If you have ever ridden a mountain bike with me, you probably know that I love to bomb straight descents, but as soon as switchbacks are thrown in I turn into a scared little chicken. Add rocks to the switchbacks and you’ll probably find me walking my bike down. I absolutely HATE being a chicken about anything, especially on terrain that I’ll happily run down. In an attempt to change my outlook and improve my downhill technical skills, Jason and I rented bikes on July 4th and spent the day exploring Beaver Creek mountain.
Beaver Creek isn’t exactly the place that comes to mind when you think of downhilling in Colorado. For serious downhill fun, most people head to Keystone, Crested Butte, or Winter Park. I’m not a serious downhill-fiend (aka I’m a scared little chicken) so Beaver Creek’s more mellow downhill trails were A-OK with me!
Since Jason is an employee at Vail, we got a nice discount on our bike rentals, which was especially nice because they aren’t cheap and the bikes aren’t that nice. If you’re really into mountain biking and can tell the difference between a nice bike and a low-to-mid range bike, head to Venture Sports in Avon. We arrived right as they opened and luckily scored two bikes that actually fit us, a success considering it was a holiday and by the time we were finished there was a line out the door! We quickly stopped by the ticket office to add the bike haul option to our season passes, and headed up the gondola.
Our first time down we took the “green” Cinch fire/service road most of the way down before hopping on the “blue” Aspen Glade trail. We made this decision so we could get used to our bikes before venturing onto more challenging terrain. Aspen Glade is one of my favorite snowshoe and running trails on the mountain because it’s steep and shaded. It proved to be just as much fun on a mountain bike heading downhill. We also were lucky that we managed to finish right before the large swarms of hikers started up the trail! Instead of heading back into town we hopped on the Village Loop to extend our singletrack adventure.
The second time down we started with Rose Petal, that loops through upper Rose Bowl (a favorite for skiing) before joining the upper part of Corkscrew. As we passed through the kids fun ski area on Corkscrew I slowed down too much, hit a rock funny, and ended up with my bike on top of me. I cut up my hand pretty good and ended up with a huge bruise right above my leg, but otherwise brushed it off and pedaled on. Since my hand was bleeding pretty good and Jason wanted some allergy medicine, we decided to head towards our hotel. On the map it looked like the best way was to take the Dally road and then drop into the village. Dally road, unlike Cinch, is not “watered” and was so dusty that I had to stay about 1/10 of a mile behind Jason just to be able to see and breath. Once we turned off Dally, the road was less dusty and we were able to fly down to our hotel.
The third time down we decided to take Rose Petal and then continue all the way down on Corkscrew. Rose Petal was just as fun and the upper part of Corkscrew was less eventful than our previous run on it. For the middle part of Corkscrew, it was mainly flowy, fun trails. It’s rated a black but, except for a couple sections was much closer to a blue. Once we started on the lower part of Corkscrew, the trail started to live up to it’s “black” designation. The switchbacks became looser, tighter, and steeper. The rocks became bigger and the trail became narrower and narrower. My inner chicken returned and I walked a couple of the sections. I was able to squash it a little bit and still managed to ride 95% of the trail!
After Corkscrew intersected with Cinch Road, we hopped on Cinch briefly before connecting with Alley’s Way. We didn’t realize it at the time, but the trail is much more fun in the other direction! The direction we were heading meant that most of it was uphill, although it was gentle climbing with only mildly technical rocks. We took a break in the middle for some Clif Shotbloks and to reapply our sunscreen. The trail was still fun, but that direction would have been better on a XC or trail bike. Alley’s Way spit us back out on the road we took on the previous trip and we hightailed it back to the base of the gondola.
After our descent of corkscrew we decided to get some food and hopefully meet up with my parents. They weren’t too keen on downhill mountain biking and had decided to go for a hike instead. We headed for the Dusty Boot, knowing that it’s location away from the main gondola area would mean it would be less busy. Their food and drinks are pretty good too. We filled up on chips and salsa and chicken wings before heading back up for one more downhill lap.
For our final time down the mountain we again started with Rose Petal and upper Corkscrew. My legs were shot from the three previous trips down the mountain. Who knew I needed some uphill to balance out my legs! Since my legs were tired we took the Cinch road most of the way down the mountain before hopping on the very lower portion of Corkscrew for a last singletrack hurrah before returning our bikes.
Overall, downhilling at Beaver Creek was a lot of fun. I realized that I much prefer to mix my downhills with uphills – my calves were killing me the next two days! I’m also really glad that we went downhilling at an “easier” mountain and didn’t start off with Keystone or Crested Butte. One day my technical skills will be where I want them to be, but for now I’ll have fun dabbling in more technical trails.
If you’re interested, you can find the Beaver Creek summer trail map here.