In Colorado, it is easy to stop as soon as you see the biggest peak and proclaim, "I'll do that one." The same notion ran through my mind the first time I saw Winter Park's Trestle Bike Park (read my story about it in the July issue). What I didn't know was that just a few minutes up the road lay this hidden gem of a downhill park with a diverse layout and an entirely different vibe: Bike Granby Ranch (formerly SolVista bike park). Riders can hit big jumps and wooden platforms. Or, if you're more in tune with staying grounded, the smooth, buttery berms are not to be missed. Here, five reasons to go:
1. All the trails lead home. When you and your compatriots are buzzing down the mountain, it is easy to lose track of everyone. All trails lead to the base so it is easy to catch up and head to the top for another lap.
2. The berms. The turns are so well designed that your bike just hugs into the berm before shooting you into the next, which is better than any rollercoaster I've ever been on.
3. Diversity. The trails range in skill level just like a ski hill. The green runs allow even the best riders to crank up the speed while the rookies can learn the basics of turns, jumps, and riding positions without the fear of a major drop. Don't worry, there is plenty of dirt focused on pushing the limits, too.
4. The base. Watching and riding with more experienced people will only improve your own skills. During lunch, sit at the base's outdoor tables and watch riders soar on the big jumps (think: X-Games-style) that finish off some of the black level trails.
5. The fall. The aspens at Bike Granby Ranch in autumn are radiant. Head up to learn the trail system this summer, then make another trip in the fall to take in the explosive colors.
Bonus tip: Invest in a lesson if this will be your first time riding bikes downhill. The mechanics of downhill mountain biking—keeping knees in, elbows close to the body—defy many ordinary cycling rules. A quick lesson will explain why opening up your body lets the bike suck up the roots and rocks. Without the lesson, you could miss the chance to ramp up your learning curve fast enough to kill it on your first day.
Follow editorial assistant Lindsey R. McKissick on Twitter at @LindseyRMcK.