I am pretty old-fashioned when it comes to my sports. I spent many of my weekends in middle and high school walking through the woods and burning logs at night, which humans have done for millennia but has only recently become known as the sport of “backpacking”. Skiing is old too – we’ve only been recently using it in a way that involves blasting carved turns down a groomed slope at sixty miles an hour and resting in cozy lodges between runs, but people have strapped long sticks to their feet to navigate snow since the dawn of time. I do have one sport which definitely bucks this trend.
Mountain biking, it turns out, is only a little older than I am. It first emerged with crazy mountain men blasting down fire roads on bikes meant for pavement with no modifications whatsoever. Somehow, this still seemed like a good idea, and the sport slowly grew in the 80’s, as a few bike manufacturers started selling commuter bikes with slightly knobbier tires. The sport continued to catch on in the 90’s, as mountain bikes further diverged from their road brethren with shocks, better brakes, burlier components, etc. In the 2000’s, the sport picked up even more momentum as the bikes became further refined.
The last few years, the new trend has been lift-accessed downhill mountain biking. Like skiing, I think the best part of mountain biking is going downhill, where you can rail around turns, speed through trees and maybe catch a little air here and there. Some like-minded people who run ski areas that traditionally lay dormant 7 or 8 months of the year have started opening up their lifts to mountain bikers and sculpting beautiful flowing trails for them. These “bike parks” are popping up all over, but SoCal has so far only been blessed with one – Snow Summit at Big Bear. As Optimizing Adventure’s chief mountain biking correspondent, I had to go check it out. My review? One of the better bike parks I’ve been to, and much better than Mammoth Mountain (as well as many hours closer to San Diego). Just watch out for the typical SoCal crowds. If downhill mountain biking is for you, meaning you don’t mind close calls with boulders and trees as you take the semi-regular trip over the handlebars, be sure to pay the Snow Summit bike park a visit.
Check out the video for a few clips from my visit: