Deer Valley Resort debuts first-ever e-bike tour on trails
It’s a digital world, even on the trails.
While Park City ordinance doesn’t allow electric modes of transport on its singletrack trails, the current is set to start flowing on Deer Valley’s trails this weekend as the resort rolls out its first-ever e-bike tour.
The resort also approved the construction of a small trail for beginner mountain bikers and electric skateboard riders on a Deer Valley pond’s shore.
The presence of electric transport on trails is not without controversy.
Mike Florence, a 60-year-old Onewheel rider and mountain biker, has mixed thoughts on the topic.
Florence said he loves the trail and rides his Onewheel on it several times a week, but as a mountain biker, opening up the trails to electric transport is complicated.
“I think eventually we are going to get to a place where human-powered and electric powered vehicles share trails,” he said. “But I think it’s going to take some time. There’s going to be an adjustment period when people learn some etiquette. But right now I’m happy to have human-powered-only trails in some places and electric powered vehicles elsewhere.”
Doug Gormley, lead bike coach at Deer Valley, says the electric services open up more of the mountain to visitors.
“I think we want to embrace what we see is coming,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity, and ultimately it represents more people getting out and riding bikes.”
For the price of $150 per person the program will rent out pedal-assisted Rossignol type-1 electric bikes, which have a limiter that caps the motor assist at 20 miles per hour, to either groups of five or individuals for three afternoon hours seven days a week. Riders will have access to the bike park and service roads around the resort while under the guidance of resort coaches. The guided classes are meant to showcase the resort’s intermediate and expert terrain and to teach e-bike handling skills as more of the vehicles appear on local trails.
“I think a huge part of ours is just the operation of an e-bike,”Gormley said. “How it’s different but how it’s still very much a bike.”
The bikes – which are built for trails, unlike the even-heavier cruisers deployed by the Summit Bikeshare – are significantly heavier than analog mountain bikes, but the electric assist allows riders to climb much steeper grades.
“The pitch you can climb is just ridiculous,” Gormley said. “So you find yourself climbing steep technical climbs and positioning on the bike is crucial.”
The lessons will devote a significant amount of coaching to showing riders how best to distribute their weight and keep momentum while going uphill.
But Gormley says fears about e-bikes ripping up a hill (both literally and figuratively) are largely unfounded. Because the e-bikes are heavier, they don’t spin their back wheels as much on steep grades, and because the motor-assist is capped, and trails are generally tight, riders can’t get an extra boost on their top speed, nor would that be wise.
Also, while they help going uphill, they aren’t flying.
“Instead of going 2 miles an hour up some grind, I’m going 4 or 5,” Gormley said.
He said the biggest bonus comes from the boost to the overall distance a rider can travel, which is helpful to those sightseeing on a short timeframe or visitors who don’t have their mountain legs yet.
“I can go out in that hour or two, and do three or four times the amount of riding in that time,” Gormley said.
Before starting the e-bike tours initiative, Gormley said Deer Valley employees researched other mountains in the Alterra kingdom for advice. Some, like Steamboat and Mammoth, already offer e-bike services.
Gormley said the resort is also working with the city.
“The bulk of our trail system is on private property,” he said. “But we are within Park City and we are very much going to follow their guidelines as to what is accessible.”
Just down the hill, Trent Hickman, owner of Park City SUP, has created another outlet for electric transport. With Deer Valley’s approval, he created two small loops on the shore of a Deer Valley pond across the water from Park City SUP. The trails are meant to allow visitors to practice riding one wheels.
The upper loop is flat, allowing a place for riders to get the feel a feel for riding on dirt. The lower loop, when completed, is anticipated to undulate both in direction and pitch.
“The concept is like surfing,” Hickman said of the lower loop while sitting at his shop on Wednesday. “You’re at the top of the wave, you go down to the bottom of the wave, then go back up to the top of the wave.”
Hickman said he has wanted to build the trail for years, simply because one-wheeled electric skateboards aren’t allowed on singletracks, and, regardless, most are too steep to ride. It also provides a place for very beginner mountain bikers.
“Hopefully we inspire some Onewheel-specific flow trials,” he said.
Park City SUP also gives Onewheel lessons, tours of the area and sells them. Hickman is a proponent of electric vehicles in general.
He hopes that a select group of trails are either built for electric vehicles or opened to them.
“To say (electric vehicles) are no good or not OK on the trails is narrowminded,” he said. “Let’s just imagine someone is coming out of chemotherapy or dealing with something really hard physically and they can’t pedal up to the Crest Trail but they would love to see those nice mountain views, I think giving them an e-assist is fair.”
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Returning to Park City’s Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church on Saturday is the annual Bike and Hike fundraiser in support of the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry.