If you are a mountain biker or know someone who is, you may have heard the debate raging on about mountain bike wheel diameters. From 26 to 27.5 and all the way to 29-inch, there seems to be little consensus. To attempt to sort out what the ideal wheel dimension is, I recently sat down with Chris Erkkila, assistant mountain biking manager and Doug Gormley, lead bike instructor at Deer Valley Resort.
JF: Sometimes I wonder if I have the right size wheels on my mountain bike and if I am not giving away performance by staying on traditional 26-inch tires?
Chris Erkkila: It’s been a steady progression. In the old days, I’ve saw downhill bikes with a 24-inch wheel in the back and a 26-inch wheel in the front. And then, a few years ago, the 29-inch craze hit so big that the bulk of our rental bikes were all 29-inch wheels! Now, with the 27.5-inch design gaining acceptance, the pendulum has swung back to a position that manufacturers are finding to be a right size that covers everything.
Doug Gormley: Just like Chris, I’ve experienced all wheel sizes, from 26, to 27.5 and 29-inch. There’s no “holy grail” though. All these sizes have strengths and weaknesses. A very simplified argument for the 27.5 is that it “splits the difference.” It falls somewhere in the middle, albeit not quite exactly…
JF: What’s the most obvious benefit of a large, 29-inch wheel?
Chris Erkkila: The theory is that the larger the diameter, the more efficiently it rolls; that’s right, rolling gets easier with bigger wheels. This is the reason why the settlers in the west put large wheels on their wagons; it was much easier for them to go over ruts, wood stumps and rocks.
JF: What was your experience with last year’s rental fleet and its 29-inch wheels?
Doug Gormley: Overall, it worked out really well. There were some issues with some of our smaller riders feeling a bit awkward on the bike. One of the positives was that a 29er rolls over rough terrain very well. For somebody who is struggling to maintain momentum, these wheels can roll over features that would normally hang them up. Another advantage is that this larger wheel provides more traction and also brakes more effectively.
JF: Any downside to a 29-inch wheel?
Chris Erkkila: Well, going downhill gets you more centrifugal force with 29-inch tires, which causes the larger wheel to resist turning. Another possible drawback is that larger wheels create a longer wheelbase that makes turning in tight corners a little bit more challenging.
Doug Gormley: I agree; they are not as maneuverable. I do think there are some people who thought the bike felt a bit cumbersome and awkward at times. This is why our rental fleet will mostly be 27.5 this summer.
JF: But, I’ve also heard that larger wheels make it less likely that the rider will fly over the handlebar; is this true?
Chris Erkkila: Ha, ha! I think the chances are really still there. Maybe just because they can roll over stuff more smoothly, you might be less prone to do it, but if you aren’t very gentle with the new, powerful, hydraulic disk brakes in front, you might still go over the handlebars!
JF: I still don’t understand which wheel performs better for downhill versus cross-country use?
Doug Gormley: Downhill riders need smaller size wheels for nimbleness and maneuverability. Today, in World Cup competition, most riders are still on 26-inch wheels, but more and more are moving to the new 27.5.
Chris Erkkila: You won’t see downhill racers riding a 29-inch, because, as Doug said, it’s less maneuverable; but he’s right, they are leaving their 26-inch for these new 27.5-inch wheels.
JF: So, are you suggesting that 27.5-inch might be a happy medium?
Chris Erkkila: From what I understand, the trend began in Europe with the “650B,” as they call the 27.5-inch over there. It was actually borrowed from road bikes, then adapted to mountain bikes and from that point forward, it was enthusiastically adopted and caught on rather quickly.
JF: Is there a reason for a holy war to settle the perfect wheel size?
Doug Gormley: No, there are so many factors to consider that each size can be fully justified. If you’re into cross-country, 29 might be the obvious choice, but if downhill is your thing, a smaller wheel will work better. I still feel very strongly that there is no panacea, though.
JF: Have the junior riders been spared that tug of war?
Doug Gormley: If anything, there are many junior bikes that benefit from a 24-inch wheel. There are lots of factors like clearance over the top tube, rider’s weight and height that come into play in that category. There are still lots of benefits to 20, 24 an even 26-inch wheels for youngsters.
JF: Are these new 27.5-inch wheels adapted to women’s bike frames?
Chris Erkkila: When the first 29er came out, companies scrambled to place these larger wheels on existing frames, with obviously less success on women’s frames. It wasn’t always a good match. Today, with the growing popularity of 27.5-inch wheels, manufacturers have been adjusting their frame design and construction to work better with that diameter.
JF: As every ounce seems to count enormously, how is wheel design impacted by the quest for weight reduction at all cost?
Chris Erkkila: It was pretty rare to see “everything carbon fiber” 10 to 15 years ago. This has changed and today you’ll see frames and rims made of that material. A larger wheel is heavier and light weight materials become more attractive. Carbon fiber is one of these materials, extremely light and strong but less sturdy than aluminum. If you crash and your bike goes flying off the trail and you damage the carbon fiber, it’s pretty catastrophic. You can put a dent in an aluminum frame and still ride it to a certain extent and be okay. Today, it’s quite common to see carbon wheel sets matched with carbon bike frames. Because of the rocky nature of some mountain trails, there’s obviously a risk that a close encounter with rocks and other obstacles could severely damage these pricey rims.
JF: Do you feature carbon rims in your rental fleet?
Doug Gormley: No, and it’s essentially a matter of cost. These rims are still very expensive! Sure, they’re very lightweight, strong and super stiff. Sometimes even too stiff!
JF: All these considerations about sizes and materials shouldn’t make us forget the critical element that is the tire. What’s new in this area?
Chris Erkkila: We are seeing more tubeless tires these days, just like the ones you have on your car. Tubeless tires allow you to ride on less pressure and they’re also lighter. To a certain extent they also reduce the chance of getting a flat tire.
Chris Erkkila: Because you can hit certain obstacles on the trail without getting a pinch-flat or “snake-bite” as some folks call it. This happens when the inner tube gets pinched against the rim and you get two holes in the tube. In theory, running without a tube eliminates this, but you should still pack an extra tube, just in case.
Doug Gormley: Our rental fleet is still running with tubes and tires. On a personal level, I’ve been slow embracing the tubeless trend, because it had not prevented me from getting flats. Even with my best tubeless set up, I still carry a tube as a backup.
JF: Are bikes delivered with tubeless set up?
Chris Erkkila: Not usually, it’s more an after-market option.
JF: Let’s talk about inflation. What tire pressure do you recommend?
Chris Erkkila: Several factors should be considered. One is downhill versus cross country. Others are how much a rider weighs, what type of terrain is involved as well as particular trail conditions. I’m 6 feet tall, I weigh 200 pounds, so I inflate my cross-country bike in the high 30s psi (pounds per square inch). On the other hand, my downhill bike is only inflated at 20 to 25 psi. Typically, the lighter you are, the less air you put in; but when you do that, you might increase traction too much. Conversely, the more air you put in, the less rolling resistance exists.
Doug Gormley: In our rental operation, we’re about at 35 psi with the bikes. In some instances, we go as high as 38. This is the best balance we find between good traction and pinch flat avoidance. Of course, if we see a rash of pinch flats, we can always raise that threshold.
JF: I’ve always been told that, prior to going downhill, it make sense to let some air out; is that right?
Chris Erkkila: Oh, yes. It’s hard though; the biggest mistake people make is to just do it “by feel”; unless you do this very often, you’ll mess up. The only way you’ll know for sure is by using a pressure gauge.
JF: On these big, fat tires, what kind of tire tread works best for Deer Valley’s trails?
Doug Gormley: The manufacturers are all doing a good job at matching tire tread with bike suspensions, dimensions and performance. We’ve selected a trail bike that is the equivalent of an all-mountain ski; it is very versatile and the tread selected for these bikes strikes a nice balance between cross-country and downhill.
Chris Erkkila: Tires are like shoes; you might prefer Nike over Adidas, so it comes down to personal preferences. Of course, here we have dry, dusty soil and our tires are suited for these conditions. When we get a rain day at Deer Valley Resort, we call it a “powder day” because if you get just a little bit of moisture on the trail, it gets “tacky” and you can go a bit faster and carry more speed into the turns; it’s fun!
JF: What an enlightening conversation about wheels! As many riders are headed for Deer Valley Resort and get ready to hit your trails this summer, what last piece of advice do you have for them?
Chris Erkkila: There’s no one right wheel size for any certain type of rider. It’s up to each person to go out and try what seems to work best. The 26-inch size probably isn’t going to be around for much longer. It’s going to be 27.5 and 29-inch for the foreseeable future, with the latter wheel size likely to be preferred by many cross-country riders.
Doug Gormley: Beyond this discussion about wheels, we see a large variety of bikes on the mountain. Ultimately though, a good all-mountain trail bike works best, whether you ride the lifts or just pedal. Having a very versatile bike with a suspension offering four to five inches of travel works very well and allows you to accomplish everything you want in a day while truly enjoying it!
If you love to hike, would like to explore the mountains around Deer Valley Resort and are staying in town for more than just a couple of days, there are a multitude of ways to get fully acquainted with the area and get you so excited that you’ll want to come back for more. To help sort out some of the best Deer Valley hikes, I spent time with Steve Graff, Deer Valley’s Mountain Bike Manager, brain storming about what kind of graduated mountain hikes could fill an active vacation week. This is an overview of the options we picked for you.
A wonderful way to begin is to spend the first day getting acquainted with the weather, the elevation and the terrain. Using the chairlifts on that first day is ideal for minimizing the impact of the altitude. For instance, start at Silver Lake Lodge and begin by riding up Sterling Express and then hike down the Silver Lake Trail. It is a hiking-only trail, so you’ll find only hikers on it. A little over two miles long and dropping 1,300 vertical feet, the trail begins at the top of Bald Mountain at 9,400 feet and meanders all the way down to Silver Lake Village. “Of course, if you are in excellent shape and neither the jet lag nor the altitude seem to bother you, you can do this in reverse by hiking up the Silver Lake Trail,” says Steve Graff. Most people can do it in about an hour depending on their condition. Morning is a great time for this hike. The views are incredible around the east side of Bald Mountain as one sees the Jordanelle Reservoir and, in the distance, the Uinta Mountains… In this high desert climate, mornings are generally very cool. In summer, Deer Valley’s morning temperatures range from the upper 40s to the lower 50s at sunrise, before reaching a daytime high somewhere between 70 and 80 degrees. Crisp, mountain air and beautiful, clear views reward the early morning hiker. So, if you choose to hike early to the top of Bald Mountain and get there any time after 10 a.m., you can ride the chairlift down at no charge. Just make sure to wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, a light jacket in the event of a sudden storm and always carry more water than you think you’ll need.
For the next day, a great hike is to follow the Ontario Trail from Silver Lake Village. This trail wraps around the west side of Bald Mountain and offers totally different views. It passes some old silver mine remnants including historical, weathered equipment and winds its way to the top of the mountain at 9,400 feet. Once more, there’s always the option of riding Sterling Express down, or if your legs are still strong and willing, hike down the Silver Lake Trail and make a loop out of it. Just like Silver Lake, Ontario trail is a hiking-only trail. On average, it takes one to one-and-a-half hours to get to the top. When hiking, remember that shoes often cause problems and while you should always wear sturdy hiking shoes on your hikes, make sure they are well broken-in before you start hitting the tails. Always take the time to lace them up properly and make sure to wear good socks. If blisters appear on the first days, the best approach is often to take a day off and have a break. If this is not possible, purchase some moleskin at the local drugstore. Steve suggests “Another option would be to combine a hike up Silver Lake Trail with a descent down Ontario Trail and make it a five-mile round trip with a return by noon at Silver Lake, just in time for lunch at Royal Street Café.”
The third day could be a perfect opportunity to begin hiking from a lower elevation, starting at Snow Park Lodge, and hike up the Deer Crest Trail. This hike is a little over three-miles long, all the way to Silver Lake Village. It is also a multi-use trail, where both hikers and bikers are allowed. The rules of the trails are that bikers yield to hikers. This said, if you notice bikers coming your way and can afford to step off the trail, let them pass; this is a gesture that is always appreciated. A smile and a greeting also go a long way; in short, by just being respectful of each other, all trail users can co-exist very well. The Deer Crest Trail offers yet another set of great views all the way up. Instead of just stopping when reaching Silver Lake Village, continue on to the Mid Mountain Trail and catch Red Cloud Trail up to the top of Flagstaff Mountain at 9,100 feet. From there, ride the Ruby Express Chairlift down to the Empire Lodge. Once there, hike back to Silver Lake via the same Mid Mountain Trail. Upon reaching Silver Lake Village, give your legs another break and download the Silver Lake Express chairlift. Both chairlift rides are free, as there’s no charge for the downhill rides, only the uphill part. This hike is a half-day hike. Including the two chairlift rides, it takes an average person between three-and-a-half to four hours to complete the whole loop. This too can be a perfect morning hike but can also be done at any time during the day. “One of the advantages of hiking at Deer Valley Resort is that the lifts are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, and that there’s always a staff of professional patrollers available to help for any reason,” remarks Steve Graff.
If the weather stays nice, as it does most of the time in the Wasatch Mountains, and no rain is on the forecast, a change of pace is always a wise idea around mid-week. Day four could be used for a guided hike. Deer Valley’s guided hikes are an excellent opportunity to learn what makes the area so unique, see more of nature and hike a little bit less. The resort has a number of guided hiking tours that can be customized to the needs and wants of all guests. They can be focused on local mining history, flora or wildlife. Some of the Deer Valley Guides have a vast knowledge of the local mountains and their surrounding areas. These tours should be booked in advance and can either accommodate small parties (up to five hikers) or larger groups (six to ten hikers), and are all reasonably priced. If you are looking for an even slower day, keep in mind that there is plenty of easy hiking waiting for you around Deer Valley and Park City without climbing a mountain. You can wander on the many trails that criss cross the valley floor, like the Poison Creek Trail, the Rail Trail, the Farm Trail or the more rugged Round Valley trail network, you can use the city-wide free bus system to combine them or when it’s time to return from your adventure.
To crown a typical five-days hiking week, a special trip could take you from Silver Lake to Shadow Lake, a truly picturesque destination, right below Jupiter Peak in Park City Mountain Resort. Another adventurous option is a long-distance hike on the Mid Mountain Trail, another multi-use trail, from Silver Lake Villate to Park City. This hike is a 7 to 8-mile trek, with little change in elevation but it will cover the whole distance that spans the two resorts. If you intend to embark on these longer hikes on your own, make sure you take along copies of the Deer Valley Resort summer trail map and the Mountain Trails Map, should you decide to push all the way to Park City Mountain Resort or even Canyons Resort. Steve stresses “In case of an accident, make sure to have the mountain patrol number on your cell phone (435-615-6208) and remember that you can call between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. After these hours, dial 911 for any emergency.” With very few exceptions, cellular phone coverage is pretty good and is available from almost everywhere on the trails. You could either turn around on the Mid Mountain Trail, working it as an up and back, forge ahead to Canyons Resort if you feel unstoppable, or choose to go down the Spiro Trail to Park City. When you reach your destination, either take advantage of the Park City free bus system to get you back to your accommodations or have lunch or dinner in Park City. This option, that takes about two-and-a-half hours to complete and can be a great afternoon trek since most of the itinerary is well shaded.
This is it; we have just summarized a week’s worth of hikes packed with adventure, gorgeous views and discovery at every corner. You might wonder if there are dangers lurking at the edge of some of the trails. I asked Steve Graff about that and he said “The number one danger in hiking is the weather; always check the forecast before you go and watch for events like thunderstorms or a sudden cold snap.”I also asked him about wildlife and he assured me that most animals will move on and get out of the way, except for moose. Steve added “If you run into a moose, give it plenty of space, make sure you don’t get in between a cow and calf, be patient, try not to startle them, this is their home; remember, you’re just a visitor.”
Now, it’s time to enjoy a week of happy trails in and around Deer Valley Resort.
When Mom and Dad are avid mountain bikers and love to race on fat tires, the next great thing to do is bring the whole family along and have a fun, late day competition, where every one can enjoy the company of friends in a cool mountain environment. That’s what the Midweek Mountain Bike Race Series is all about and they have two upcoming events at Deer Valley Resort. To learn more about the series, I met with Brooke Howard, one of the race co-directors, during a Round Valley event, in Park City, Utah.
JF: How did this program get started?
Brooke Howard: Jay Burke, the original founder of the series, started it at nearby Solitude Resort. At first, it was just a very casual, small group of racers who wanted to compete. Jay was also the founder of the Park City Point 2 Point and as this program grew in popularity, it quickly captured his entire focus away from the series.
JF: So what did you do?
Brooke Howard: At that exact same time, I wanted to start a midweek type of event, maybe not necessarily in mountain biking, but our family came out to the series every Tuesday; it was a wonderful event. My husband and my kids raced and the idea of seeing the series go away was simply terrifying. I met up with Jay and we took over the series. Today, Luke Ratto is my partner and the series’ other co-director.
JF: When did you take over?
Brooke Howard: In March of 2011, so this is our fourth year.
JF: At the program’s inception, how many participants did you have in a given race?
Brooke Howard: Jay was averaging 75 racers and when we took the program over, our first race attracted close to 150 participants, including the kids. We nearly doubled the attendance and today we are averaging about 230 participants per event.
JF: Counting the kids?
Brooke Howard: Not counting the kids! We have about 40 plus children at each event and those are free to participants.
JF: How many events do you have in a season?
Brooke Howard: We organize 12 events.
JF: Where do they take place?
Brooke Howard: We have two at Corner Canyon (near the Point of the Mountain, in Draper, Utah), one in Heber, Utah, four at Solitude, two at Deer Valley Resort, two in Round Valley (Park City) and one at Snowbird.
JF: How long is a loop for the kids?
Brooke Howard: For the kids, we do a mini loop that takes about 15 minutes and depending on the location, we offer different options. For instance, at Deer Valley Resort we create a skills course for them.
JF: What’s the course for adults?
Brooke Howard: For beginners we average four miles. The sport class is about eight to ten miles and the Pros and Experts are between 12 and 16 miles.
JF: Is it the same course for everyone?
Brooke Howard: Yes, for the most part. In the majority of cases, it’s just a matter of doing loops and on other courses, we will have a break-off loop.
JF: Is it always a cross-country type race?
Brooke Howard: Yes.
JF: Why do you offer free registration for children under 12?
Brooke Howard: Mostly to give them a taste of what mountain biking is all about, get them outdoors and exercising. As a matter of fact, and with few exceptions, all the children that come out here are children of racers competing in the main event.
JF: Lucky kids!
Brooke Howard: Right! But that’s not all. Summit Bike Club coach Kristi Henne coaches the free kids race too, so you can see that children are especially cared for and receive our undivided attention.
JF: So you’ve created a program that fosters both a fun and active family outing that everyone can look forward to?
Brooke Howard: Absolutely!
JF: Did the series start with that scope in mind?
Brooke Howard: For me personally, that’s what it was from the beginning: something we did on Tuesday’s with other racers. It’s a casual, family-friendly event, filled with camaraderie and aimed at encouraging health and fitness while helping grow the sport.
JF: How do you get the word out?
Brooke Howard: Facebook is a very good friend of ours, but most importantly, it’s word of mouth.
JF: Are bike shops helping you too?
Brooke Howard: Yes, we have flyers and posters in all the Wasatch Front bike shops, from Springville all the way to Ogden, Salt Lake, Heber, and of course Park City. Bike shops are also actively involved with the series. Locally, we work with White Pine Touring; they support the races in Park City and at Deer Valley.
JF: I’ve also noticed your impressive list of sponsors.
Brooke Howard: Among the main ones, there’s Mark Miller Subaru, our title sponsor behind the funding of our series, and there’s also Backcountry.com who came in last year, as well as Scheels, our 2014 “Wrench’n Sponsor”. Sheels has “trail marshals” who are out on the course, packed with a supply of tools, tubes and the like to help those in need of a fast repair or a tire change. All of our sponsors provide raffle prizes at the end of each event and the end of the season.
JF: Are there prizes at each event?
Brooke Howard: Yes, there are prizes at every single race and our sponsors also provide a monster raffle at the end of the season. Instead of honoring the winners after each race, we accumulate their points and, at the end of season, we award the top five finishers in the expert and pro class with some money and winners in the sport class are awarded with some prizes or a pass for next year. We also give a little goody bag to all the children.
JF: What about the monster raffle?
Brooke Howard: We reserve this one for those who participate in six or more races; prizes are season passes to a ski resort, bike racks and other sporting equipment.
JF: That’s quite a comprehensive program.
Brooke Howard: Indeed! While we are on the subject of rewards, I would also like to mention that, at the end of the season, a portion of our proceeds go back to help maintain the trails and keep providing a wonderful experience to all trail users. All of our funds go back to the trail community both in terms of physical work and cash.
JF: You said earlier that you have two events scheduled for Deer Valley Resort?
Brooke Howard: That’s right. The first event is at Snow Park on June 24 and the next one is at Silver Lake on July 22.
JF: Are both events for children and adults?
Brooke Howard: Yes. Snow Park will be set up as a skills course for kids, while Silver Lake will offer the regular children’s race.
JF: I’m sure many locals will be eager to participate. Could you tell us more about these two events?
Brooke Howard: Registration always begins at 5 p.m. If you register online, the adult entry fee is just $15, or $17 if you register at the race. The free kid race always starts at 6 p.m. and the adult race begins at 6:30 p.m. The adult race is a staggered start, beginning with the pro men and continuing all the way to the beginners group.
JF: Are spectators encouraged to come and cheer the racers?
Brooke Howard: Absolutely! Spectating is free and we love to have crowds at the finish line. We would just love to see you all come out and have a great time mountain biking and cheering the competitors.
Summer operations at the resort run seven days a week from June 13 through Labor Day, September 1, 2014, weather and conditions permitting. Lift-served mountain biking/hiking and scenic rides are offered from the Silver Lake Express chairlift at Snow Park, the mid-mountain Sterling Express chairlift and the Ruby Express chairlift in Empire Canyon. Summer chairlifts operate from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (weather permitting) and ample parking is available at Snow Park Lodge. The resort’s website provides detailed information on mountain biking and scenic ride lift ticket rates, as well as information on bike rentals, clinics and tours.
Riders at Deer Valley will find over 60 miles of twisty, fun mountain bike trails, which will challenge beginners and experts alike. Many Deer Valley trails connect with Park City’s network of singletrack, providing access to 400 miles of trails. This year, Deer Valley Resort was honored to be named the #2 Best Bike Park in the Rocky Mountains by MTBparks.com‘s Rider Choice Awards and voted Best Biking by City Weekly’s Best of Utah. This summer, the resort is moving forward with a master plan and trail design that will focus on connectivity between its three lodges and lift areas. The focus will be on upgrading trail systems to include more modern trail design.
For evening play, Deer Valley Resort brings in celebrated singers, songwriters and musicians to entertain guests at outdoor, mountainside concerts. To complement any evening concert, Deer Valley features Gourmet Picnic Baskets or Bags filled with delicious epicurean items from Deer Valley’s kitchens, with options for gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian and children’s single bag meals. The summer calendar of events features the complete lineup of outdoor concerts at the Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater as well as mountain bike races. Beyond the resort, the surrounding Park City area provides a wide variety of activities such as golf, river tubing and rafting, boating, horseback riding, ATV adventures, shopping, dining, theaters and historical museums and tours.
With Deer Valley Resort Lodging and Reservations serving as both property manager and booking agency, guests have access to the largest selection of accommodations with the best service and availability in the Deer Valley area. Deer Valley’s expert Vacation Planners are available to help guests book one of the many summer lodging packages and plan outings and adventures tailored to their individual needs.
When the fun and excitement of summer play leaves the body famished, Deer Valley currently offers two delicious options for refueling, with a third opening in July. Royal Street Café, offering scenic deck dining, is open daily for lunch June 13 through Labor Day, September 1, 2014, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Royal Street features gourmet salads, burgers, panini sandwiches, signature cocktails, beer and wine and is located mid-mountain at Silver Lake Lodge adjacent to Deer Valley’s Silver Lake Express chairlift. Deer Valley Grocery~Café serves fresh roasted coffee and espresso drinks, soups, chili, salads made with local seasonal ingredients, panini sandwiches, creative appetizer and entrée specials, freshly baked breads, desserts, cakes and other items. A selection of gourmet grocery items, house prepared take-away entrées and pizzas as well as wine, beer and liquor are available for purchase. Guests can enjoy the view and mountain air while dining lakeside on the outdoor deck, complete with comfortable deck seating, bag toss games and fishing rods. Deer Valley Grocery~Café is open year-round from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and until 8:30 p.m., June 13 through Labor Day, September 1, 2014, and is located in the Deer Valley Plaza building in the Snow Park area at 1375 Deer Valley Drive.
Deer Valley Resort is pleased to announce the opening of a new restaurant and bar at the Lodges at Deer Valley. Located less than half a mile from the base of Deer Valley Resort, Lodge’s new restaurant, called The Brass Tag, will feature Deer Valley-inspired comfort food, specializing in brick oven cuisine. The Brass Tag opens mid-July 2014.
For Deer Valley’s younger guests, ranging in age from 2 months to 12 years, the resort’s Summer Adventure Camp offers creative and challenging activities and interests that ensure campers have fun while learning and connecting with nature. Based out of the Children’s Center at Snow Park Lodge and running weekdays, June 9 through August 20, 2014, (no camp on July 4 or 24), Summer Adventure Camp features hiking, hillside playgrounds, indoor entertainment and performances, a bouldering rock-climbing wall and a full supply of craft projects, games, puzzles and more.
Deer Valley’s convenient location, just 36 miles from Salt Lake City International Airport, affords guests more time to enjoy their alpine retreat. Guests leaving either coast in the morning can be settled at the resort by early afternoon, ready for outdoor play or comfortable relaxation.
For more information on Deer Valley’s summer mountain biking, hiking, scenic chairlift rides, outdoor concerts and dining operations, please visit the resort website.
Main Street is the place to be when the cyclists take off and return for the final stage of the Tour of Utah. Even though many of us have never cycled in a race, we all can relate to the difficult sport. I can’t even imagine five days of leg burning capped off with a sprint up Guardsman’s Pass in the last 5 kilometers of the race then racing at 50 miles an hour down the steep Empire Pass. That’s brutal!
I love the buzz on Main Street in Park City on race day. I attended last year and was shocked at how we were able to get such a great view of the finish line at this world-class race. This year my focus was on the start. My husband and I came early and set up on lower Park Ave so we could watch the riders from the beginning before all the breakaways.
I found myself cheering for the support car from my favorite sponsors as they followed the riders on the course ready with a spare bike and tire. It seemed a little odd to be cheering for a car in a bike race. Then again, NASCAR fans across the nation cheer for their favorite cars (sans the drivers) as the support team drives across the country to the next race. So I figure I am in good company.
Main Street was packed with bike enthusiasts discussing the latest equipment and technology with vendors. The BackCountry and Subaru booths were jammed with fans watching the race on the big screen TVs inside.
We picked up our swag from the vendors including our cowbell that we plan to send to our 3-year-old granddaughter (which she’ll love but just might drive her parents a bit crazy.) We stocked up on Chapstick, hats, and sunscreen offered by the vendors. We put our names in to win multiple bike jerseys – we’ll let you know if our names are drawn! You never know.
Mostly we walked away with an appreciation of the teamwork involved in cycling. At first glance it appears cycling is an individual sport. It’s not. I really had no idea how the Lead-out man, the Peloton, and Domestiques on the team work together to produce a win. Living in Park City, we have so many opportunities to learn about world-class sports up close and personal that we might not have the chance to see elsewhere.
This may sound silly but I am looking forward to riding my bike on the trails in Park City using my “Competitive Cyclist” water bottle. It will be a reminder for me to push myself, take one more hill and pick up my speed due to some inspiration I got on Main Street at the final stage of the Tour of Utah in 2013.
For those of us who know the place, Montage Deer Valley often evokes a beautiful mountain retreat getaway, that offers the best in accommodations, superlative service and a suite of premier restaurants, but these marks of comfort should never make us forget that Montage is also all about outdoor activities, too. I wanted to find out for myself so I met with Andy Damman, Director of Resort Activities.
Andy Damman: I have been here since September of 2010, about four months before the resort opened. As the director of resort activities I’m responsible for ski operations and tubing facilities in winter. The rest of the year, I’m running our Camp Compass program which includes hiking, biking and archery among other activities.
JF: Do these recreational activities address all age groups?
Andy Damman: Age-wise we want to able to accommodate everybody and we really mean it. We want our summer activities program to almost feel like “summer camp.” When guests come to the resort we want our activities to be readily accessible to all as they walk outside. Whether that’s life-size chess or checker by the pool, badminton, archery out on our Grand Lawn, volleyball, horse-shoe or, on a rainy day, a game of ping-pong. When guests walk out of these doors there’s always something fun they can participate in.
Andy Damman: We developed them from the ground up. We spent numerous meetings and countless hours designing them. We didn’t want to just pick five or ten activities, we wanted the sky to be the limit and, as of today, we keep coming up with more. We focused on creating outside activities that would be easy and fun to play with, not activities that keep people inside like Nintendo, Game Boys and other indoor entertainment. We wanted to give everyone the opportunity to get out and enjoy our beautiful mountain environment.
JF: How did you pick mountain biking as one of these focal points?
Andy Damman: Together, Deer Valley and Park City account for some 400 miles of dirt trails, many of them fully accessible from the backdoor of Compass Sports. We were able to work with Deer Valley Resort to create a program that would be fully integrated with their infrastructure and perfectly tailored to our guests.
Andy Damman: We went into this program with the mindset of picking the best partner possible; as you know, there are plenty of good bike companies out there that have a lot to offer, but as we began talking to BMC, a great relationship quickly developed and we’re about to become BMC’s test center for North America [BMC, which stands for Bicycle Manufacturing Company, is Swiss based]
JF: What makes BMC so special?
Andy Damman: I’d say high quality, excellent craftsmanship, exceptional ride and bikes ideally designed for this area. BMC the perfect fit for the Montage brand and its guests.
JF: How do you assist guests who rent your bikes and may not be familiar with mountain biking?
Andy Damman: We want to provide our guests all the assistance they need. New this year, we’re offering an introduction to mountain biking. It’s packed with instruction, lots of pointers, big smiles, fun and laughter. We actually take guests off property on a specific trail system that’s appropriate for all skill levels. Every morning at 9 a.m., we have a guide that’s available to our riding guests, and this coaching is included in the cost of the bike rental. These guides teach the foundation of the sport and give guests the skills and the confidence they need to enjoy riding a mountain bike.
JF: Do you do anything special in fitting your bikes to the rider?
Andy Damman: We carefully set everything up. Based on the rider’s weight and height, we set the tire pressure, we size the frame, we set the shock absorbers, we provide a guide who has no ego, is guest-oriented, and above all, wants every rider to discover the joy of mountain-biking. If guests rent a bike for more than one day, we will make sure that following their first ride the machine is thoroughly cleaned, lubed, works perfectly and looks immaculate for the next one.
JF: Do you have any promotional program associated with mountain biking?
Andy Damman: Yes, we’re participating in the great “Lift Package” program offered this summer in conjunction with Deer Valley Resort. This offer runs from until September 2, 2013. The overnight package includes a $50 daily credit for breakfast, nightly valet parking and Deer Valley Resort chairlift passes.
JF: Is your bike program available to non-hotel guests?
Andy Damman: Our program is offered to our resort guests as a first priority. If there is space available, we will do whatever we can to accommodate other visiting guests as we are open to all people who come to see us.
JF: Can you share more technical details about your rental bike fleet?
Andy Damman: We’re very fortunate to have high-end products with BMC. These days, the name of the game seems to revolve around wheel sizes. We offer everything from 26 and 29 inch wheels, with the former being more nimble, more sporty, and the later having much better rolling capabilities once the bike is up to speed; larger wheels work perfectly on the smooth trails we have around Deer Valley Resort. Some of our bike frames are aluminum, others are carbon, but overall, our bikes climb very well, are very stiff for cornering and yet offer a very comfortable ride. The new thing in the industry this season is the full-suspension 29 inch wheel bike on ultra-light carbon frame!
JF: I see that you also offer road bikes…
Andy Damman: We have two models: The BMC TeamMachine bike, the one used by the Pros on the Tour de France; it climbs extremely well, descend extremely well; you don’t feel every bump along the way. That bike in my view is “a Ferrari with the comfort of a Cadillac!” Then we have the GranFondo Series, comfortable and designed for the long distance, a “century” rider (typically for longer rides 100 miles making a “century).
JF: What about mountain bikes for children?
Andy Damman: If kids can balance on two wheels, we’ve got a bike for them. We have 20 and 24 inch mountain bikes, both with full-suspension. My first year, here I remember we taught a child how to ride his first bike without training wheels and later that week we took him on his first mountain bike trail. Again, you don’t have to be between 18 and 25 to participate with us, we will accommodate anybody! Even if mountain biking seems outside of your comfort zone, we will give you the skills to get you into that comfort zone!
JF: Well this sounds inviting! Now, what else do you offer as part of your other Camp Compass activities?
Andy Damman: I’d like to start with what we call our “yard game programs;” we’re talking about basketball, volley ball, horse shoes, life-size checker and chess, shuffle board and the list goes on. At 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., we offer complimentary archery sessions for our guests. That’s on our Grand Lawn. We have sixty inch targets rounds to shoot at; every archery instructor that works for Compass Sports is certified. We make it fun by the fact that we start at 5 meters, 10 meters, 15 meters and keep working our way back, shooting at competition round targets. The range is extremely safe, everything is fun. And our guests shoot against the most beautiful backdrop, ever, right outside the doors, here at Montage…
JF: What about fly-fishing?
Andy Damman: That’s another great activity! We offer our very own fly-fishing program along with Joe Mitchell from Stonybrook Fly Fishing who – in my opinion – is the best guide in the Valley. This program like all the others we offer is all about our guests and their enjoyment. Fly-fishing with Joe is all about casting the rod, catching the fish with the most humble instructor there is. It’s just like oil on canvass to me!
JF: Is that a whole day trip?
Andy Damman: Most of our fly-fishing trips are either half-day or full day, our guests will be back just by dinner time at night, unless the fishing is so good that Joe decides to stay longer!
JF: …and dinner will be delayed! Well, this sounds like a treat. Anything else you would like to mention?
Andy Damman: Oh, yes! I almost forgot, we now have kites. We’ll be able to take our guest to the top of Guardsman Pass and fly kites, all kinds of them. So, please, stay tuned for that new exciting program!
JF: All these wonderful activities make me want to participate into all of them and I envy your guests for having to choose from such a wonderful array of outdoor sports that you’re serving spring, summer and fall.
Andy Damman: Every associate who works with us shares the same passion that we all have for these exciting activities. This is something our guests can discover, experience, and more importantly, can take away with them and remember fondly when they are home, long after their stay with us at Montage Deer Valley!
Have you ever had a song stuck in your head? Over and over you hear something like, “Wake me up before you go-go… I’m not planning on going solo.” The words keep coming back in a never-ending loop and finally when you think its over, there it is again.
Doug, our Deer Valley mountain bike instructor, got in my head during our lesson last weekend but fortunately in this case, it was in a good way. You see I have a bad habit. I look down. When I ski, instead of looking at where I am going, I look down right in front of me at all the obstacles I am about to hit. Of course this means I have no time to react because I see them too late.
During our mountain biking lesson, my husband Jay and I learned a great many things including balance with the platform stance and transferring our weight way back on the bike so we are almost sitting on the back tire for steep declines. We learned to trust the bikes; we employed controlled momentum and the 29” knobby tires took us over rocks, roots and gravel with no problems. The third important lesson we learned was vision.
Doug explained, “When you look ahead to where you want to go instead of where you are, your brain registers everything in front of you even the fuzzy stuff in your peripheral vision.” I took that to mean, looking down is a complete waste of time. It’s also no fun. When all you are looking at is obstacles, all you experience is fear. When you look ahead to where you want to go, your brain is actively engaged in the strategy to get there, which is way more fun!
Somehow this concept I had been struggling with suddenly became very easy. The words, “Look up” were stuck in my head and I was automatically doing it. Why now? I wondered. Maybe it was because Doug, from a large Italian family, is a loud talker. He told us growing up he couldn’t get a word in at the dinner table unless he spoke really loud and over top of his brothers. To the casual observer, his family dinner might sound like a heated argument but to them, it was a normal every day occurrence. His loud clear instructions stuck with me – “Look up! Vision! Choose your line.”
When you coupled the loud talking with his step-by-step instructions and attention to detail, we had a winning combination. Since Deer Valley mountain biking trails start at the intermediate level, Doug started us in the parking lot where he built skill upon skill. He had us riding the bumpy stairs from one lot to the next. He taught us how to take turns on specially prepared switchback trails beneath trees on the side of the lot. When we got the “Let’s do it!” from Doug, we headed to the lifts.
The lift operator handled each of our bikes hooking them onto the chairs behind us. When we got to the top, we headed to “Tour des Homes” – the easiest mountain bike run but still an intermediate trail. When we hit the first steep decent, I was prepared and looked up to where I wanted to end up – not at the ground in front of me.
The first turn – I looked ahead.
The first bump – I kept my eyes on where I was going.
When I encountered:
A narrow single trail,
And switchbacks with all of the above, I looked up the whole time! I just kept hearing, “Look up!” both from Doug and also in my own head. I was cured!
The most important part is we were also having fun. Jay and I hadn’t even dusted the cobwebs off our bikes this year. We’d never even ridden a single track in our lives and Deer Valley got us from zero to intermediate in one morning. We were pretty amazed. Our friends were amazed. Our children were shocked.
We’re looking forward to taking our bikes up the lift and hitting the Tour des Homes many times this summer. I love having that voice in my head saying, “Vision! Look up!” I hope it stays with me for the entire ski season, too. Now, that would be wonderful.
The only problem I have now is I can’t get this tune out of my head, “Wake me up before you go-go … I’m not planning on going solo.” Anyone have a cure for that?
To learn more about the mountain biking lessons and experience at Deer Valley Resort, click here.
I’ve always been of the opinion that mountain biking is a far cry from regular bicycle riding and over the years, as I’ve fallen in love with this rugged sport, I’ve learned it the hard way and always wondered if some good tips or a few lessons wouldn’t have shortened my learning curve significantly. That curiosity of mine was finally satisfied when I got to spend a few moments with Doug Gormley, Lead Mountain Bike Instructor at Deer Valley Resort. I caught up with him as he returned from a ride with some fellow staff members…
Doug Gormley: Absolutely! Great ride, tons of fun!
JF: How long have you been a mountain bike instructor?
Doug Gormley: This will be my 20th summer teaching mountain biking at Deer Valley Resort.
JF: What about the rest of the year?
Doug Gormley: I also work for the resort. The last two years, I am one of the on-snow ski school supervisors and the 17 years prior, I was a ski instructor.
JF: So instruction is your calling; you know how to bring fun to the outdoors?
Doug Gormley: That’s the key to me; getting people out there and share the fun with them!
JF: Most folks think that because they know how to ride a bike they’ll breeze through mountain biking? What do you have to say about this commonly held belief?
Doug Gormley: I do think that’s a misconception. That’s not to say that people who are on bikes regularly can’t adapt to it quickly, but even the most experienced road bikers are often shocked at how much technique is involved with mountain biking and this is even more applicable to someone who only ride occasionally. Everyone will benefit from some good instruction.
JF: Could you define the fundamental difference between regular riding and mountain biking?
Doug Gormley: One of the biggest differences is how much time you spend standing up on the pedals during a downhill and remain seated going up, whereas a road biker will only stand up during a climb and will sit going down. There’s also a strong need for front brake use; this is hard to learn at first. The front brake has to be used all the time, in addition to the back brake. If the latter is the only one used, this will lead to skidding down the trails.
JF: If someone is a ranked beginner, how long will it take you to bring that person to some intermediate skills level and be able enjoy most of the trails at Deer Valley?
Doug Gormley: When beginners first show up for a lesson, we begin by spending a full hour doing drills, on our practice loop, near the lower parking lot; then, we take that person on the trails and practice the skills learned. Generally speaking, after a beginner gets here, it takes about two to three hours for that individual to get some basic technique and reach an intermediate level.
JF: As you’re instructing both skiing and mountain-biking, do you see some similarity between the two?
Doug Gormley: Oh yes. There are many similar techniques that apply to both, specifically vision, keeping pressure on the outside of the turn among others. In general, most skiers adapt very well; they can pull from some of their skiing techniques and adapt them to mountain bike riding.
Doug Gormley: The age issue is always difficult to answer. Our children’s clinic starts at the age of eight. Under that age, we require a private lesson. I have had a six year-old out mountain biking, but this might be a practical minimum while eight is definitely the perfect age to begin. At the other end of the spectrum, it’s pretty much like skiing, we can attract and entertain a very wide age range depending on the shape and motivation of the participants.
JF: What about gender differences?
Doug Gormley: As of yet, we don’t offer women-only clinics, but we have women instructors on staff and there’s always the possibility of private lessons to address some special needs. That said we have weaved teaching techniques and tips that take gender into consideration.
JF: This brings me to your Bike School program; what options are you offering this summer?
Doug Gormley: Every day, we offer a three-hour clinic for kids from age eight to 12, one begins at 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. and another from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. At the same time, we also offer an adult clinic geared towards the beginner/low intermediate skill level, from the age of 13 on up. New this season is our “Guided Tour” for 13 and older; intermediate level or above, going at the same exact times (10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. – 5 p.m.). This new ride is meant to explore more of the mountain, with some use of the chairlifts, but it’s essentially a “get-out-and-pedal” opportunity, where uphill climbs and downhill segments are mixed we try to see all of Deer Valley, and in the end, give the opportunity to the participating two to five riders we take along to walk away a much stronger rider. Finally, we offer private lessons (two hours minimum required), these are totally adapted to the rider’s needs. Riders can come as downhill experts or total beginners we are staffed to cover all ability levels.
JF: So the “Guider Tour” sounds similar to your winter mountain tours?
Doug Gormley: Yes, but with the added benefit of providing participants with the expert advice of an instructor; so it’s not just a guided tour, it’s also a great opportunity for getting some serious coaching and useful tips.
Doug Gormley: We carry very high end bikes that work well on Deer Valley’s terrain. If you rent one our bikes, it can always be changed to a different size or if a bike has a problem of any kind it can be replaced on the fly. What’s nice about our rental fleet is not only do we provide bikes and helmets, but we include gloves, elbow pads and knee pads. Our downhill pads come with a full-face helmet.
JF: What about folks bringing their own bikes?
Doug Gormley: That fine as long as their bikes are equipped with front and rear brakes. A typical BMX bike wouldn’t qualify. A dual suspension bike works better on Deer Valley trails. So-called “Hybrid Bikes” can be more of a problem. Those type of bikes often don’t have the traction required and are not perfectly geared and setup to riding the true mountain bike trails we have.
JF: This is great information. Do you have any advice since Deer Valley Resort is now open for summer activities?
Doug Gormley: I’d say that it’s a shame that some people who have tried mountain biking in the past and have given up because they didn’t get the proper training or didn’t have the right equipment in the first place. The good news is that we can change that. With some solid foundation, good instruction and a sound technique, mountain-biking is a sport that a wide range of ages can enjoy and it will deliver an incredible amount of fun and satisfaction, especially if you are a skier. It’s a wonderful way to enjoy the mountain in the summer. So if you’re still standing on the fence, don’t hesitate. We have everything you need to attempt your very first steps or try an experience that you’ll want to repeat!
Earlier this week, as he was busy getting everything ready for this year’s mid-June re-opening, Mark Nepermann, Lift Operations Supervisor took a few moments out of his time to talk about summer lift operations at Deer Valley Resort.
Mark Nepermann: I have worked here for four winters and this will be my third summer. And you’re right; summer is my favorite time of the year! I’m originally from northern Illinois, I came out here after college for one winter and I loved it so much that I never left.
JF: Now that the weather has been gradually warming up, are you and your staff ready for your summer season opening?
Mark Nepermann: Absolutely! We opened on June 14 and will be operating our lifts through Labor Day, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., every day.
JF: Which chairlifts are open to the public?
Mark Nepermann: We’ll continue to offer rides on Silver Lake Express, Sterling Express and for the third season, Ruby Express.
JF: Who are your typical passengers?
Mark Nepermann: In the summer, mountain bikers are still the majority of our riders, we mount a hook on the sides of all the chairs to carry their equipment, we also get scenic riders who come to enjoy the incredible views that can be seen from our mountain tops.
JF: Do scenic riders have to ride down the lift?
Mark Nepermann: No, we give them many options. They can either ride up and ride back down, or ride up and hike down, particularly on some of our hiking-only trails. They can also hike up and reward themselves with our complimentary ride down!
JF: I’ve noticed that the lifts seem to be running slowly, why is this?
Mark Nepermann: We run about half the speed that we do in winter, this allows passengers to easily get off upon reaching the top since they have to walk away and this takes just a little more time than sliding off the ramp with skis on during the winter.
Mark Nepermann: These are ski poles made available to hikers who want to use them, both at the bottom and the top of each chairlift; we just ask the hikers to put them back into the bin when they’re done using them.
JF: Besides mountain bikes, are you allowing other devices on your trails?
Mark Nepermann: Sure, we see everything from old mountain bikes from the 1980’s, to the latest 50 pound downhill bike, to unicycles, mountain scooters or mountain boards, you name it.
JF: And you let them in?
Mark Nepermann: We let riders use them as long as these machines are equipped with at least two brakes, so if one of them were to fail, there’s still a spare one. We also require all riders to wear a helmet and stay on the bike trails, even on these non-conventional devices.
Mark Nepermann: We prefer all users to stay on the trails in order to prevent trampling vegetation and avoid erosion.
JF: What happens when the weather suddenly changes?
Mark Nepermann: Although heavy rain never seems to be a problem at Deer Valley Resort, the sole reason we would close down our lifts is if it rains hard for very long, riding could cause damage to the trails. Thunder isn’t a deal-breaker, but lightning is. If we see lightning we call “last chair” until the storm is passed and that is for the safety of both our riders and staff.
JF: So, when you compare winter and summer, do you find differences in your ridership?
Mark Nepermann: Our summer guests are definitely more low-key than in winter; perhaps during the warm season people aren’t as eager to clock as many runs as possible, but we also have a wider variety of riders. Some are hard-core mountain bikers, some are nature lovers, others are here to discover mountain vistas for the first time in summer. Our guests’ expectations and interests are far less homogeneous than they are in winter .
Mark Nepermann: Temperature differences between the base and the top of the chairlift always plays a significant role. Temperatures may also change very fast if the cloud cover suddenly moves in or the breeze sets in. Just because it’s sunny and warm at Snow Park doesn’t mean that it might not be 10 to 20 degrees less at the top of Bald Mountain. We encourage visitors to dress in layers and carry a light jacket with them in the event of a sudden drop in temperature.
JF: Any other useful tips?
Mark Nepermann: Always carry lots of water to stay well-hydrated, don’t forget the sunscreen, another good tip is to make sure to wear a hat. Of course, all bike riders must wear a helmet. Also, having a cell phone is always a good idea in case of emergency.
JF: So, why do you like summer at Deer Valley Resort so much?
Mark Nepermann: I like to tell the guests I meet during winter that summers in Deer Valley are even better in terms of the multitude of options offered to visitors. There is a myriad of concerts, mountain biking, hiking, fly-fishing, golfing, great food on Royal Street’s deck and green vistas as far as the eye can see, plus it’s always 10 to 15 degrees cooler up here than down in the Salt Lake Valley. We’re a refreshing alternative to the summer heat, so come up and play with us!