretty fast and no big features,” he said. “So it’s a fun trail to rip down on a cross country bike.”
ANGEL FIRE RESORT