In addition to their deadly speed, downhill mountain bike parks and courses are often marvels of physics and engineering: racers moving at the right speed will clear narrow jumps that send them whizzing by tree limbs, or they will stay high on steeply banked walls, allowing them to turn a treacherous corner. With the mixture of top-level riding, and creative architecture, these parks and courses turn wooded mountainsides into works of dangerously beautiful art. As the sport of downhill mountain biking gains steam, resorts everywhere are opening their lifts and trails to downhill riders in the snow-free months and building incredible structures, and the occasional freestyle park. We’ve showed you some of the best places to mountain bike, now check out these top downhill mountain biking parks and courses.
Whistler Mountain Bike Park
British Columbia is a downhill mountain bikers dream. The lush and rugged terrain has it all: steep and exposed mountainsides as well as the rocks and trees that make for excellent obstacles to whiz past. The trails at the Whistler Mountain Bike Park pull together all those elements, and add the convenience of a network of ski lifts that allow riders to take on some of the park’s most vertical runs. The park has 3,400-feet of downhill trails, ranging from beginner friendly tracks to ultra-narrow, experts-only single track that winds improbably through the mind-blowing mountainscape. In addition to the thousands of feet of downhill tracks, Whistler offers an indoor freestyle park with a massive foam pit and obstacles galore for mountain bikers of every stripe.
Fernie Alpine Resort
Like Whistler Mountain Bike Park, Fernie Alpine Resort has so many of the ingredients that make downhill mountain biking in British Columbia one of the best locations in the world. Located outside of Calgary, near the Montana border, Fernie has trails that descend through alpine grasslands into thick forests that blanket steep mountainsides. While winding through dense groves of trees, the trails navigate technical wooden ramps, rock obstacles and tight turns.
Kuranda Downhill in Cairns
On the whole, Australia is a pretty flat continent. The mountain biking scene, however, makes the most of what mountains and hills are found there, and it has produced some of the best downhill mountain bike trails anywhere. For experts and noobies alike, Kuranda Downhill in Cairns, Queensland, is among the premier destinations in the world. Aside from the killer terrain, this track is accessed by plenty of roads. In places without resort-style lifts, accessing the trails can be a problem. But Kuranda offers easy access to vehicles, meaning more runs, more vertical feet of riding, more fun.
Mount Stromlo Australia
This downhill course, located near Canberra, Australia, also makes the best of Australia’s moderately hilly terrain. Because of the arid climate, the tracks cover a lot of semi-open ground with few trees, so riders aren’t required to slow down for tight, technical sections. Free to haul over the dusty landscape, the riders can take the terrain at higher speeds. In addition to the single-track trails, this spot offers man-made wallrides and ramps, as well as dirt jump sections to hone downhill riders’ freestyle technique.
Sun Peaks in Kamloops, BC
Ahh, yes, British Columbia. Yet another of the best downhill courses lurks in this mountain bike-friendly province of Canada. This time, it’s at Sun Peaks Resort, a few hundred miles northeast of Vancouver. As usual, British Columbia’s lush forests and unending mountains hold thousands of vertical feet of incredible trails: 2,000 vertical feet to be exact. Sun Peaks is not as big as Whistler, but has many of the same obstacles that have made it world famous: roots, rocks, drops and tight turns. Riders can weave among wildflowers, and as is becoming standard at the best downhill parks in the world, they can ride lifts up the mountains. Just watch out for the numerous black bears.
Killington Mountain Bike Park
Vermont’s Green Mountains aren’t very big, but they are packed with superior mountain biking opportunities. None is better than the 45 miles of lift-served trails at Killington Ski Resort. The smallish mountains host 1,700 vertical feet of downhill trails for mountain bikes. It’s the best of the New England landscape: dense stands of trees, roots rocks and cliffs, and narrow gullies. The resort has single track as well as backcountry roads. It doesn’t hurt that the steep mountain bike park is accessed by the resort’s gondola.
As Colorado’s heavyweight of skiing and snowboarding, Snowmass is prime territory for a mind-blowing mountain bike park. Gondola’s, lifts, 50 miles of beginner and expert terrain – this resort has it all. Beyond the natural Rocky Mountain terrain, Snowmass has created tabletops and a host of elaborate wooden ramps to add to the 1,400 vertical feet of riding, lost over 2-and-a-half miles.