SNOQUALMIE PASS — Fisher Bailey, 15, got up at 4 a.m. Sunday to secure the first spot in line at the new Summit Mountain Bike Park at Snoqualmie Pass, which held its grand opening later that morning.

Bailey lives at Hyak, an unincorporated community at the foot of The Summit at Snoqualmie resort, and has been eagerly anticipating the opening of the bike park, accessible via the Silver Fir chairlift at Summit Central.

Wondering what the hype is over a lift-serviced mountain bike park? Downhill biking is a lot easier when you don’t have to ride uphill to start a run.

“Without lift access and being so far from civilization, it was hard to find good trails,” Bailey said.

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The bike park, seven years in the making, is a return to form for The Summit at Snoqualmie, which operated lift-serviced mountain biking in the 1990s. While the demanding trails attracted the likes of the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup in 1998, they were less friendly to beginner and intermediate riders. Without enough business from recreational riders, the bike park closed in 2002.

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“We’re getting back to our roots,” said Summit at Snoqualmie general manager Guy Lawrence on Sunday at the park’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“We’re looking at bike park 2.0.”

As trail building has evolved into a more refined art form and bike technology has made riding downhill trails more forgiving, mountain biking has grown in popularity. Seattle-area mountain bikers looking for a day of downhill rides without the time and effort of biking uphill have relied on Stevens Pass — which opened in 2010, closed in 2021 and reopened this year — and the world-class bike park at Whistler in British Columbia.

Lawrence recalls pleas for the Summit to reopen its mountain bike park as early as 2010, with a groundswell that eventually led the mountain resort to prepare a proposal to the U.S. Forest Service in 2015. Over half of the land on which the bike park sits is part of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, which required a proposal open to public scrutiny and comment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

NEPA review is arduous, but the Forest Service noted minimal opposition. Smooth sailing is not always the case for Northwestern bike parks, though. In 2013, the Sierra Club sued to stop a mountain bike park at Timberline on Mount Hood.

“We are excited to facilitate new outdoors recreation infrastructure on our public lands,” said Brian McNeil, recreation program manager for the Snoqualmie Ranger District, looking out from the top of the chairlift as mountain bikers took in the view and decided which trail to tackle next.

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The Summit at Snoqualmie hired Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance to design and build its trails. For such work, commercial businesses like mountain resorts typically hire for-profit companies like Whistler’s Gravity Logic, which built the park at Stevens Pass. Lawrence cited Evergreen’s reputation and experience in explaining the decision to hire Evergreen’s top trail builders for 8,090 hours of work over three years to debut Phase 1, which features a 2-mile beginner green circle trail (Green Party), a combined 2 miles of intermediate blue square trails (Bermy Lomax, Wapiti and Mid-Mountain Connector) and a combined 2 miles of expert black diamond and double black diamond trails (Lost & Found, Slab ‘N’ Tickle and Black Forest). Phase 2 is in the planning stage.

Downhill mountain bike trails are more challenging than flatter cross-country trails, and riders are advised to have previous mountain bike experience before riding the chairlift.

The green and blue trails make serpentine routes down the mountain with a mixture of shaded forest and wide-open vistas into the Cascades when the trails cross ski runs. Green Party is fairly smooth, but Wapiti gets technical with roots and rocks, while Bermy Lomax has a series of undulating low jumps that will keep riders on their toes. The black trails follow the mountain’s fall line for steep, technical descents and mandatory air, including rock slabs.

Passes for Sunday’s opening day were available only to Summit at Snoqualmie season ski pass holders and Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance members, but they were as hard to come by as Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets: The full slate of around 300 sold out within minutes of going live at midnight Thursday.

Bailey, one of the lucky few, agreed it was worth the wait.

“Wild and crazy,” he said in review after rocketing down Black Forest. “So good.”

If you go

Summit Mountain Bike Park is open Friday-Sunday, as well as Labor Day, into October; closing date TBA. Additional weekdays may be announced depending on demand. Open from 10 or 11 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m. depending on the day. $65/all-day tickets, $50/morning tickets (open-2 p.m.), $40/afternoon tickets (3 p.m.-close); $149/fall season pass. Mountain bikes can be rented at the evo satellite shop in the Firehouse at Snoqualmie Pass.

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