A Beginner's Guide To Snowmass Bike Park

Beginners Guide to Snowmass Bike Park

Four-year-old Daniel de la Vega, of Miami, stood astride his bike at the top of the Meadows chairlift at Snowmass Bike Park. Decked out in protective padding and a full face helmet, he impatiently asked his mom, Veronica: “can we ride now?” He then took off ahead of her down EZ-PZ, one of the new downhill bike trails in this mid-mountain learning area at the top of Elk Camp Gondola.

Daniel had been lapping EZ-PZ — a half mile of wide singletrack with a few gentle rollers, bermed turns, and one optional boardwalk — while the rest of the family enjoyed other activities in the Lost Forest. An avid biker, he had ridden some dirt trails around Miami before, but it was his first time in a lift-served bike park. He was hooked — his favorite part? “Doing jumps!”
Child riding mountain bike trails at Aspen Snowmass
Thanks to a growing trail network for all abilities, Snowmass Bike Park has long been a draw for mountain bikers, from beginners to the downhill scene looking to learn new skills to experts practicing for competition. With a vertical rise of nearly 2,900 feet served by the Elk Camp Gondola and Elk Camp Chairlift (in addition to the Meadows chair), trails are generally long—French Press, the lengthiest, extends an impressive 4.5 miles—and chock full of natural and manmade features. The best trail for beginners, Verde, offers 3.8 miles of wide, forgiving singletrack, smooth bank turns, and even a few opportunities to get air—with enough speed and desire, that is.

New in 2021, the Meadows trails are a key addition for young and aspiring downhill bikers like Daniel, plus those wanting to practice skills without committing to a miles-long ride. Besides EZ-PZ, a green (easiest) trail, there’s Lemon, a blue (more difficult) trail with great practice features that are a little bigger. Situated at about 10,000 feet, the Meadows area stays relatively cool throughout the summer—and the scenic, restful ride on the Meadows chair is a treat.
It’s also conveniently located near the Elk Camp restaurant and all the nearby attractions of the Lost Forest: the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster, ropes course, climbing wall, and more.

Back at the Meadows, Sophie Baum, 12, was getting her first taste of downhill biking. She was being coached by her aunt and uncle, Emily Follman and Joe Levine, who’ve been riding the Bike Park every summer while vacationing from St. Louis. “I wish I’d had this when I was learning,” Joe said about the Meadows. Every few laps, they’d meet up with Emily and Joe’s teen sons, advanced riders who spent their time on the hardest trails. Sophie built enough confidence to ride Verde to the bottom at the end of the day. Stopping in at Four Mountain Sports for some bike gloves, she was grinning ear to ear, eager to ride again—someday, with her cousins.

Convinced Downhill Mountain Biking Is Worth A Try?

Here’s what else you should know.

Take a mountain biking lesson with Aspen Snowmass
Learn from the best
Just like with skiing, true beginner mountain bikers benefit greatly from professional instruction. Snowmass has a dedicated Bike School offering multiple options for private coaching and group clinics, including an Intro to Downhill clinic. Learning how to sit (and stand) on your bike, properly apply brakes, and control your trajectory on features are key to enjoying the ride.

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Gear up for Mountain Biking with Four Mountain Sports and Snowmass Bike Park
Gear Up
If you haven’t been to a bike park before, chances are you don’t have a downhill mountain bike. Built for stability at speed, with generous travel (length of suspension), these bikes are tailor made for bike park trails and will increase your enjoyment and safety. Four Mountain Sports, with a location at the bottom of the gondola in Base Village, rents a variety of bikes, starting with a 20-inch-wheel bike suitable for a 5-year-old. Downhill bike rentals include a helmet and protective pads, and packages including rentals, lift tickets, and instruction are available.

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The trails are expansive at Snowmass Bike Park.
Give It Time
There’s a lot to explore at Snowmass Bike Park—don’t expect to learn how to rip and see it all in one day. If you start with a half-day clinic, give yourself at least a couple more days to practice your skills and get a good feel for the easier trails. You might want to return for more instruction, or maybe even set a goal of riding to the bottom from the top of Elk Camp—with its awe-inspiring views of the Maroon Bells and 3,000 feet of descent.

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