It’s August 6, and I’m climbing Ambush, a cross-country mountain bike trail at Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah. Canyons has built 20 miles of singletrack and five gravity fed trails in the past two years, and I’m here to check it out. My demo bike jumps over rocks and gobbles trail as guide Christie Johnson and I push easy gears from the base area up the flank of Murdock Peak—ascending through low sagebrush to birch forest. Helpful coaching from Christie, who balances her guiding gig with a serious schedule of ultra races (think courses of 50 miles or more), helps me navigate the 1,500-foot climb.
We connect with the Mid-Mountain trail. (On a topo map of the mountains west of Park City, Mid-Mountain snakes for 20 miles along the 8,000-foot contour line.) I smile through sweat and dust, speeding along through wildflower meadows. We climb a northern slope below the Orange Bubble Express lift, pedaling steadily through cool pine forest as Christie explains how Mid-Mountain serves double duty as her commuting route and a favorite ride with her teenage son. We top out near Alpine Lake, a snowmaking reservoir dotted with paddleboats, then zip down to Red Pine Lodge to catch the gondola back to the base so we don’t keep friends waiting for lunch.
At the base, the Red Tail Grill serves up fish tacos, energizing me for a tour of the gravity fed downhill bike park above Red Pine Lodge. I load the gondola and then the High Meadow quad, easing into the downhill flow on Flying Salmon. (The green circle signage makes it easy for this longtime skier, but new mountain biker, to understand trail difficulty.) The trails are all designed to minimize braking and maximize flow. Anybody with basic mountain bike skills can navigate the easier descents. I take a few thrilling laps, working up to harder lines on bermed corners and mustering the courage for the low-key log jump at the end. —Olivia Dwyer
If you go: Canyons offers a full fleet of downhill and cross-country mountain bike rentals, plus Bike Academy 101 and 201 classes for first-timers. No visit is complete without an après margarita on the Red Tail Grill’s deck. Visit the Wednesday farmers market after a ride, or check out the Friday Night Beats & BBQ or Saturday Summer Concerts for free music after a day on the trail. canyonsresort.com