Bear River Bike Park flying high as grant work wraps up
Steamboat Springs — One adult rider flew through a cool October afternoon Wednesday, showing with big jumps and midair twists just what the new jump lines at Steamboat Springs’ Bear River Bike Park are capable of in the right hands.
With a photographer on hand, it was an opportunity Routt County Riders Vice President Eric Meyer couldn’t pass up, and he ran to his car to grab a bright red Bell Built T-shirt for the rider, perfect to highlight Bell, the company that made the park possible by awarding Steamboat $33,000 to build the newest cycling amenity in Bike Town USA.
Meyer ran right past something easy to miss that demonstrated perhaps even better what Steamboat’s activist cyclists have been saying would happen ever since ideas like the Bear River Bike Park began to coalesce.
With faces that only barely masked their quivering nerves, Steamboat brothers Jett Nemec, 5, and Cael Nemec, 3, began their conquest of the park.
The Nemec brothers started on a small pump track that was built at the park last summer. Time and time again, they spun around the packed dirt course, shouting for their father to watch every lap. Meyer said a counter in the course is registering 200 hits per day, and on Wednesday, the Nemecs did their part.
Then, glancing at the empty but newly completed jump lines, brother Jett got a big idea.
He pushed his bike to the top of the starting area, getting a hand from his mother when his bike bogged down in the patches of mud on his path.
The new elements of the park include three lines, one for beginners, one for intermediate riders and one for experts. They’re all finely crafted “works of art,” as Meyer said. The expert line in particular features soaring peaks waiting to launch riders into the air.
According to Howelsen Hill supervisor Craig Robinson, the facility has been on the city’s radar for about two years since it discovered an unauthorized trail under a row of power lines had sprouted massive expert-level jumps.
Meyer helped lead the charge to apply for the Bell Built grant, and to even his surprise, Steamboat pulled out a narrow victory in the nationwide poll late last winter. Construction began this summer and was facilitated by the International Mountain Bike Association then carried out by IMBA’s Trail Solutions arm and Colorado contractor Flowline Trail Design. Volunteers pitched in plenty of time, as well, and the majority of the work wrapped up last week just before the flakes fell. A few riders still were working on finishing touches Thursday, and trail maintenance will be an ongoing project, one taken on by Routt County Riders, but the course was ready to dazzle.
“The people have been enjoying the features,” Robinson said. “They’re loving it, and it’s a great amenity for Steamboat Springs.”
It was a newly completed berm that Jett pushed his bike onto Wednesday afternoon, confident after laps on the pump track. And on his first run on the beginner course, he soared, catching air as his mouth shifted from grim determination to wide-open thrill to grinning contentment.
“It’s fun,” he decreed.
Cael never has been one to be left behind. He started riding a pedal bike before he was 3 years old in order to keep up with his brother. Soon, he was attacking the jumps himself, without the airtime but with the grin.
Jett, meanwhile, couldn’t take his eyes off the intermediate course and soon was riding that, as well.
As they hiked back atop the berm time and time again, young boys following the park’s progression and learning the sport ride by ride, a jumper in a red shirt flew high above their heads.
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