Need for speed: Adrenaline rush at downhill mountain bike parks

Allie Jasinski and Kayla Anderson. | Kayla Anderson

Downhill mountain biking has always been one of those sports that is fun but takes a bit of an investment to get into. However, when I was gifted a nice Intense Mountain Bike two years ago, it made it possible for me to try new Tahoe back-country trails — and it was something fun to do at ski resorts in the off-season. The adrenaline rush I got from bombing down rock gardens, speeding through berms and exploring fresh territory always has me planning my next mountain biking trip.

Boreal Mountain Resort

The action is all at Woodward Tahoe in the summer at Boreal Mountain Resort. It’s a summer playground from The Bunker, a multisport indoor action center, to the outdoor skateboard and parkour parks, to its lift-served mountain bike park known as The Slabs with six freestyle trails. Don’t forget to check out The Trenches featuring a beginner’s pump track and multiple dirt jump lines. Motorized equipment is not permitted. |

Kirkwood Mountain Resort

When my boyfriend Jason Forcier and I went to Kirkwood on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon, we were the only ones there. It’s self-served bike park features about 20 trails, most of them intermediate. We started out on the easiest – Snowkirk trail that begins at the base of the Snowkirk lift and gradually ascends 1 mile up to the top.

The adrenaline rush I got from bombing down rock gardens, speeding through berms and exploring fresh territory always has me planning my next mountain biking trip.

The dirt/gravel road winds through wildflowers and trees and connects with several intermediate runs at the top of Caples Crest chair. We continued to the top of Snowkirk, taking in the beautiful vistas before dropping down into Scout’s Route. The climb up was worth it, as the singletrack that led us down the hill had fun little features, vibrant wildflowers in abundance and incredible mountain and meadow views.

Next, we rode down the main street to Timber Creek and under the Funny Bunny lift line, where intermediate trails such as Hole ‘N Wall, Funny Bunny and the Dangberg Trail box in the disc golf course. These trails are also scenic and fun and the resort’s passionate maintenance crew is currently building an exciting flow course with fast berms — reminiscent of the one under the Vista Express lift at Northstar California.

Kirkwood is desolate, peaceful and good for advanced and expert bikers who don’t mind pedaling up steep terrain. E-bikes are allowed on some trails; check in advance before visiting. |

Northstar California

Northstar California has what I consider the crème de la crème of Tahoe downhill mountain bike parks. We got lucky riding Northstar when we did, though. On a random Friday morning, some dark clouds rolled in and it poured rain in North Lake Tahoe. However, we showed up at around noon, the rain had miraculously stopped and the sun came out, leaving the trails in perfect condition.

Check off #5 on our Ultimate Tahoe Summer Bucket List.

When we rode up the gondola, the mountain was misty, the air temperature was in the 60s to 70s and the grasses and manzanita smelled heavenly.

After getting dropped off from the gondola, families, couples and at least one bachelor party were loading bikes up the two chairlifts that lead to a multitude of trails. Northstar has more than 40 of them, most are intermediate and advanced, with a few sweeping 1- to 2-mile greens such as Crossover and Tryumph that switchback across the whole mountain. Our favorite run was The Woods; Coaster was great, too.

The last time I rode Northstar was 10 years ago and while a lot has changed, a few of the trails have stayed the same. For instance, Livewire is still there, chockful of intense features for advanced riders. We ended our day at Bourbon Pub in the Village, where we had the most unbelievable Wagyu burger (I think it was the Louie sauce), followed by a white peach melba for dessert.

The entire day was so fun, when we got home, we started looking up summer season passes. E-bikes are allowed. |

Sky Tavern

Downhill mountain biking has been going on at Sky Tavern for years, but thanks to the City of Reno for allowing the nonprofit to extend its lease for another 30 years, there is a concentrated effort to build an extensive trail system between Reno and Tahoe with Sky Tavern as its focal point.

I was first introduced to this park by friends Allie and Billy Jasinski last fall and it was one of the most fun mountain biking experiences I’ve had. We parked one car at the Mount Rose summit and another at Sky Tavern so that we could enjoy the downhill without having to pedal back up. The singletrack downhill was in great shape, filled with natural rock gardens, big tabletop dirt jumps and a pump track at the bottom next to Sky Tavern’s parking lot.

We had so much fun riding from the summit to Sky Tavern that we kept going. We moved a car from the summit down to South Reno and rode another 10 miles or so down to a park in South Reno, only loading our bikes when it got dark.

Sky Tavern keeps a network of incredibly well-maintained trails that will keep you entertained for hours. Donations are appreciated. E-bikes are allowed as well. |