BIKE Magazine’s annual gear guide puts spotlight on Park City
The Park Record
When BIKE Magazine set out to find a location to conduct its 2020 Bible of Bike Tests, its January issue that provides lengthy analyses and reviews of the year’s new models, the publication needed, basically, a unicorn.
It found one in Park City, which the magazine is spotlighting as part of this year’s edition of the always eagerly anticipated feature.
“In most Bibles, we’re testing multiple categories of bikes,” said Travis Engel, the magazine’s gear editor. “We need a location that, within a relatively small area, we can have access to a wide variety of trail styles. Park City has that.”
The reviews are valuable for readers, of course — when spending thousands on a state-of-the-art mountain bike, consumers want all the information they can get — but the Bible of Bike issue wouldn’t otherwise be very enjoyable to read if reviews were all it had. So BIKE needs not only great trails, but great stories.
“The destination is a big part of Bible, and we like to find places that have stories to tell,” Engel said. “The overwhelming popularity and continued growth of the trail scene in Park City is a story we thought was worth telling.”
Engel and his team spent a couple of weeks in Park City in September, testing bikes and learning about the town’s history, from its mining-era roots to its evolution into a world-class ski destination and, more recently, to a mountain biking mecca.
‘Engineered for riding’
Engel, who called the team members at BIKE a “pretty spoiled bunch” given all the travel they get to do, said he was blown away by what Park City’s trails system has to offer.
“Looking around at my fellow testers’ faces after getting done with our test loops, it was pretty clear. Park City ranks right up there,” he said. “It’s world-class in the true sense of the word, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a gracious guest.
“A few of us had a hard time comparing the quality of trails in Park City to any other Bible destination other than Whistler, which is saying something.”
Where Park City really stands out, he said, is in its connectivity.
“There was so much to choose from,” Engel said. “For example, we weren’t forced to settle on fire-road climbs or hike-a-bikes to make our loops work. The trail network is so extensive, there’s multiple ways to get to every destination, and multiple ways to get back. The whole region seemed to be engineered for riding.”
Engel said besides “feeling very slow at 8,000 feet,” the thing about Park City that stood out for him was “the number of raw and truly difficult trails Park City has to offer.”
“Resort destinations are often in the habit of dumbing down their most advanced trails to be as accessible as possible to as many riders as possible,” Engel said. “Making them wider, cutting out roots, berming out turns. Park City has plenty of that kind of terrain, both inside the parks and outside. So, it was refreshing that the more difficult stuff is untouched for those like myself who have a taste for it.
“Those rooty, steep and technical trails are what I seek out at home, and they had a new aesthetic and a bigger scale in Park City.”
Engel said he’d put Park City with Whistler in the conversation as the best mountain biking destination he’s ever visited.
“Maybe another impression Park City left on me was how easy it was to ride from town,” he said. “If you want to get down to business, there are plenty of lifts and shuttles, but we did our testing from the house in most cases. There’s something nice about finishing a ride at the door of your rental house instead of your rental car. Or at a pub. My favorite was Collie’s.”
In pursuit of a well-rounded economy
Mountain biking is a key cog in Park City’s growing summer tourism market, and Bill Malone, president and CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, said the organization worked with BIKE Magazine to make the Bible of Bike issue happen for a few years. The efforts included using funds Summit County granted to the Chamber/Bureau through the restaurant tax to cover some of the related expenses.
Malone said it was a pleasure to read the completed issue, on newsstands now, and see how the community was depicted.
“I like the fact that you can see so much of Park City in their photography, that you can recognize our trails,” he said. “And I like that they wrote about our mining history and our economy changed. And it’s great that they talked to Charlie Sturgis, because that gave a real personality to their coverage.”
Sturgis, executive director of the Mountain Trails Foundation, said he enjoyed speaking with the BIKE team, sharing the town’s mountain biking evolution from having 15 miles of trails in the mid-1990s to now boasting 450 miles of sanctioned singletrack.
“Well, we’re an obvious choice to come and test bikes, of course, but it’s definitely an honor to be picked,” he said. “I think the community put so much work into our mountain biking scene, from when we started talking trails in the ’80s to today, so it’s great to be recognized by the industry.”
Park City was the International Mountain Bike Association’s first-ever Gold Level ride center, based on criteria like the number and variety of trails as well as the quality and quantity of lodging. Malone said that designation came years ago, though. In that sense, BIKE’s showcase of Park City is just as valuable as a reminder for those who know about Park City as it is as an introduction for those who don’t.
“This is a way to keep that message out there for people who are looking at bikes and looking at taking a bike on vacation,” he said. “We see (the BIKE profile) as a natural extension of the work we’ve been doing for well over 20 years now.”
Malone said the Chamber/Bureau is always looking for ways to attract visitors outside of the winter ski season, and summer adventure travelers are an obvious demographic to pursue. They aren’t the only one, however.
“There are three pillars to our summer growth,” Malone said. “It’s definitely our trail system, and not just biking but hiking, too. It’s our art and culture scene, which has absolutely blossomed. We’re talking outdoor concerts, galleries and public art. Then the third piece is corporate group travel.”
Those three pillars, Malone said, have helped to create steady business for Park City that is allowing people who work in many “seasonal” Park City jobs to stay employed year-round.
“We have to keep the pump primed on our summer business, because it doesn’t happen automatically,” Malone said. “We have to remind people of what we have to offer. Our focus is on attracting that summer visitor who is going to stay a few days, go out to eat, and otherwise spend their discretionary income here. This BIKE feature gives us another tool to use.”
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The unemployment rate in Summit County in September rose slightly and the state upwardly revised the August figure, evidence job gains in the Park City-area have largely stalled.