Zach Miller looks out over what will soon be Bailey Mountain Bike Park. | Photo courtesy Bailey Mountain Bike Park
MARS HILL, NC – Bailey Mountain Bike Park has announced it will open this summer as the first year-round resort dedicated entirely to downhill mountain biking in the United States. Plans for the resort include more than 30 trails, a lighted dual-slalom track for night riding, a chairlift, residential lots for sale within the property and onsite camping and rental cabins in addition to a full retail shop and concessions.
An RSVP-only soft opening with three to five completed trails and shuttle access is planned for mid-May followed by a full grand opening in June.
“If we had excellent riding, we knew that people would want to come out and do this,” Guy Miller, owner and CEO, told MTBparks. “It really is an amazing piece of land.”
He says that the terrain and location were critical in bringing this project to fruition, and Bailey Mountain checked all the boxes when it came to elevation, acreage and close proximity to Asheville and easy interstate access to other nearby urban centers.
The idea materialized as Miller, a destination marketing executive in the travel industry, walked the ProGRT downhill course last year in Port Angeles, WA, with soon-to-be partner and owner of Ashville’s Billy Goat Bikes, Matt Haynes.
“We were talking about the need for a really good downhill park option in the Southeast,” said Miller. “Dreaming out loud, we both said that if we could find a piece of land that had great natural features for us to have world-class riding below the snowline with easy access from the major interstates and a strong local day-use market, we might have something.”
Several months later, this time while riding at Angel Fire Bike Park in Northern New Mexico, they outlined the search criteria. “Above all, we said great riding was number 1,” said Miller.
Bailey Mountain Bike Park's trails will be etched into more than 1,000 vertical feet dropping from its 4,026-foot summit, all of it below snow line. | Photo courtesy Bailey Mountain Bike Park
After looking at several options, it was the more than 1,000 feet of vertical drop from Bailey Mountain’s 4,026-foot summit that sealed the deal. Having an existing access road to the top as it was previously eyed for residential development was a bonus.
“My son Zach was really the inspiration for me to pull this trigger,” said Miller. “Zach is the one who found mountain biking and downhill. His passion introduced us to an amazing group of people, a great community of fellow racers and parents, and just nice people. My desire in pulling the trigger was based on giving back to the bike community that had given so much to Zach and to us as a family.”
It wasn’t long before Miller and Haynes secured funding through the Natural Capital Investment Fund—a “green business” lender with an eye on conservation and sustainable eco-tourism—and were able to begin work.
Miller and Haynes enlisted the help of locally famed trailbuilder and racer, Christopher Herndon. Known for his work on trails and USA Cycling downhill race courses at Beech Mountain, Herndon was eager to put his mark on the riding experience at Bailey, according to Miller.
“They are ripping it up as we speak,” said Miller, referring to the ground he says is “...wonderful, moldable dirt—not clay. Loam. Great soil.”
The first machine-built trail—an excavated flow and jump line—is currently underway. A handbuilt double-black diamond trail, which Miller says may be off limits during the soft launch, is already mostly complete. The rest of the trails to be built initially will likely be a mix of blues and blacks. A chairlift is part of the master plan, but riders will initially be shuttled to the top.
Zach Miller rolls along the ridge on Bailey Mountain that will eventually branch off into residential housing lots. | Photo courtesy Bailey Mountain Bike Park
Miller says that while it is a well-funded commercial venture that will be professionally executed, it will feel like a mom-and-pop operation in terms of the personal touch and attention to the rider experience. This is a point he and Haynes are adamant about after visiting other east coast bike parks where they felt that wasn’t a focus of the summer staff and mountain biking took a back seat to ski operations."Our facility revolves around riders,” said Haynes in the press release. “Our goal is to make the riding venue second to none."
That means many more route options than anything else in the region, according to Miller. He points to Whistler as an example, where riders can link endless combinations of different trails—something he says is missing among resorts in the Southeast with limited trail options. And with plans for more than 30 trails, there should be options aplenty.
Miller also maintains that operating across the calendar will mean trails and features are constantly maintained and improved upon versus being torn down or neglected for the winter.
The goals are lofty for a mountain that began life with no real infrastructure to speak of, but certainly not unattainable according to Miller. And if things go according to plan, Bailey Mountain Bike Park could potentially set a new precedent for year-round riding as a viable commercial resort model in North America.
“I have a huge amount of respect for people like Matt Haynes and his ability to build this thing out,” said Miller. “And guys like Christopher Herndon who are like mentors to me with their skill and experience. Working with great like-minded people, who are deeply talented and passionate, focused on such a positive goal, I really feel that we are well positioned for success.”
For more information and to RSVP for the soft opening, visit BaileyMountainWNC.com.
by Don Stefanovich