Stevens Pass Ski Resort’s owners have announced they will not be opening the popular destination’s mountain bike park this summer, putting the future of Washington’s only lift-assisted trail system in doubt.

Stevens Pass, owned by Colorado-based Vail Resorts, announced the move on social media and its website this week. The news elicited complaints similar to those Stevens Pass got this winter in response to its operational struggles during the COVID-19-blighted ski season and that the site has received in some capacity since its acquisition by Vail Resorts in 2018.

Shane Thayer, a frequent user of the park, said it was a labor of love built by people who lived in Washington. 

“It’s kind of a bummer, since Vail Resorts recently purchased ownership of Stevens Pass in the last couple of years, to see them transform the mountain into more of the corporate machine,” said Thayer, a systems administrator from Leavenworth. “And so the latest news with the bike park … kind of feels like almost a slap in the face to the community, especially being the only bike park in Washington. So there’s a lot of resentment towards that.”

Vail Resort officials declined an interview request, but sent a statement regarding the move. 

“We understand the bike park has a committed following of patrons who will be disappointed by this decision, but we feel it’s important to take this time out to fully assess summer programming at Stevens Pass,” wrote Marc Riddell, Vail Resort’s director of communications and resort marketing for the West region. “As we emerge from a challenging ski season amid COVID-19, this pause will allow us to fully focus our efforts on getting the resort prepared for the 2021/22 winter season and delivering our guests a great ski and ride experience. Ahead of next summer, we will evaluate our options and the future of the bike park.”

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A 2014 “Bike” magazine article detailed the founding and history of the bike park, which includes improved trails that were blasted out of the mountain in some spots, small wooden bridges and pathways, berms and banks, and hard-to-find verticality. The brainchild of then-Stevens Pass employees Joel Martinez, John Meriwether and the late Chris Rudolph, the bike park opened in 2012 after a grassroots, crowdsourced fundraising effort proved Washington’s 50,000 mountain bikers had an interest.

The bike park’s designers saw it as a chance to turn the resort into a year-round destination, much like Whistler, B.C., which has a lift-assisted trail system. (Whistler Blackcomb is also owned by Vail Resorts; according to Whistler’s website, the mountain bike park likely will open May 31). And like skiing, biking is a family-friendly activity that promotes fitness and getting into the outdoors.

That’s what has attracted Seattle’s Amir Navot and his children to the Stevens Pass bike park year after year.

“It was kind of a family adventure for us,” Navot said.

He said there are lots of trail systems in the state, “but it’s not the same thing.”

“It’s a different experience, and if we want to go to another place where you can have a lift system, you need to drive all the way to Idaho,” Navot said. “It’s about six hours driving to the closest option. So that (trail system) was pretty much a game-changer for people that love the sport. We used to have a place near home that you can drive to in about one hour from Seattle, and now we don’t have it. It’s very disappointing.”

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