Bikers take in the view at Deer Valley Resort

The nicest part of lift-served mountain biking is, at the end of the ride up, it’s all downhill from there. Missing are the huffs and puffs and fatigue that come with the uphill climb. In place are the benefits of coasting downhill.

And, along the way, enjoy riding through the stands of trees and open meadows—stopping to enjoy the summer flowers or a spectacular view and taking in the inviting aromas that come with being in the mountains.

All that is what has attracted riders over the years to lift-served mountain biking, available only at your favorite ski resort. 

“We’ve seen more interest every year," says Steve Graff, head of mountain biking operations at Deer Valley

It is an activity that is attractive to a wide range of people, from beginning riders to aggressive experts, and all possible with the purchase of a lift ticket.

Not all riders can or should hop right on a lift though. It is not a sport for the timid or less experienced riders. Some basic skills are advised. 

Realizing this, resorts have developed trails to accommodate all levels of ability and all ages. Most of the trails for beginners, however, do not involve a lift, but begin and end from the base lodges. 

What Graff recommends is individuals first take lessons, “but it’s sometimes difficult to get them to do it."

What he has found interesting, he notes, is that mountain biking is so much like skiing. “You wouldn’t think that, but mountain biking, like skiing, involves weight transfer, carving turns on the bike, a quiet upper body and an active lower body, so it helps to take a lesson.’’

Most mountain trails are for intermediate riders and above. They involve twists and turns, rocky terrain, banked turns and sometimes narrow trails. 

For years ski lifts remained idle in the summer. Some resorts began offering summer rides to those interested in hiking and scenic tours. Then came the introduction of mountain bikes and the idea of giving bikers the same benefit as skiers, which was to ride uphill and travel downhill.

In 1992, Deer Valley became one of the first resorts in the country to begin running its lifts in the summer. Now, more than one third of the country’s ski areas open their lifts to hikers, bikers and scenic riders. 

Here in Utah, along with Deer Valley, resorts like Brian Head, Canyons, Solitude, Sundance, Snowbird and Park City Mountain Resort are open to bikers.

Last year Deer Valley expanded its program to offer lift service, rentals and lessons from its three base lodges—Snow Park, Silver Lake and Empire. It now offers more than 65 miles of biking and hiking trails on its mountains. In the past two years it has added nearly six miles of new trails.

And, says Graff, “There is a continuing effort to keep trails current with riding skills and technology.’’

Back in 1992, bikes had no suspension so trails had to be smoother and technically easy. With the introduction of front-end suspension, riders were able to go faster, so trails were modified. Then came full-suspension bikes and again trails were adjusted as speeds and abilities increased. 

“Now, with the new bikes, people are able to go faster, so we’ve upgraded trails by putting in more banked turns, berms and wider tracks instead of the single tracks,’’ he adds.

“We’ve also gone back and redesigned some of the old trails to accommodate the new, more modern bikes with full-suspension and longer travel. The twisty, tight little turns, for example, no longer fit into the mountain biking world.’‘ 

Yet another advantage of being at a resort is that during a break or after a day on the trails, awaiting the riders at the base lodges are gourmet salads, burgers, panini, cold drinks or a glass of beer or wine, and a time to rest and review.

Deer Valley facts

Trails—65-plus miles

Hours—10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Open daily through Labor Day, then Sept. 8–9

Bike Rentals*—$29 (3 hours) or $39 (full day) junior; $45 (3 hours) $58 (full day) adults

Day Pass Bike—$36

Single Ride Bike—$26

*All rentals include helmet, arm and leg protection gear and gloves.