Utah Mountain Biking is a bucket list option for interested HAPSters!
Although mountain biking is generally thought to have originated in the Marin County hills north of San Francisco, there is arguably no finer place to ride than Utah. If you have the time and inclination to hit the mountain trails and ride, there are lots of options awaiting you near the HAPS Conference this Spring. Murray Jensen, Kerry Hull and I went out a day before the mid-year meeting to explore some biking options (and spend some time in Mark Nielsen’s lab). Here’s what we found.
Within a 10-15 minute walk up the hill from the Salt Palace (site of the HAPS Conference) you’ll find a number of shops that rent out mountain bikes. For around $40, you will be able to rent a $2500 mountain bike for the afternoon! Full suspensions, 29-inch wheels, and even more options can be had. If you’re thinking or riding up in the foothills surrounding the city, you’ll have about a 20-minute uphill ride to hit the mountain trailheads that run along what was once the shore of glacial Lake Bonneville. The elevation gain from the hotel to the Bonneville Shelf is about 600-800 feet. The landscape is nothing short of spectacular, even on days with a smog layer.
The entire Great Basin opens up as you switch back up the foothills; it’s quiet enough that you can even surprise some locals along the way. The uphill climbing ranges from mild to clutch-your-chest strenuous. [I suffered in particular because I was serving as the “untrained control subject,” trying to keep up with Kerry and Murray.] The altitude provided wondrous panoramic views and a kick-your-butt workout, but most importantly, it meant some SWEET downhill action. On our segment of the Bonneville Shore Trail, the single-track path was 90-95% packed solid, and offered up a mostly smooth ride. But for those who have left their common sense behind, and seek a greater challenge, there are several advanced/expert routes down the hill that will rattle bones, loosen ligaments, and likely raise your health insurance deductibles more than Paul Ryan could.
But no fears, there are many moderate trails that can bring you back to town. Our ride lasted just under three hours, and left us euphoric, thirsty, and with a trace of sunburn (even in October).
If the moderate to high euphoria levels of the HAPS meeting aren’t going to be enough — the next level up of mountain biking literally brings you up out of the Wasatch Valley to the mountains surrounding Park City, one of the nation’s premier mountain biking destinations. Lots of shops cater to people giving this level of biking a try, and so you’ll have no trouble finding a “29er” with full suspension. The uphill is even more strenuous, although some riding parks have ski-lifts to take you up the mountainside. [I’m all for that, as it follows the law of conservation of energy.] This world famous Mid-Mountain Trail is definitely not for novices, but if you’re a reasonably solid mountain biker, this place is as good as it gets. Weather permitting, the miles of traversing trails running over these wooded ski hills will provide a relatively moderate-level (elevation-wise) riding experience. But the downhill can get tricky: you’re a mile and a half above sea-level, and “down” is long, long way away.
Olympic-level bikers who train in Park City power down the hills pedaling, and at high speed. Fortunately for those of us who don’t want to over-use our sympathetic nervous systems, we’re able to find more moderate slopes on which to descend. Either way, though, it will be full-on fatigue at the finish. It was great that our intrepid riders had a “sag-wagon” to come and fetch them.
You too will probably may want to arrange for a ride, as you could be too tired and sore to drive back to SLC. All in all, the beauty of the terrain and the challenge of the hills is a something for every mountain biker’s bucket list. We’ll have some of the info from the bike places we used for our gear at this year’s annual conference. We hope to see you there!
Author Jon Jackson is the HAPS Western Regional Director.
A full list of recommended post-conference activities is available on the HAPS website