Ski resorts building summer business with mountain biking

KING 5's Jesse Knutson reports.

STEVENS, Wash. – With an El Nino year forecasted for this winter, many in the ski industry are unsure what the ski season will look like.

With previous ski seasons yielding less snow than normal, some ski resorts are extending their business by introducing warm weather activities.

Stevens Pass is most well known for their winter activities, but for the past four summers, the slopes have been hopping.

In 2011, Stevens Pass introduced a downhill bike course, taking inspiration from Whistler in British Columbia.

"It's only grown and gotten better throughout the years," said Daniel Rohrbach, a biker originally from Leavenworth.

Rohrbach visited Stevens Pass often growing up, but he says he's never been more excited about the slopes as he is now.

According to Stevens Pass, they've seen about a 20% increase in summer visitors each year for the past four years.

"Not only is it good business to have year around income potential, but it's great for our guests," said Stevens Pass Creative Services and Brand Manager Julian B. Tracy. "We have a really loyal following here in the winter, and it's great to give them a summer option."

According to the mountain resort, the creation of the bike park at Stevens Pass was never a result of a declining snow business, which sees about 400,000 visitors each winter, but simply a way to diversify the activities offered.

According to Stevens Pass, the mountain resort along Highway 2 is the only large mountain resort in Washington to offer summer programs of this magnitude.

"I do think it's a good idea for resorts in general to diversify their options," Tracy explained. "We did have a down year last year, so it certainly is nice to have that extra source of business."

The biking season at Stevens Pass lasts from June until October, and during that time the resort will see more than 10,000 visitors.

While the amount of summer visitors may not rival the numbers the resort sees in the winter, Stevens Pass says it's all about the services they provide to their customers.

"Having a bad snow season really brought the mood down," Rohrbach said. "But to have a longer, extended bike season up here kind of makes up for it."

Bikers are able to rent gear from the lodge just as you would with skis, and when bikers unload the chairlift and hit the slopes, they have everything from the bunny slopes to black diamonds to choose from.

"You're just shredding the brown powder in the summertime, that's really the main difference," Rohrbach explained. "Instead of being on one plank or two planks, you're on two wheels and you're going really fast."

Stevens Pass is open to bikers and hikers Friday through Sunday during the summer from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Lift tickets cost $35 per biker.


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