If you quadrupled the lodging rates and invited Gerald Ford to stop by and crash a few times, Washington's Methow Valley could very well qualify as the Vail of mountain biking. It may seem a silly comparison, given that Vail is a posh ski town, the Methow an obscure valley hidden in the eastern shadow of the North Cascades. But families trekking to Methow for a week of mountain biking will find many of the same pleasant hard-play, soft-touch attractions of a well-run ski resort--sans glitz.
The Methow, a not-so-well-kept secret for cross-country skiers, is a mountain-biking family's summertime dream. The valley's sprawling, 175-kilometer cross-country trail system was built with skiers in mind, but it's wide-open all summer for fat tires. For cycling parents, the big draw is accessibility. No need for loading the bikes on a trunk rack in the Methow. Though the trail network--maintained by the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association-- extends throughout much of the upper valley, the lower-valley trails are within easy riding distance of accommodations like the highly regarded Sun Mountain Lodge (cabins, $145-$270; doubles, $140- $235; $18 extra for kids over 12; 800-572-0493), with its own 80 kilometers of trails.
Trail variety is overwhelming, with more than enough to keep even the most determined rider busy for weeks. Families can set out for an hour-long cruise to the Methow River or a three-day, singletrack expedition into the Cascades. Beginner routes lead through the dry pine forests to a series of beaver ponds, picnic sites, and scenic viewpoints. But advanced, gut-buster trails
up Thompson Ridge are only a short ride away. Farther up the valley, a growing string of mountain chalets, riverside B&B's, and country inns, such as the Mazama Ranch House (doubles with kitchenettes, $80; cabins with kitchens, $95; $10 each additional person; kids under 12 free), are found along the Methow--nearly all of them either on or very near the trail network. Bike
rentals ($20-$30 per day, $75-$100 per week), maps, and advice are available at Winthrop Mountain Sports (509-996-2886). For one-stop lodging information, call Methow Valley Central Reservations (509-996-2148).
The tenacious Rea knocked on landowners' doors, asking (sometimes begging) permission to link together a network of trails in this rural county. Remarkably, everyone agreed, and the result is a 240-mile system of mapped trails open to all. The terrain varies from dirt roads to technical singletrack, but the majority of the riding is on grassy doubletrack that's now closed to
all vehicles except two-wheelers. The trails are ideal for children; for the past two years Randolph has been the home of the New England Mountain Biking Festival, a three-day non-competitive event with guided rides for all levels (this year's festival is September 26-28; call 802-484-5737 for information).
Rental bikes ($20 per day) and detailed maps are available from Slab City (802-728-5747). Campers should stay in Silver Lake State Park in nearby Barnard (campsites, $12-$16; call 802-234-9451). Or stay at the Three Stallion Inn, about a mile from Randolph. Located on the Green Mountain Stock Farm, the Three Stallion (doubles, $99; 800-424-5575) has about 33 miles of
singletrack where you'll rarely see another biker.
Deer Valley Resort, Utah
The mountain-bike school at the base of the lift offers instruction and riding tips to all levels of riders, from first-timers to NORBA racers. Rates range from about $25 per hour for a private lesson to about $90 for a half-day group session with up to eight riders. Rentals cost about $25-$35 per day. The lift opens as soon as conditions permit in June and operates Wednesday through Sunday through Labor Day. A full-day pass costs about $14; kids 12 and under are only allowed with a paying adult or a waiver signed by a parent.
Two-bedroom condos at Deer Valley ($155-$260 per night) have full kitchens and sleep four to six. For reservations call 800-424-3337. Park City's Hidden Haven Campground with 35 tent sites is about eight miles away ($13.50-$17.50 per night; call 801-649-8935).
Filed To: Snow Sports