Stevens Pass Bike Park
Opening date goal: Labor Day
Hours: Not yet decided.
Day passes: The prices have not yet been decided for this year, but Stevens Pass is considering $30 day passes next year
5-year season passes: $1,000, sold out (only 200 released)
Overall budget: $925,000
Total miles: 9.5 to 10
Budget per mile: $93,000 to $98,000
Trails this year:
Hand-built advanced single track, 1.7 miles
Intermediate flow trail, 2.1 miles
Planned for 2012:
Advanced, excavated flow trail
Intermediate hand-built trail
Planned for 2013:
A 3.4-mile beginner trail around the foot of Cowboy mountain, with a more gradual grade and smoother ride.
Source: Chris Rudolph, Stevens Pass
STEVENS PASS — For now, the mountain bike trails at Stevens Pass are still a series of disconnected segments, littered with machinery and tools, boulders and mud. But trail builders can already see themselves gripping the handlebars as they fly down the forested hills, hurdling jumps and hugging the berms in a perfectly brakeless flow.
The dream is beginning to take shape.
Two crews are working seven days a week to ensure a Labor Day opening for the first two trails. They hope to build three more over the next two years, ending with a 3-mile beginner trail in 2013. The five trails are expected to cost about $93,000 to $98,000 per mile, which is about $925,000 total, said Stevens Pass spokesperson Chris Rudolph.
It’s a dirty, sweaty task building the hand-dug black diamond trail — a rugged, narrow joyride for expert riders. For the last two weeks, the crew has been clearing brush and duff, digging out stumps and rolling boulders into place. On the other side of the mountain, excavators plowed 10-foot swaths of trail for the intermediate track.
The trail building crews are off to a late start due to the sluggish snow melt this spring. As they waited for the slopes to clear in May, they built a cedar loading and unloading ramp for the Hogsback chairlift, which will be the trails’ primary access.
The chairlifts will be retrofitted with bike racks on every other chair, similar to Whistler Mountain Bike Park in British Columbia. At the top of the hill, a lift operator will dismount the bikes and hand them to riders as they exit.
At the end of the season, the wooden loading ramp will be dismantled and stored until the next spring.
Stevens Pass hired Gravity Logic, the same company that built the Whistler facility, to design the trails and features.
“It’s difficult terrain, there’s just no two ways about it,” said Tom Prochazka, a trail designer from Gravity Logic. “It’s steep, rocky and challenging, but that’s what makes it exciting to ride too.”
The crews finish an average of 30 feet of trail per day. Every inch of the trails have been mapped with GPS technology, but the crews are allowed to deviate from the original plan by up to 25 feet if they encounter a blocking boulder or tree.
“I think the misconception people have is you come out here and just start cutting trail like ‘How hard could it be?’” said James Munly, a trail designer from Leavenworth. “You have to make it flow and build in drainage and figure out the right grade. You could have the best laid plans then get out there and realize it’s not going to work.”
Stevens Pass is only allowed to cut six large trees for the first five mountain bike trails, so the crews work around them when they can. Any tree roots will be “armored” with stones for protection against bike tires.
Every dozen feet or so, the crews build in drainage systems layered like a road bed. They dig out vegetation and duff in the first layer of soil, then stack boulders for the foundation, fill it with small rocks, and top it off with soil. In some cases, they add culverts or build bridges.
The idea is to prevent soil erosion and trail washouts during the spring runoff, which helps minimize the environmental impact and lowers the cost of maintenance, Rudolph said.
The trails will feature a stunt every 100 feet — jumps, berms, dips, wooden structures — so riders can grow in their skill and comfort level.
“The idea is that if you build these trails correctly, with proper drainage, you don’t have to pedal or brake to hit all the jumps and make all the transitions,” Rudolph said.
The trails have not been named yet, but the crews often joke about it, Munly said.
About the advanced track, “I think ‘Slingshot Wooky,’ has been sticking so far,” he said.
The name references an antique slingshot they found while digging the trail. Many of the favorite trail names at Whistler — like Samarai Pizza Cat or Ninja Cougar — were based on stories from the construction stage, Munly said.
The mountain bike community has waited seven years as Stevens Pass and the U.S. Forest Service worked out plans, permits, environmental impact studies, public comments and appeals.
Stevens Pass overcame another hurdle this spring when its parent company, Harbor Properties, unexpectedly pulled $200,000 from the construction budget. To make up for the shortfall, Stevens Pass created the Drop-In Alliance, a group of five-year season pass holders, and sold 200 memberships for $1,000 each. Within two months, they sold out.
“These people invested in an idea when there was nothing in the ground yet,” Rudolph said. “Without them, I don’t know where we would be.”
Among the list of perks, members have exclusive rights to ride the trails before the park opens to the public. The first open house for members will be Aug. 14.
The Drop-in Alliance members included businesses and mountain bikers from around the state, but the strongest showing of support came from Leavenworth’s biking community, Rudolph said.
“We have such a strong, vibrant mountain bike community,” he said. “There’s a lot of spirit here.”