PARK CITY – The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) announced this spring that it has designated Park City, Utah as the first Gold Ride Center. Park City also just received a Silver Level Bike Friendly Community award from the League of American Bicyclists. In making the proclamation, IMBA Regional Director Ryan Schutz noted, “We're awarding our highest designation to this amazing mountain bike destination. No location better exemplifies the Ride Center ideal of offering great options for any level of rider and any style of riding.”
How did Park City become a Gold-level Ride Center? According to Rich Cook, IMBA’s Director of Development, “It all stems from a commitment to master planning. The sheer number of miles of trails is fantastic – there are more than 400! – but what's really important is that they function as a cohesive network, with signage and trail connections that create an enormously rich mountain bike experience.”
In making the announcemen, Mark Eller, director of communications for the industry’s signature organization commented, “At the heart of it all, the Mountain Trails Foundation pulls mountain bikers into a true mountain bike community and keeps them energized with new trail projects, and by enlisting the support of the resorts and other local businesses. It all works together at Park City, and that's what's pushed them to being the gold standard.”
In 2008, IMBA held their World Summit mountain biking conference in Park City. Since then, the wheels have been turning on IMBA’s Ride Center program and on the idea that Park City is an exemplary mountain biking destination. IMBA is the organization that designates trails like Park City’s Mid-Mountain Trail as one of the world’s “Epic” rides, and the Ride Center program offers the equivalent endorsement on a much broader scale.
In addition to their advocacy efforts around the world, the International Mountain Biking Association supports dedicated trail building crews that travel across the country each summer. IMBA’s trails crews work with local organizations to teach them how to build sustainable trails and spend time meeting with groups such as local U.S. Forest Service representatives and land owners to discuss land access issues.
Charlie Sturgis, executive director of Mountain Trails Foundation accepted the IMBA award as the sponsoring organization that worked with IMBA to make sure Park City met all the requirements of the Ride Center Program. “This has been in the works for a couple years, and like most things in Park City, it was a group effort,” explained Sturgis. “Along with a few other people, Scott House with White Pine Touring deserves special mention for getting the ball rolling on this project and for helping to bring this to conclusion. After two years of leg work, we were able to fill in the criteria sheets requested from IMBA. We’ve been told we received 96 out of a possible 100 points, and while there are other Ride Centers, we’re the first venue to be rated high enough to be Gold Level. This level of achievement couldn’t happen without tremendous contributions from Park City, Snyderville Basin Recreation District, and lots of others.”
IMBA ranks locations for possible Ride Center status based on a comprehensive range of criteria including everything from the number of miles of various types of trails to the types and quantities of lodging and restaurants in the area. Not only do they want to know if there are pump tracks and lift serviced riding in town, they also ask about trail head facilities, activities for after the ride, and even if there’s a brew pub in town.
Jonathan Weidenhamer, Park City’s economic development director commented, “Being the first IMBA Gold Ride Center destination is a tremendous honor, and it’s the kind of thing that will bring more summer and fall visitors to Park City. Steps that we’ve taken as a community like opening this tunnel for safely walking and biking around town contribute to this being such a bike friendly place.”
One of the benefits of being designated as a Ride Center by IMBA is that mountain bikers looking for the best locations in the world for biking adventures will be able to see Park City’s leading Ride Center status right on the IMBA website. They will even be able to click through and book biking vacations in Park City on the site making IMBA’s Gold Ride Center designation meaningful for local businesses.
Mike Goar, Managing Director for Canyons Resort commented about the growing interest in mountain biking his resort is seeing, “This summer marked the opening of the first phase of a bike park located at the Red Pine Mountain Adventure Area. Response to the three new gravity-focused trails was unbelievable. Some weekends the excitement felt like a powder day, and we’re looking forward to that growing next year.”
Rhonda Sideris of Park City Lodging, Inc. noted the potential for increased summer visitors and lodging business. “I see no reason why we shouldn’t pursue lift and lodging packages in the summer just like we already have in the winter,” explained Sideris. “It turns out that overall mountain bikers have a much higher demographic profile than our typical summer visitor, and in fact rival the demographic of most of our winter visitors. The IMBA designation gives us bragging rights similar to our ski resorts’ winter rankings. We’re the only Gold level Ride Center in the world so far, and it seems we should get a jump on the competition as a mountain biking travel destination.”
As head of Mountain Trails, Sturgis agreed the IMBA designation was a point of civic pride and offered the opportunity for more summer and fall business in town, but he pointed out that there was another valuable consideration. “Perhaps one of the things that I’m proudest of with regard to the Gold Ride Center designation is that we will be working with IMBA as the standard bearer for their program. We’ve agreed to host other communities that want to become Ride Centers. We’ll show them what we’ve done and introduce them to people in town who help coordinate all the various aspects that support mountain biking here so they can see how to further biking in their communities. We’ll also be speaking at IMBA conferences across the country and potentially around the world to help further the sport. It’s kind of a cool place to be in, and we’re proud on behalf of the whole community,” noted Sturgis.