North American Bike Park Review Tour
Keystone Bike Park
Photos by Dusten LaPointe
Keystone, Colorado, is a mountain and town with lots of history in outdoor recreation, but we came here for the mountain bike park. With 55 miles of lift-accessed trails and steep, technical terrain, this bike park had the crew giddy with excitement as we trucked through the Rocky Mountain State headed south. Keystone has a beautiful village with hotels, dining options, shopping and awesome terrain. Sadly, the bike park suffers from some shortcomings we’ll address below. It is a bummer because Keystone is such a family friendly resort with kid’s activities in the village, on the mountain and a slew of local activities to keep everyone entertained. Furthermore, a short drive from the village and visitors can see beautiful lakes, mountain vistas and take part in just about any form of recreation they’d like. So, without further adieu, let’s see where Keystone stacks up among the rest.
Getting straight to it, let’s talk about the trails that Keystone has to offer. The mountain features mostly advanced terrain. While they do have a green trail, it is probably the only thing beginner riders will enjoy. This is largely due to trail construction, layout, and most importantly, maintenance, or more specifically, the lack thereof. Keystone is a large mountain, so the trails are very long. If you find yourself in over your head on a trail, it’s going to stay that way for a long time.
Starting out with the beginner trails, we quickly realized there isn’t a lot for the truly “green” level rider. One very long trail that graduates riders to some of our favorite tech-blues of the trip. Eye of the Tiger and Mosquito Coast are very fun but definitely above their blue rating in terms of challenge. They are scenic and tight singletracks littered with fun roots, rocks and sharp turns to keep you on your toes when carrying speed. We could have lapped these trails for hours finding new places to gain speed and corner faster. Something we enjoyed very much, but true beginners may not. It’s most definitely a dark blue and leaves a big gap from the long green.
Steep and technical trails are Keystone’s bread and butter, although they are making efforts with their jump lines. It is certainly a challenging mountain, especially in dry summer months as the steep, rocky terrain can get very loose. The trails venture off from the top in a few different directions and will keep you entertained and second guessing your line choices for quite a while.
Black and double black tech trails vary from DH style race tracks to rugged “bet you can’t ride down that” rock chutes that had us Rock, Paper, Scissoring who would go first. The ruggedness of the mountain is also apparent in their signage, which at times is a bit hard to decipher. With only four full time trail crew workers, it’s no guess that a steep and rocky mountain like Keystone is going to have some maintenance issues. There are many areas with deep ruts, blown corners and awkward lines. We realized that Keystone is a bit of a “Local’s Mountain.” If you ride there regularly and it’s your home spot, you’ll probably hold it close to your heart where many of the new school bike park tourists may have a serious acclimation period. It’s definitely a park for riders who enjoy picking lines, rocky terrain and technical moves.
If you don’t live for raw trails, there isn’t a whole lot to offer at Keystone. Keystone’s jump trails like TNT are a miss in our book. Their layout is sub-par, with poor speed management or steep grades that require heavy braking in between jumps. As a result, this trail has the most severe braking holes and bumps of any bike park we visited this summer. Landings would also be strewn with lose rock that had eroded. The other stand out jump trail, Money, was a massive improvement when it came to grade and layout, but huge variations in jump size and steep, awkwardly made lips made the trail difficult and almost dangerous to ride, even for advanced riders. Part of the issue at this park is the small trail crew. While the guys are as hard working as any other park, the team is under 5 people, so maintaining 55 miles of bike park trail is a daunting if not unattainable task. A local stumbled upon our film crew as we were riding and informed us there’s a difference between “trail speed” and “Keystone speed.” For those unfamiliar, trail speed is what most good trails builders use to gauge the distances of jumps, step downs, drops etc. You can exit a turn or approach a feature and if you’re moving at the natural speed of the trail, you’ll be set up for the gap. At Keystone we often found ourselves going off a jump or cannon log only to watch the landing disappear behind us as we held on for a rough, flat landing. Conversely, we’d round corners after hitting several smaller jumps with perfect speed, and then find a lip leading to a jump much too long for the speed we were carrying.