Living Jackson

Benefits of cycling
Tiny Ski Lift in Texas is not such a bad idea | Spider Mountain Bike Park

Tiny Ski Lift in Texas is not such a bad idea | Spider Mountain Bike Park


Over the summer I participated in a short
film contest called Dirt Diaries, which takes place in Whistler Canada. My entry involved taking my friend Scott mountain
biking for the first time in his life. Having not seen him in well over a decade,
I looked Scott up on Instagram only to find that he was still riding his BMX, just like
we did together in highschool. To make a long story short, I reconnected
with Scott, and he was all too willing to participate in my film. So that Summer we flew to Canada together
to ride downhill in Whistler. Scott was absolutely blown away, first by
the scenery, and then by his new equipment. He even embraced the part where you climb
to earn your descent. But coming from BMX, riding lift served downhill
was the deal sealer. Most of you already know how the story goes. By day three, Scott learned to ride his mountain
bike rather well. In fact Scott was boosting all the jumps on
Aline so hard that, well, he didn’t even need to go fast. My friend mike normally clears these jumps
but couldn’t when following Scott. Scott was hooked on downhill, and at the end
of the week he was gutted to be leaving Whistler. The video we made ended up getting third place
at Dirt Dairies, and Scott and I had a boatload of amazing memories to show for it. But we both knew that it would be a long time
before Scott would get to ride lift served downhill again, as he makes his home Austin
Texas. While Austin has great food, amenities, and
BMX spots, it’s notably devoid of mountains. Even in the hills west of the city, nobody
would ever be dumb enough to build a ski lift. This is the Texas Eagle, the first chair lift
to ever operate in the Lone Star State. It runs from the valley floor to the summit
of spider mountain, a 350 foot hill. Understandably, haters were writing Spider
Mountain’s obituary long before it opened. Where would all the riders come from and who
would travel to Texas Hill Country for a 4 minute descent? Well, opening weekend happened and people
traveled from as far as San Antonio, Dallas, Oklahoma, and even Louisiana to ride there. I traveled from North Carolina because I had
to see this place. Scott somehow ended up one hour from a downhill
park which is closer than Whistler is to Vancouver. I had to come out here and celebrate. The funny part is that it snowed on opening
weekend. The whole selling point of Spider Mountain
is lift served downhill in the winter. While other parks switch to skiing by the
end of fall, Spider’s midday temperatures normally hover around the 60s in February. Austin is also the full package in terms of
destination cities. There’s a big airport, lots of great food,
and even a marshmallow dealership. But a lot of people still have reservations
about Spider’s 350 foot descent. Let me attempt to give you a frame of reference
for how high that is. This is Berm Creek, my backyard, which has
25’ of vertical. It’s over in just a couple of seconds, but
it’s plenty fun. Here’s highland bike park in new Hampshire
at 700 feet. This will give you a nice 10 minute run if
you take your time and stop between trails, and it’s more than enough for the likes
of Skills with Phil. This is Mountain Creek bike park in New Jersey,
with 1000 feet of vertical. That’s almost like putting spider mountain
on top of highland. Stepping way up in vertical is Whistler Mountain
in British Columbia, which from the peak, boasts 4900 feet of vertical descent. But most people don’t go up that high in
fact, you may spend a week in Whistler having never traveled higher than the Fitzsimmons
zone, which has 1200 feet of vertical. That’s where Aline, Crank it up, and all
the jump trails are. So if 1200 feet is more than enough for the
most popular section of a world class downhill park, then 350 feet is enough to have a lot
of fun on. Especially if you live in central Texas. For lift served downhill, residents of Austin,
San Antonio, and Dallas used to to drive 12 hours to Anglefire, which is only open in
the summer. Some also travel to Arkansas, but to those
in the know, there’s always been plenty to ride right here in Texas Hill Country. Reveille Peak ranch is only 10 minutes from
Spider Mountain, and has existed for quite some time. With great dirt, rugged terrain, and not too
shabby scenery, Reveille Peak is as good an option as Spider if you don’t mind pedaling
for it. Locals have scratched everything from singletrack
to jump lines into the hillside here, and the land owners just ask for a waiver and
10 bucks to access all of it. So it was no surprise to me that Hill Country
already had a group of locals who could absolutely shred. Nobody is more excited than Jeremiah, who
has spent years organizing races and trail building initiatives in the area. For him, Spider Mountain is a testament to
how far Austin’s mountain bike scene has come, since the first XC lines were cut in
hill country. And Spider mountain brings to the area a lot
more than just an easy trip to the top of a big hill. On park day you don’t need to eat a light
breakfast, bring a water bottle, or wear a shammy. You don’t need to check your speed in consideration
of other trail users. You don’t need to conserve energy. You just do lap after lap until your bike
breaks or your hands fall off. Bike parks exist to satisfy our need for unadulterated
exhilaration. But there’s also the social aspect of bike
parks. A chair lift is a great place for conversation,
and when you get to the top everyone seems to congregate before dropping in. If you want to bond with your fellow downhill
enthusiasts, the best way to do it is to run a train together—on a trail. This involves riding in recklessly close proximity
while going as fast as you can. It’s a blast, but requires a high degree
of confidence in the riders in front of you. Although the trail options at Spider are currently
limited I never got sick of this hand cut intermediate route to the bottom. In fact, as I learned the lines it only got
better. The advanced trails are mostly tech right
now, with steep off camber sections following the path of least resistance down the hill. And if you’re not careful, some of them
will getcha. Most of these runs were built for enduro races
before the lift was in operation. My friend Eric, from the YouTube channel no
front brakes, has climbed this hill countless times during such events, and has now completed
more runs in one day than he has in his entire life. Scott and I regaled Eric with tales of our
Whistler trip, like Scott’s epic X up to nosedive on the moonbooter. While Spider doesn’t yet have a moonbooter
of its own, it does have some pretty sweet jumps at the bottom, followed by a wide swooping
flow trail which seems to have been cut to build additional jumps on. So at least for now, the Naysayers don’t
have a leg to stand on. Spider had a very successful opening weekend,
and as they build more trail, things can only get better. If this all works out I could see other warm
cities building parks like in their hills. I’m looking at you Atlanta. As for Scott, things seem to be working out
for him rather well. Imagine you ride downhill for the first time
in your life, and only months later they build a bike park near your house. Just from riding the trails around Austin,
Scott had already met a lot of people at the park that weekend, and it seems like now more
than ever, he’ll be getting a lot of use out of his new bike. Being that I’d travel to Austin just for
the food, it’s safe to say I’ll be back next winter to see how things have progressed. To all the builders and riders in hill country,
I’m really really happy for all of you. Thanks for riding with me today, and I’ll
see you next time.

100 comments on “Tiny Ski Lift in Texas is not such a bad idea | Spider Mountain Bike Park

  1. “If you want to bond with your fellow dh enthusiasts the best way to do it is to run a train together”

    Pauseeee. Hahaha

  2. how long a usual run takes in windrock bike park ? Since you told that trails were real steep and you would end up faster than the shuttle would be.

  3. There is no excuse for Atlanta GA to not carve out some awesome bike parks. They have the money and perfect scenery. My home state of Alabama has some awesome trails up here in the Northeast part of the state. And Alabama is broke af.

  4. I just moved to Dallas after living in Austin for almost 3 years and now I see this….needless to say I am wanting to leave flat ole Dallas and head back to Austin.

  5. I live an hour away from this place but I’ve never done something like this before. I’m too worried I’ll injure myself. Seems fun tho!!

  6. Been watching MTB videos recently, thinking that it would awesome to do this. But I live in central Texas. All of a sudden this beautiful video showed up. Woooohooooo!

  7. i live in san antonio and am just getting into mtb are there any good beginner trails in this area i might check out

  8. I just went there!, it was my best friends birthday, I’m 12 he’s 13, and I will upload GoPro footage soon, Happy birthday Atlee!

  9. Soo you say my local downhill which was built by me and my 4 friends is high like whistler,but to get that sweet downhill i need to climb that much on a awful gravel road

  10. Well atlanta aint got a trail but Canton does its called Blankets Creek right where Canton meets Hollysprings. Its mostly blue but there’s one or two black trails. I grew up riding it cause its across the street from my neighborhood.

  11. i watch a channel called achievment hunter / roosterteeth and they are based in austin and they started talking about spider mountain on one of their recent podcasts and how thry really wanted to try mountain biking

  12. When I first started riding in the late 90's we had a place here in San Antonio called 700 Acres which was 700 Acres of Mountain Bike and MXR trails and it was fun!

  13. Glad you made this vid, its great outside the box content. Maybe some cities could take it even one step further and make some MTB locations out of these closed up landfills. Like Boulder proved, you don't need a lot of land to make a crazy good bike park.

  14. Agree with you @Seth’sbikehacks Atlanta needs this. I live in Loganville 40 mikes E of ATL and and after watching your Arkansas video I really wish my town would get moving and build a bike park. We have a few small ones in other counties nearby like Ft Yargo, Harbins Park, Hard Labor Creek and The International Horse park but need one locally.

  15. As a Texan from Dallas im happy MTB picking up here, and especially happy they added this to Austin as i travel to Austin and San Antonio often.

  16. Aug 24, 2019 SURE LOOKS KOOL!! I live north of Dallas and have ok crosscountry trails close by. My house has 4acres and a 8' decline and have mapped out single track / jumps / drop offs/ tree rides and other fun stuff!!!
    It wont be as kool as your back yard nor can I ride as well as you can, and still AN OLD KID CAN DREAM!!!!
    I've ridden MAMMOTH MNTN.downhill park and North Star Lake Tahoe, and just last year Blue Mountain Downhill Park north Toronto Ontario Canada<it was a 2min run and when I saw the cuts in the tree line I laughed and laughed and laughed–with that said I didn't qualify for HAOLE run because the XL size bike I rented was TOO SMALL!! nice bike but too small AND I DORKED THE QUALI JUMPS because I had not ridden in 3 years—EXCUSES EXCUSES! I had fun on regular great trails all day. THEN I HOOKED UP WITH A PRO who didn't say so BUT HE WAS, and at the end of our day HE OFFERED ME HIS LIFT PASS AS A GIFT FOR THE NEXT FEW DAYS!!!! Gosh Canadians are soooo kool!! I declined because 1 day of risking it AND HIS KIND OFFER WERE GOOD ENOUGH!!!!
    THANKZZZZ FOR THE GREAT VIDS
    and the inspiration!!!

  17. Atlanta is too big. Come up to Chattanooga instead. I don't think we have any lift service trails, but we do have some tek

  18. Se I beat that problem when my bmx bikes back tire and rim committed scuicide and I got kids skis on eBay that were twintip for $120 something and built a ski bike so now I do both and blue mountain pa is my local downhill park I oblige it is something like 1600 ft from top lodge to valley lodge and I mean strait down

  19. This whole thing about "you need tall mountains to become a good downhill rider is ridicuouls. Most people start on hometrails that are hardly 1 minute runs.

    I mean lets face it. Gee Atherton, two times UCI Downhill World Champion is from england. The tallest mountain they have is not even 300 meters haha

  20. Seth… next time you’re in Austin take a trip an hour south to San Antonio for the best Mexican/Tex-Mex in the country. You won’t regret it… then run Government canyon or Flat Rock Ranch after lunch… Texas heat permitting.

  21. Atleast you won’t have to deal with mud! That place looks like a ton of fun, nice soil and rocks… although I bet those bushes have thorns lol

  22. Hey man I absolutely love your vids. There are some pretty epic trails in flower Mound Texas by twin coves park. They are right by lake grapevine it’s in the Dallas Fort-worth area. They would probably be super easy for you but there are some pretty challenging parts with some big roots tight turns and narrow paths. There are no lifts are anything like that. Anyways I just thought it might be interesting I really like it because I live pretty close to it and usually go there after school.

  23. Tucson fucking Arizona. Mt Lemmon already has a ski lift and doesn't allow mountain bikes. The average ski season is like 5 weeks. I and every other local with a bike are waiting for the current owner to die and something like this to happen. There's even already a sick double black trail(aspen draw) and some slopes that would make perfect green and blue runs.

  24. I just laughed my ass off at the title. I remember my Dad having a shirt that read 'If GOD intended for Texans to ski, he would've made Bullshit white'.

  25. I got into mountain biking and shortly after found out that I live under an hour away from the biggest downhill park in my state

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *