A Weekend in the Bike Park

Alyeska Bike Park

2021 marks 11 successful years of bike park operations in south-central Alaska! Lifts will spin beginning June 11th and operate into the second weekend of September. Bear Cub Quad and Ted’s Express will be the main lifts for the majority of the summer until Glacier Bowl Express comes online in August (once the upper mountain trails melt out from the snowiest winter in 10 years). Stop by the Daylodge Bike Hub for tickets, rentals, lessons and riding gear.

Day one – The Warmup and Lesson

Whether you’ve ridden bike parks before, or it’s you’re first time, warming up and easing into the first day is always important. As true as the old saying goes, riding a bike is like, well, riding a bike. However, throw mountain terrain and obstacles into the mix and that old saying all of a sudden has different variables and exciting challenges come into play. Downhill biking is fun for all ages, ability levels and experience levels, but a refresher lesson with a PMBIA certified instructor can be very beneficial for a summer full of trail riding. Checking in at the Daylodge at 10:30 a.m. on a Friday to meet up with one of our instructors may be a little nerve-racking at first but soon you’ll discover that the laid-back vibes and welcoming atmosphere of the Mountain Learning Center eases  and makes worries fade away. After picking out one of our Kona DH bikes that will be your champion downhill steed for the weekend you head to the Bear Cub Quad for some beginner terrain. Christmas in July, CheeChako and Gummy Worm trails all offer mellow single track perfect for easing into the weekend of riding. After a handful of runs on each of these manicured trails, step it up on Big Spruce and Rollover, still accessible from Bear Cub chair but a step up in the difficulty. Balancing, braking, turns and jumps, this isn’t difficult at all and you take to it quite naturally. With more time on the trails, your speed and confidence increase, what a thrill!

After the two hour lesson ends you stay out on the trails with some friendly local riders you met along the way. These folks have tons of riding experience and they’re happy to share their favorite trails and spots on the mountain. After hours of riding it’s time for a beer and a bite at the Sitzmark, featuring the Alyeska Brewski on draft and fresh bites from Girdwood Izakaya, a local food truck owned by local chef Toby Englert (who’s also a hero mountain biker himself). You’ve made new friends and had fun on a bicycle in ways new to you. 

Day two – Putting the Lesson to the Test

You’re feeling pretty good about the skills you learned in your lesson the day before. Well rested and excited for more you meet back up with your instructor for a full mountain tour. You grab your trusty Kona Operator and head for Ted’s Express and make your way up to the higher trails. The first thing you notice is that many of the upper mountain trails are above alpine and out of the woods, WOW, that view! The Turnagain Arm is beautifully distracting so stopping to take a few shots with your phone is a must. You’ve become so comfortable in fact that you enter Alyeska’s famous “Dirt Coaster” located on the Treat’s Trees Knoll. Featuring deep banked turns and jumps with the background to boot, the Dirt Coaster is a crowd favorite, with good reason. Just below the higher alpine trails you discover two of Alyeska’s newest trails, Tanaka Grasslands and Canyon Lands. These intermediate trails suit your riding style as your confidence and skill-set have increased dramatically since taking lessons. You lap Ted’s Express until 6 p.m. and finally come down from the mountain, happy, tired, but exhilarated!

Day three – Time to Race!

After spending two full days on your Kona bike in the Alyeska Bike Park your confidence is through the roof and the stoke for more is high. It also happens to be the last Sunday of the month which means one thing, IT’S RACE DAY! The Alyeska Cup Downhill Race Series is a four stop series with race venues all over the mountain, and on this particular Sunday, the race venue is through a trail system you mastered the day before, Gear Jammer > Bermuda > Smooth Sailing > Race Trail finish. Up for grabs are prizes from Alyeska Resort retail shops, gift cards and larger prizes from Alyeska sponsor Anchorage Fracture and Orthopedics. The field is set and the start vibes are fun, friendly and welcoming. The local riders who race this series offer helpful insights on strategy with this particular event. You’re up next, in the starting block you feel calm and cool, you know the course and the lessons taught you everything you need to know. The gate drops and you pedal pedal pedal! Into the first trail, Gear Jammer you strategically brake into the corners and pedal out of the turns in the tight trees. Next onto the Bermuda trail, you know if well and remember all the bumps and dips into Smooth Sailing. Popping out from the forest and into the open space of Race Trail the finish is in sight. A series of berms and rollers are the only thing between you and the crowd of spectators at the base area ringing cowbells and cheering you on. Crossing the finish you feel great, you tried something new and loved it! Aprés race you meet up with other riders and discuss your day over a beer and review results, you can’t believe how well you did, congrats! The hook is set and you can’t wait to come back for more biking. 

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