Last year, MTBparks.com launched the Riders’ Choice Awards with an online survey in an effort to identify the best North American bike parks—according to riders—in their respective regions. The idea was simple enough: rate bike parks according to categories like best flow, best features, best family destination, best for a weekend trip, and so on. The overall results resulted in Top 5 rankings for eight distinct regions, and the goal—or so we thought—was to give passionate riders a chance to make their voices heard for what seemed like a worthy goal of providing valuable feedback to the resorts that were, or maybe weren’t, giving riders the best experience.
This year, while many resorts fiercely defended their rankings, other resorts worked hard to put themselves on the map, and stepped up a notch or two. As we compiled the results of this year’s survey and worked with bike parks across North America to gather information about what made them great, a larger picture began to come into focus.
Whistler Mountain Bike Park, two-time winner in Western Canada, is reshaping signature trails for 2015 to offer progression for all skill levels. | Video courtesy Whistler Mountain Bike Park
We all ride bikes because it’s fun, and those of us that choose bike parks do so because they offer more smiles per mile than just about any other riding option. But the larger implications of these destinations that we rarely consider are the sense of community they provide for riders—this is readily evident in how passionately loyal some voters are to their favorite resorts—and the viable economic impact they have on not only the resorts themselves, but on surrounding cities and towns.
The latter has caused ski resorts—many of which either put mountain biking on the backburner when it comes to allocating resources or haven’t given any credence to spinning lifts in the summer months—to sit up and pay attention as many regions continue to experience record lack of snowfall and dwindling ski pass sales. Mountain biking has the ability to build—and in some dramatic cases—save the mountain communities many of us love, whether we call them home or escape to them one weekend a year.
Mountain bikers are estimated to bring millions of dollars to riding destinations each season, funneling money into the local economies via lift tickets, lodging, beer, food and gas—and that’s still just a fraction of what ski towns bring in during the winter months (when there’s actually snow).
This sank in as I sat sipping a cold pint in a bar in Aspen, arguably the most iconic ski town in North America. Even during a relatively dry ski season, the joint was packed on a Wednesday night. And as I looked at a ski magazine on the wall and the ski passes stuck to the bar, I wondered about the possibilities of the equivalent bike town.
So, dear rider, why should you really care about a silly survey?
Sure, thanks to the survey, you can plan your summer riding trips knowing that this list represents the top bike parks in regions across North America—according to riders like you—who know these parks better than anyone else. Each of these top-rated mountain-bike parks in each region offers something unique. It goes without saying that a top-rated bike park in the Midwest is not going to provide the same experience as one might find in Western Canada, but it will provide you with a great experience and top notch riding in its respective region that's worth checking out.
Highland Mountain Bike Park, a two-time winner in the Northeast, recently celebrated 10 years as the only lift-served dedicated bike park in North America. | Video courtesy Highland Mountain Bike Park
But you are also helping to not only make your voice heard and provide resorts with the valuable feedback needed to improve existing infrastructures, but showing them that mountain bikers are a viable, dedicated base who should not be overlooked. This will only benefit us in having more options to ride for years to come, in places where we know we are welcome, the trails are built just for us and there’s a good chance that the guy next to you at the bar is as passionate about two wheels as you are—places with bike mags on the wall and MTBparks Passes stuck to it.
So, without further ado, we’ll step down from the soapbox and present the best bike parks in North America, as chosen by you, the riders. It is our hope that you’ll use this information to plan your next adventure, whether it’s a summer spent crossing the continent, or a weekend in the local mountains, and raise a glass to towns that celebrate two wheels.
by Don Stefanovich