It’s a long ride to the top of North America’s longest gondola. The roughly 30-minute ride leaves plenty of time to enjoy a snack, work out some stretches, or even finish a beer purchased in the village. Awaiting passengers at the top is a true hidden gem of Northwest riding. Silver Mountain Bike Park is home to a heap of trails with plenty of character and 3,400 feet of descending.
The NW Cup made its first stop here last year during the bike park’s driest season on record. But rivers of moon dust and the smoky haze of a nearby forest fire didn’t scare away the crowds and Silver Mountain was added to the calendar again— albeit as an earlier, well calculated, stop in the season.
With such drastic conditions last year, many headed into the weekend with an eye to the dirt quality, only to be taken off guard by the late-June weather which produced thunderstorms, rain, and even a spell of snow during Friday’s practice. By Saturday morning, conditions were back on track for a glorious weekend of racing.
The mountain has already seen a packed season after hosting the North American Enduro Cup, a moto enduro race, and the NW Cup in back-to-back-to-back weekends. All these proceedings had the mountain operating smoothly and lift lines for the gondola were streamlined with the addition of a new loading system using every shuttle parties' favorite Dakine tailgate pads.
The format at Silver Mountain separates the classes onto two courses. Cat 3/Cat 2 racers competed on Jackass with the addition of a new section through the middle. The dirt was still moist in places, particularly on the freshly cut portion of the trail where mud and the off-camber challenged riders to keep their pace.
Cat I/Pro racers faced off on the chunky tech on Hot Beans as it heads to the perpetually slanted roots and ruts of Frankenbeans. The report came back that the ruts and bomb-holes were just as deep as in the past — but the absent moon dust meant riders could at least see what was coming at them.
With overall points starting to stack up and favorable conditions, the field was shaping up for a fast bout of racing. Luke Strobel and Jaime Rees were each chasing their third win of the season. Kent Billingsley, who worked as trail crew at Silver Mountain a few years back, had his sights on the top spot in his once-upon-a-time home turf. And after his first win during round three, Austin Lancaster was exploring the options for a repeat.
After seedings on Saturday Luke Strobel, Jaime Rees and Damon Sedivy laid down times several seconds ahead of the competition. Following Strobel was a particularly tight group of times from Luke Stevens, Kent Billingsley, Bob Stenson, and Jake Grob each finishing within a .6 second spread. The margins for Pro Women were larger between Kjersti Christensen, Kerstin Holster, and Linnea Rooke. First through fifth for Juniors ended with roughly a nine-second spread with Dylan Brown, Josh Gibb, Austin Lancaster, Sylas Linnemann rounding out the top spots.
Sunday morning followed Saturday's lead with prime conditions that were just the right amount of hot. Racer's were up on the mountain early to bang out as many practice laps as they could. The dirt had dried a little more overnight allowing for an aggressive mix of grip/slide. On the Cat 1/Pro Course, the high sun cast deep shadows on upper Frankenbeans to add to the challenge.
The Juniors stayed pretty true to the top five seedings. Austin Lancaster rose to the top for his second win. Teammates Josh Gibb and Dylan Brown swapped places, Benjamin Van Veen placed fourth, and Damon Sedivy dropped down to fifth. The Pro Women all improved on their times without changing the order — Jaime Reese pressed the home court advantage to sink her third win of the season and set a new course time for Pro Women. Luke Strobel also set a new course time even though his race run was a second off his seeding. Kent Billingsley powered his way into second ahead of Braeden Onciul, Corey Craig, and Luke Stevens.Full Results Here.
After the race, a mass of riders gathered for what's quickly becoming a post-race tradition, descending on the off-piste trails back into town — we can only assume that nursing forties of Pabst Blue Ribbon will become a tradition too. Back down at the village, participants and spectators gathered in the available shade for raffles and to cheer for the podiums at the close of a memorable weekend of racing.
Silver Mountain Bike Park is certainly not the nearest venue of the NW Cup circuit, but it does deliver big. Hope to see you there next year. Up next, the NW Cup returns to Skibowl for round five: July 8-10.Silver Mountain Resort mountain biking trails
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