Let me tell you a secret about Sun Valley’s mountain bike scene: it’s kind of fun to fly under the radar. It’s not that we don’t love sharing our trails (we do) and it’s not that we aren’t proud of what we have (we are), but there’s something cool about being that place that people whisper about in hushed tones. And for the last decade, says local mountain bike advocate Adrian Montgomery, mountain bikers, in particular, have been whispering to each other on the trail, “Hey, have you been to Sun Valley?”
The Sun Valley area has over 400 miles of singletrack (300-plus of which are accessible from downtown Ketchum), two closed-loop pump parks, over 40 miles of multi-use graded trails, and lift-serviced downhill mountain biking on Sun Valley Resort’s Bald Mountain. The trails range in difficulty from beginner to extreme, but they all have two things in common: they won’t be crowded, and you won’t be able to get enough of them.
At least that is how Montgomery, a consultant at Ketchum-based CrankTank and former marketing director at SCOTT Sports and Backcountry.com, felt when he first landed in Sun Valley in 2004. “After six years of traveling for the Mountain Bike World Cup [as a team manager for Cannondale], I’d seen the best mountain biking in the world. As soon as I got to Ketchum, I knew there was world-class mountain biking here.”
Montgomery, along with a handful of other local mountain bikers, started to get the word out. Leveraging his experience in marketing, his deep connections within the mountain biking world, and his role at SCOTT Sports, Montgomery helped to promote the hidden gem that is Sun Valley’s mountain bike scene. The results of Montgomery and other’s efforts include the Ride Sun Valley Bike Festival, the successful bid for USA Cycling’s Mountain Bike National Championships in 2011 and 2012, and the USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike National Championships in 2013 and 2014.
“Sun Valley is a great place to ride,” says Montgomery. “You can really lose yourself in the riding here. It offers the ‘last frontier’ of backcountry experience, where you can be close to town but feel way, way out there.”
The accessibility of the trail system, as well as it’s varied terrain, ensures that any level of mountain biker can find a trail to delight and challenge them. A subset of trails is multi-use, allowing for both pedal and motorized bike traffic, which can be a blessing for those who love the sport but are hampered by physical limitations caused by injury or age. These multi-use trails add up to what Montgomery says is the “largest inventory of e-bike legal singletrack in the United States.”
If that feels a little cutting edge, it is. Sun Valley is always pushing up against the boundaries of what is comfortable. Through the years, and thanks to advocates like Montgomery, Sun Valley has become a bike-centered community—always innovating, always pushing—and that is great news for locals and visitors alike. One recent example is the community’s focus on developing trail systems close to the Valley’s population centers, such as the new trail system at Quigley Canyon in Hailey.
Quick access to epic trails means that one day you can take a casual cruise on your lunch break, and the next ride the lung-busting Osberg Ridgeline for an amazing traverse on high alpine singletrack. It also means opening the door for a new generation of mountain bikers, with experiences that range from toddlers crushing it on Stryder bikes in the pump park to a high schooler joining the competitive mountain bike team.
If you’re intrigued—and we hope you are—there’s no better weekend to join in the fray than with Sun Valley’s first Outerbike, from June 21-23, 2019. Outerbike is called “the best bike demo event in the universe,” and combines three days of bike demos, lift passes for Sun Valley Resort’s mountain bike park, lunches, shuttled rides to some of the area’s best trails, and of course, parties.
“Outerbike is all about going somewhere awesome and trying new bikes,” says Montgomery, who helped to bring Outerbike to Sun Valley in partnership with CrankTank and Western Spirit Cycling Adventures. “It’s really helpful to be able to try a bike before you buy it. And there’s no better place to do that than Sun Valley.”
Sun Valley may be spoken of in whispers, but these mountain bike trails are what we are made of. We can’t wait to see you out there.