FROM SNOW-COVERED SKI RESORT TO MOUNTAIN BIKE MECCA
They say the only constant in life is change. The same can be said for Big Bear Mountain Resort's Summit Bike Park, which emerges every spring after lying dormant under a blanket of snow during the winter months. Transforming the slopes of Snow Summit into Southern Calfornia's mountain biking mecca is no small feat and usually takes several months to complete. So what does it take to build SoCal's premier lift-served, gravity-fed bike park? Big Bear Mountain Resort's Trail Crew Director, Ryan Wormsbecker gives us the inside scoop.
STEP 1: WAIT FOR WARMER TEMPS
When it comes to bike park building, patience is a virtue since the amount of snowfall from the previous winter directly affects how quickly Wormsbecker's team can start working.
"You have to wait for the snow to melt," he says. "And that can take a lot longer than you’d think."
STEP 2: ASSESS THE TRAILS
After the snow melts, Snow Summit's Trail Crew conducts a thorough review of the park to determine how much work each trail needs before it can open to the public.
"We hike from the top to bottom, to the bottom to the top. We’re looking for damage that the winter season has given to our trails -- erosions, down trees -- that way we can get to work."
STEP 3: SAFETY FIRST
Before the Trail Crew can start building berms or installing features each trail has to be properly flagged for a safety inspection.
"That way the electricians can come and locate where all the underground utilities are. They refer to their bible to tell them where all those wires live. If we were to dig those up, it would not be a good day."
STEP 4: GET READY TO RAKE
Once the trails have been inspected and approved by the Mountain Operations department, the Trail Crew can begin the rebuild/rehab process, which involves a lot of raking.
"You wouldn’t believe how much debris falls on our trails throughout the winter season. It’s a lot of raking. We have to rake. And rake. And rake some more. And keep then raking. And rake. And rake. And rake. Until all trails are raked from top to bottom."
STEP 5: RUNNING OF THE BULL(DOZER)S
Rakes and shovels can only do so much, which is why BBMR also uses heavy machinery like backhoes, bulldozers, and excavators to do a lot of the secondary and finishing work on the trails.
"We rent heavy equipment each year to help us rebuild and shape the turns that are out on the ski run. Last fall we flattened those turns to make way for the winter season."
STEP 6: THE FINISHING TOUCHES
The last step before giving the go-ahead to open trails to the public requires compacting any manmade dirt features and heavily watering the trails to make sure they maintain their integrity and are safe for riders.
"We water, top to bottom, and quad pack all the trails, especially the new turns on the ski run. To get them dialed for opening day."
STEP 7: PREP THE LIFTS
Installing the bike carriers on Chairs 1, 2, and 4 at Snow Summit is a major undertaking performed by the Lift Maintenance team that puts the "lift" in lift-served bike park. While not one of Trail Crew's tasks, Wormsbecker is appreciative of the time and effort it takes to get the lifts ready each season.
"This is a big step. The chairlifts have to be ready to bring you to the top of the mountain. They have to be inspected by the state. Lift Maintenance has to do all necessary maintenance to the chairlifts. We have to install our bike carriers."
STEP 8: TEST THE TRAILS
Ready, set, ride! Wormsbecker and his team do a lot of "quality assurance" prior to the park opening to ensure the trails are ready for the public to ride.
"My personal favorite. We get to test the trials. We’re going to ride them for a couple of days prior to opening to make sure that everything’s dial and there are no loose ends mess."
Summit Bike Park offers a variety of singletrack trails that require minimal pedaling or braking and a diverse mix of natural and man-made features – including step-ups, berms, and bridges – that will challenge riders of all ability levels. Summit Bike Park has 12 downhill trails that range from modest gravity-fed runs to fast and flowy jump trails.
Summit Bike Park is open daily, 10AM-4PM, through Labor Day, Sept. 7, before switching to weekend-only operations through the end of the season on Oct. 11.