THEIR PAIN, OUR GAIN
SNOW SUMMIT SURPRISES WITH EARLY OPENING
DOWNHILL MTB RIDING LOOKING UP AT BIG BEAR
APRIL 19, 2014, BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. Words and images by Philip Beckman/PB Creative — You have to feel sorry for SoCal skiers and boarders. A touch of sympathy. A couple of soft pats on the shoulder and perhaps some warm, quiet words. A scrunch of the eyebrows with a benevolent shake of the head. Boo-Hoo.
Due to drought conditions and minimal snowfall in southwestern U.S. this past winter, fans of sliding sports were literally left high and dry — except in their eyes.
Their pain, our gain. Cyclists around these parts, on the other hand, took great comfort in a summerlike winter. Then when it was announced that the Snow Summit Bike Park was going to open early, all we could shout was Boo-Ya! (Just not within earshot of our snow-bereft buddies.)
This venerable ski hill in Big Bear Lake — backyard playground for 18 million day-tripping Los Angelenos — is going through a renaissance when it comes to mountain bikes. Once the virtual center of the universe in terms of MTB riding of all types, the property was closed to two-wheelers for nearly a decade following a couple of serious injuries, a change of ownership and pressure from the Forest Service.
True downhill bikes in particular came under severe scrutiny. If a rider showed up with a bike sporting a dual-crown fork, eight inches of suspension travel and weighed more than 38 pounds, they were met with a stern shake of the head and gesture toward the exit. And there really was no plan B in terms of lift-serviced mountain biking.
That all changed last year when Snow Summit once again opened its arms — and two ski lifts — to owners of all types of MTBs. Riders were delighted with what they found: new or refurbished, professionally designed trails with big, swoopy berms, man-made jumps and wooden features reminiscent of those built in iconic locations such as Whistler and Snowmass. The real deal.
Snow Summit Bike Park began its sophomore season with the first annual Summer Kickoff Party on Saturday, April 19th, earlier than any other “lifted” facility in North America. The base area — at 7000 feet above sea level — was the event’s hub, with enough color, sound and energy to remind us of the heydays of the sport at this resort (think early- to mid-1990s).
An expo row included displays from Trek, Marin, Redline, Intense, Oakley, Marzocchi, Ryders Eyewear, Troy Lee Designs, Five Ten, Smith Optic and Freestyle USA. The unmistakable Red Bull MXT truck had DJ Slip Matt cueing tunes. Numerous raffles and prize giveaways helped keep off-bike excitement high.
Common topics of discussion centered on some new obstacles and trail sections, as well as the rerouting of some old trails. It was announced that an all-new “green” trail (parlance for beginner-friendly) will be open by July 4th. Many of the hundreds in attendance were dazzled by the day’s traction, thanks to a quick but convincing thunderstorm that had rolled through the previous afternoon.
The Snow Summit Bike Park has a lot to offer, at reasonable prices. Season passes are now on sale for just $279; hard to beat if visiting often this summer and fall. Downhill mountain biking is back in a big way in Big Bear.
For more, visit bigbearmountainresorts.com/summer/