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Review of Stevens Pass Downhill Course

    I love to mountain bike. I’ve done it competitively for a few years, through racing, but that has always been cross country. I’d never experienced any form of mountain biking other than cross country, other than a few hours at a couple of BMX parks and skate parks. So, up until I experienced the downhill park, I had to pedal or walk up any hill I wanted to ride down.

    I’m not afraid of anything, and I’m great at technical descents, making descents my strong point by far. Unlike many mountain bikers, I only own one bike, but also unlike most mountain bikers, it is a full suspension, being better for jumping and rougher terrain, allowing you to maintain control by absorbing shock. My bike is pretty heavy, but also as durable as a Nokia 3310. It has high gearing, and bad ratios to climb with. All of this means that my bike is like me, optimized for going downhill. Quickly.

    That's why I decided to try a mountain bike downhill park. I was new to the experience, and the nearest one to me to my knowledge was up at Stevens pass, so I decided that would be a good place to start. After driving for about two hours, I arrived in the parking lot. I walked my bike to the lodge where the tickets were being sold. I paid just under fifty dollars for my lift ticket, bought some chain oil, and was ready to take my first run. The entire area is accessible by one lift, a high speed quad with two separate modules. The first is the bike carrier, which is swapped out from the chairs that are there during ski season. It can carry three bikes with the front wheel sitting in a deep slot which holds the bike upright, and the back wheel sitting on a long piece of metal designed to hold the weight of the back of the bike. The second one is just a basic bench seat with an optional safety bar that you can pull down in front of you. The safety bar was also equipped with foot rests, which is not necessary when you don't have the weight of skis and ski boots pulling down on your legs, but nice to have, even for a three minute ride. You load your own bike at the bottom and get on the following chair. At the top, two people unload the bikes and wait for you to get off. You take your bike and ride down the ramp to a gravel area where you can hang out before the trails start.

`From there you can choose from 3 options: Two expert runs (black diamonds), and a beginner (green circle). The initial runs split off into different runs further down the mountain, with the blacks splitting into more blacks, double blacks and a blue, and the green splitting into more greens, blues and a black. The runs are labeled well and list the necessary skills (jumping and/or technical descent). They have great variety, with everything from sweeping turns to rocky descents to jumps that scared the pants off me, but no matter your skill level, there is definitely something for everyone. My only complaint about the trails is that some of them are rough, with potholes and braking grooves that you have to plan around. Some of trails made me wish for thicker gloves.

    The lift and trails were satisfactory, and both the employees and fellow riders were super friendly. I got not one but two flat tires in the 5 or so hours I was there (both of my own doing). But the first one was just about as easy as a flat tire can be. I was right at the top when I did a hop off a rock, heard a crunch and a hiss and knew my tire went flat. I talked to the two unloaders, and they loaded my bike off the chairlift and I rode the lift down. I got to the bottom, took my bike to the shop, and they changed it in about five minutes for about twenty dollars, and I was back in action. It was a little expensive for a new tube and installation, but that's to be expected from maintenance at a bike park. The second one was a little more difficult. I was halfway down the mountain, and stopped to pump up my tire. I didn’t puncture the tube, but I think it was just at the end of its lifespan with the valve connection going bad. Definitely not the fault of the park. I walked down a little ways, and took one of the roads down that go through the park, where you aren't in danger of being hit from behind. This was my last run, so I didn’t bother getting it changed.

    It really feels like the entire park is well thought out. I didn't spend much time at the bottom, but they have tables to eat at, a shop to buy basic bike supplies (chain oil, multi-tools, tubes, CO2 cartridges, etc.), mechanics, bike rentals, and even a rental for pads and full face helmets. The top had a water cooler, map tables and porta potties. I even had good cell coverage with at least four bars of LTE whenever I checked. My overall opinion is extremely positive. Even though Stevens is mainly a ski area, it feels like a park built by mountain bikers for mountain bikers, and I’ll definitely be returning when it re-opens after ski season.