At the crest of a ski run, an adventurous soul takes a deep breath and drops down a steep slope, barreling downhill with speed that floods the body with adrenaline. Only there's not a lick of snow. Packed dirt forms the entire vertical route, and the daredevil is on a mountain bike, not skis. This is a ski resort in summer.
When Stevens Pass Bike Park opens on Friday after a pandemic break, it shifts equipment and terrain designed for winter powder into a rough course for cyclists. Riders will load their bicycles on the Hogsback Quad lift, then themselves; once on top, they ride down the mountain through routes shaped with dirt berms and wooden walls, or even roots and logs on the more technical trails. It's all of the downhill fun without the huffing and puffing of pedaling uphill first.
Though the Stevens Pass ski season ended in May, the high levels of snow this year kept staff from rebuilding trails in time for the projected June opening. Bridges had to be assembled, and excavators moved dirt around to create green, blue, and black routes—the same ranking system used when the area is covered in snow.
Stevens sells daily ($46–54) and annual ($253–309) passes to the bike park, first launched in 2012 and what was once the only such destination in the state. However, this year Summit at Snoqualmie will join the summer party with its own version, in the works since 2017. Built in conjunction with the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, the five-trail system will take over the Silver Fir area of Summit Central. The opening is projected for mid-August.
Our Washington resorts are in good company; ski areas like Vail and Mount Bachelor convert to two-wheeled customers in summer, giving riders the chance to do more downhill in a day than could ever be achieved on normal trails. Other destinations like Crystal Mountain stick to sightseeing and hiking, still harnessing those chairlifts to bring people up the most exhausting part of mountain adventure. Crystal also hosts a full-moon party during the Perseid meteor shower in August and a Hill Climb trail running event in September. Disc golf has become a staple at many mountains.
The packed summer schedule represents a way to extend the earning season of a particular property, but more importantly it can show a path forward in an uncertain future. No one quite knows what climate change will bring to the ski industry, but projections include an iffy long-term snow forecast. Bike parks are one way to reimagine mountain recreation.
At Stevens Pass, where trail crews have finally reshaped the winter hills for summer fun, the change is more immediate. They've finished trails called Rock Crusher and Berserker, and mountain bike rentals and lessons will launch in conjunction with the park opening. In knee pads instead of snow pants, riders will bomb down above Highway 2—at least until the snow falls again.