I’ve driven past Sky Tavern Ski Resort hundreds of times and have not once stopped to check things out. Until recently, I had also never heard of any sort of mountain bike accommodations on the property. Little did I know, my first time on the mountain bike park’s hill would be spent pedaling up a cat track to the top and flying down steep, technical trails until my legs turned into rubber.
I called a friend in the morning and we set out to take a look at things. We arrived pleasantly surprised at a quiet ski hill — not another car in the parking lot — and the lodge was sealed up. Perhaps we’d caught the place on an off day. We didn’t have a map nor phone service, but I knew that somewhere on the mountain, there was a slalom course and downhill track. We decided to ride up to the top and see what we could find.
Dropping in from the top, you’re immediately at the mercy of a steep and twisted maze of soft dirt and gravel, full of tight corners, narrow descents and abrupt drops.
The path to the top is on the south side of the hill, just beyond a summer camp grove of ropes courses and climbing walls. It cuts across the face of the hill, switching back and then on up to the top, which was flat and mellow enough to pedal the entire way. About halfway up, we saw man-made features and single-track trails through the trees. The ride up took about 45 minutes; we stopped a few times to admire the view of Mount Rose and the Washoe Valley below. The ride ends at the top of the chairlift — and is all downhill from there.
Dropping in from the top, you’re immediately at the mercy of a steep and twisted maze of soft dirt and gravel, full of tight corners, narrow descents and abrupt drops. This main trail continues the entirety of the way down and is mostly intermediate terrain with a few quick, advanced features. It eventually feeds you back to the halfway point of the main track up.
We got spit out here and took one more trip back to the top, this time taking a turn off the main trail and dropping in on a trail that was riddled half with mild zones and half with extreme expert terrain, which in my book usually means a one-way ticket to rolling and tumbling.
Watch a video about the mountain bike park
Taking it slow, we made it down and exited again back onto the cat track. Flying down toward the car, we nearly missed another unmarked turn that led us onto the wildest section we found all day: a fast and flowing path with long straight-aways, built-up turns and well-shaped lips that launched us up, over, down and around and spit us out at the bottom of the Skyridge chair. After a couple more laps on this section, we headed back over the pass.
As it is, this place is a glorious find for single-track enthusiasts. With 650 vertical feet and the ability to host lift-accessed biking, Sky Tavern has a lot of potential for expansion in the mountain bike world. In 2015, it was a West Coast finalist in a Bell Built contest, nearly securing a $100,000 grant to build an advanced downhill trail. It lost by about 400 votes to Exchequer Mountain Bike Park in Merced.
Sky Tavern is a nonprofit, self-funded and dependent on volunteers to keep the park maintained and safe for the public. It is free to ride the trails. Because it is situated between Mount Rose summit and Galena Creek trails, it is a popular destination for hikers and bikers alike. All Sky Tavern asks is that riders leave the place in the same — or better — shape as they found it in.
Because Sky Tavern is free from the bureaucracy and rules of large bike resorts, the sky is the limit as far as what could become of it.
“Getting the lifts running during the summer is a definite priority,” says mountain manager Ben Jones.
To do so, staff or volunteers need to install safety bars on the chairs. Jones is currently seeking the help and collaboration of anyone or any organization interested in contributing to the growth of the mountain as a destination bike park.
With its central location, incredible views and challenging terrain, Sky Tavern Mountain Bike Park is a perfect place to get away for the day.