ALTA, WY – Grand Targhee Bike Park opens its newest downhill trail this Saturday, July 11, a signature black-diamond run called 'Rock Garden.' The brand new trail is the first to be built to the left (riders' right) from the top of the Dreamcatcher chairlift, and is the steepest run on the mountain dropping more than 1,800 feet of elevation over the course of two miles.
"There is not a lot of riding in the area that demands a full on downhill bike, but this trail does," said Harlan Hottenstein, head trailbuilder at Grand Targhee Resort. "An added bonus is that a lot of the trail can be seen from the chairlift, so it will be good entertainment for the scenic tourists as well."
We are briefed by the trail crew somewhere on upper Rock Garden. Lance Canfield photo.
The trail begins with a loose, high-speed, white-knuckle section before pitching riders down some technical roll-ins, drops and—of course—rock gardens, with a few more fast off-camber sections before hitting a series of tabletops and stepdowns—12 machine excavated features in total.
We sampled the trail, unfinished at the time, during opening weekend earlier this year, but already the run was a highlight of our visit. While we savored the rare treat of fresh tracks on a brand new trail, once some sections have been ridden in and the jumps finished, we can only imagine how much better it will be.
An excavator sits atop a large table, still a work in progress. Don Stefanovich photo.
Hottenstein and his crew were about halfway through the jumps while we were there, and told MTBparks recently that beyond the wide-open flow sections, the trail finishes similar to how it starts—on a technical note.
It's been his focus for most of 2015, and light spring snowpack allowed the trail crew to get an early start.
Hottenstein, who cut his trailbuilding teeth as one of the founding memebers of the Teton Freedom riders building the now legendary trails off Teton Pass nearly two decades ago, has already made his mark in the Grand Targhee Bike Park on machine-built flow trails such as Bullwinkle, Chutes N Ladders and Otter Slide.
A member of the trail crew engages in some product testing and quality control. Don Stefanovich photo.
Hottenstein laughs when asked for his philosophy on trail building and how he's incorporated it into the Rock Garden trail, saying that the word philosophy is perhaps "too poetic."
"I just get them moving fast, in the air, and back down again without injuring them," he quips.
Rock Garden is the first expert trail he has built at Grand Targhee, but certainly not the last.
While it's too early to give details, other top-to-bottom runs are planned for 2016.
Other additions this season include new jumps and features near the base area as well as Pinball, a beginner skills park. Action Jackson, a new cross-country trail named in honor of the late AJ Linnell, local athlete, mountain bike racer and ski guide, will also open in 2015.
by Don Stefanovich