The #DeerValleySummer is filled with more adventures than I could have ever imagined. Friends and family ask me all of the time, “What do you do when the ski season is over?” Lift-served mountain biking, hiking, concerts, standup paddleboarding, the list goes on and on. The question isn’t what do I do, it’s how do I find time to do it all?
Before I started working at Deer Valley, I didn’t know you could take a mountain bike lesson. I soon became aware that Deer Valley Resort’s Bike School offers knowledgeable mountain bike instructors who will teach you the proper techniques to help you ride safely and confidently, while navigating the nearly 70 miles of trails at Deer Valley Resort.
I signed up for a mountain bike lesson so I could learn the ropes of downhill mountain biking. Unlike skiing, I had zero experience in mountain biking, unless you count riding my bike around the neighborhood as a child. I knew that if the instructors in the Ski School could turn me into a skier, then the Bike School could turn me into a mountain biker.
Not having a mountain bike myself, I rented one from the mountain bike rental shop in Deer Valley Resort’s Snow Park Lodge. The rental shop also made sure I had a helmet, elbow pads and shin guards. Going into the lesson, I was very nervous; after leaving the rental shop, I felt prepared to take on the mountain. I met my bike instructor, Doug Gormley, and we made our way outside to start the lesson.
Doug showed me the basic braking functions of the bike as well as the gears and how to properly shift. He taught me a trick that I used all day; easy or lower gears, use your thumb and harder or higher gears, use your index finger. I was very surprised how light the bike was and the incredible amount of spring in the shocks.
We went over the four basic riding fundamentals I would need for downhill mountain biking; balance in an athletic position, look ahead, smooth braking and controlled momentum.
Doug asked if I played on my bike as a child. He said that people who have experience on a bike, even if it’s just jumping off curbs, have a huge advantage when it comes to mountain biking. This helped me get into the balanced athletic position or “platform” as Doug called it. Doug emphasized that I needed to be standing on the bike with both pedals even and my weight balanced. Since this was downhill mountain biking, leaning back was encouraged and being light on the handlebars to avoid going over them.
Looking ahead was the next lesson in my biking education. “Don’t look down, you need to see what’s coming up, not what you’re on. Trust your vision and your body to react.” ,Doug stressed. At first this was the most difficult thing for me to do. I wanted to see what I was rolling over. I soon realized that I needed to see what to prepare for and be looking ahead to properly position myself for the upcoming obstacle.
Smooth braking was the third fundamental Doug taught me before we made our way to the mountain. I learned how to use the front and rear brakes evenly. I had never been on a bike with hydraulic, disc brakes. These were not the same brakes on my 1998 bike I rode around Taylorsville as an 11 year old. I could tell that too much front brake would cause you to fly over the handlebars. Doug showed me how to place my hands so that my index fingers were on the brakes at all times near the end of the handles. This allowed me to evenly brake and not use one more than the other.
The last of the four fundamentals was learning how to control my momentum. We practiced in the parking lot going down stairs and hills, controlling my momentum, not too fast and not too slow. A consistent motion all the way down was the goal. Doug stressed going into turns slower with a consistent speed and accelerating out of the turn when I felt comfortable to do so. By this time, I was ready to take on the first trail which was Naildriver, Deer Valley’s easiest downhill mountain bike trail on Bald Mountain.
After riding up Silver Lake Express chairlift, we rode Sterling Express to the top of Bald Mountain. We stopped at the beginning of the trail for a few last-minute pointers and we went over the four fundamentals again. I was so excited; being scared in the rental shop beforehand felt like a lifetime ago. After the fundamentals, I honestly can’t remember what Doug said. I’m pretty sure it was just “follow me.”
We headed down Naildriver trail, a smooth single track. The views of the Jordanelle Reservoir and the Heber Valley were breathtaking. I followed close behind Doug and felt at ease on the mountain bike. I tried imitating Doug’s route. Little jumps in the trail made for fast learning experiences. If I saw Doug run over a huge rock, I then knew that the mountain bike I was on could handle it as well. I just needed to remember the fundamentals and stay loose.
Like my first ski lesson, we would stop and talk at certain spots on the trail. Doug gave me pointers and praise along the way. During one of the stops, I learned to lean to steer. The key to this was to lean your bike, not your body. Doug showed me how to make long arm turns and turns with one pedal up and one down. I tried to soak up the 26 years of mountain biking knowledge Doug was sharing with me like a sponge.
We made our way down Bald Mountain and to the end of Naildriver trail. I was surprised at how many different muscles I used navigating down the mountain. The other person in my lesson was wearing a heart rate monitor. It said she burned 800 calories in the short time we had been in the lesson. This was easily the most fun exercise I had ever done. After a few more turning lessons, I said goodbye to Doug and my lesson partner at the bottom of Sterling Express chairlift.
I had the option to download on Silver Lake Express chairlift or take Tour Des Homes trail down to the Snow Park Lodge. This trail was a lot different than the first one I had been on. Lots of loose gravel and wider trails made for a different experience. It was very cool to see this part of the resort during the summer. Tour Des Homes mountain bike trail follows much of the same trail line as Silver Dollar ski run. This is one of my favorite ski runs, because of the views you see along the way and the homes that line the trail.
I can’t wait to explore more of the fantastic trails Deer Valley Resort has to offer. Have you ever had a mountain bike lesson? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @RyanMayfield or @Deer_Valley.
Want to explore Deer Valley’s variety of trails? Sign up for a guided mountain bike tour led by Deer Valley’s professionally trained instructors. Gain some riding tips while meeting other riders and learning about the mountain and the resort. Participants must be intermediate level and 13 years or older.
For more information on mountain biking or to reserve a space in the Mountain Bike School, please call 435-645-6648 or 888-754-8477.