By Bill Roland –
The first annual TrailFest was held at the Ogden Amphitheater just off 25th Street on a glorious Saturday, June 24th. Hundreds of bicycle enthusiasts gathered to visit a wide variety of booths, mix with each other and help celebrate the completion of the Centennial Trail. Cycling Utah had the opportunity to visit with a handful of people who had a significant responsibility of making some major improvements in all phases of cycling throughout Weber County.
Ben Chournos, the owner of Shiftworks Bike Shop and the designer of most of the trails at the popular Ogden Bike Park, has been a tremendous influence on the growth of all areas of bicycling the last four years. Nathan and Kenzie Silberman are part of a committee who operate the Ogden Bike Park while working with the City of Ogden, the parks and recreation department along with the Ogden Trails Committee. One of the key members of the Weber Pathways Board of Directors is Greg Scothern, who is also on the coaching staff of the Ogden High School Mountain Bike Team. Greg’s wife Jenny is associated with GOAL (Get Out And Live), a Foundation founded for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, designed to recruit volunteers. Ogden Trails Network is a non-profit organization and was represented at the TrailFest by Sunny Hayes. Carla Taylor is an avid mountain bike racer who has worked with Ben Chournos in the development of the Intermediate Mountain Bike Camps, a popular learning source for boys and girls in the intermediate category. These highly qualified mountain bike specialists were kind enough to give this reporter an insight into all-around biking in the Ogden and surrounding area.
Ogden Bike Park
Cycling Utah: Nathan, you have been a significant reason why the Ogden Bike Park has grown the last four years. What has been the attraction for mountain bike riders?
Nathan Silberman: I think the attention to detail and the progressive nature of the park is what attracts a lot of riders to the Ogden Bike Park. There is really nothing comparable to the bike park style trails that we have unless you go all the way to Salt Lake or Park City. Our park is located right on the bench, less than 10 minutes from the Ogden City Offices, making it easily accessible for all. We also maintain the trails every year, especially in the spring and fall. We’ve got good soil that drains fast and stays packed in the summer. We actually get out push brooms and sweep the trails to make them smooth every couple of weeks! The increase of people getting into mountain biking can be seen just by looking at the growth of the local mountain bike teams. For example, Ogden High School had over 150 students on the team. I heard it got to the point that if you missed a practice; you were cut from the team! We at Ogden Bike Park use Facebook to promote things like trail building days and other family friendly events.
Cycling Utah: How are the trails designed so that riders of different levels ride on the trails designed for their ability?
Nathan Silberman: The rating system is just like a ski resort. The green circle designates the easier trails. Those include small obstacles and the basic terrain. Then riders move up to the blue squares, which is intermediate terrain where there are more jumps (no gaps) and they’re a little more aggressive, a little faster. Next, we have the black diamonds where you start to get into technical terrain where handling is more difficult. Riders will find gap jumps that are more technical. We also have double black diamond trails, which is the most difficult terrain you can find. This includes large gaps, drops up to ten feet, and jumps up to 30 and 40 feet. The hardest designed are high-speed trail settings, and we have a few of those in our bike park that we have been working on the last few years.
Cycling Utah: Kenzie and Nathan, has there been an impact on girls taking up the sport of mountain biking?
Kenzie Silberman: Oh yes, many girls learn by riding together. They watch and listen to their friends and before long all of them improve their skills. Actually, there are a lot of clubs and associations with many women riders. As the bicycling community continues to grow, there is a fair share of girls that take up the sport. I know it is a male-dominated sport for the most part but over the last few years there has been a lot of women getting to the pro level, as well as expert and intermediate levels in mountain biking.
Nathan Silberman: We’ve had quite a few female groups come in at the Bike Park and use the park and learn the jumping skills and progress without having to go out and do a big gap jump or something that is too dangerous right off the bat. We offer that progression level so you see where professional riders are using our trails to train themselves for a World Cup or national championship races.
Tips for New Riders at the Ogden Bike Park
Cycling Utah: What are some of the training tips that you pass on to riders that have helped them the most?
Kenzie Silberman: I would say just get on the green trails; it’s a great place to start. I also would start on flat pavement, like the street or a parking lot. Stand in “an attack position” with your feet on the pedals, your elbows bent, standing up over the center of your bike. Pedal around moving your body side to side while your core is upright. That simulates the cornering technique and what we call the bike-body separation. That provides more traction in the dirt when you are going around corners. When you are going down steeper terrain, you think about putting your rear-end over the rear tire. That will make you feel more comfortable on steeper descents. But I think the green line is a great place to start and I always encourage people to try the blue line even on their first day. The blue line is incredibly fun and everybody enjoys that once they get more comfortable. There are a lot of great people up at the park so that if you have questions about technique or the terrain itself, just ask and people will give any advice they can.”
Cycling Utah: Good stuff Kenzie. Do you have any other advice for riders unfamiliar with the Bike Park?
Kenzie Silberman: Always wear a helmet at the Ogden Bike Park. There is no unauthorized trail building allowed, for obvious reasons. We expect all riders to respect the terrain. It’s a special place here in Ogden and we want to make it last as long as possible. The land is leased to us from an outside company, so we want to keep it as nice as possible. I would say the Ogden Bike Park is offers everything to anybody who wants to learn how to ride a mountain bike. We have every single kind of terrain you could possible think of from beginner to those with much experience. We’ve had riders from three-year olds on Strider Bikes to people in there 70’s. We have the variety of terrain that will teach you how to progress. For example, we had a member who just started riding about four years ago. He didn’t know how to jump a bike at all. He was very timid at that time. Now, at 44, he can jump a 30-foot table gap. Trust me, there is the possibility for everyone to learn more skills.
More on the Ogden Bike Park
Cycling Utah: Where do most of the riders at the Ogden Bike Park come from? Are they local or do you draw from the entire Wasatch Front?
Nathan Silberman: We have riders from the entire Wasatch Front. Our only direct competition for bike park trails, in terms or jumps and features, is Salt Lake and Park City. There is not much between Salt Lake and Ogden in terms of a bike park and trails. You have a little bit on the Bonneville Shoreline and in Bountiful but I would say we are on par with what Salt Lake is doing. Park City has the lift access regarding the resorts but we are starting to see that in Ogden. Nordic Valley, Snowbasin and Powder Mountain are starting to do lift operations. The sport is getting bigger and bigger.
Cycling Utah: For those unfamiliar with the lay of the land here in Ogden, where is the Bike Park located?
Kenzie Silberman: Very easy to find. Take 12th Street all the way to Harrison, and then take Harrison to Ninth Street. It’s at the top of Ninth St. and Ogden on the east bench. There is a parking lot at the top at Ninth St. and another lot at the bottom at 1350 South. These areas will give you access to the entire park and there are maps at the top and the bottom.
TrailFest and an Overview of Trails in Ogden
Cycling Utah: Greg Scothern, I know you are a member of the Board of Directors for the Weber Pathways. Tell us about biking in Weber County and how it has made such an impact in the community?
Greg Scothern: Yes, I am an ad-hoc member of the Weber Pathways Board of Directors. Weber Pathways is the leading non-profit trail building organization in northern Utah, primarily Weber County.
We are here today to celebrate a pretty big milestone for our trail network. It extends throughout Weber County and we are celebrating the completion of the Centennial Trail. It is the combination of the Ogden River Parkway, the Weber River Parkway, and the Bonneville Shoreline Trail along the east bench. This was a project envisioned 30 years ago by a group of people who wanted to do something specific for the Utah Centennial. They dreamt up this idea of completing a circumnavigational trail loop throughout the entire community. It was an important focus for people in the community who were trails oriented and we had a few champions, Jay Hudson being one of the main people in that group. He stayed in front of local governments to make sure things happened with the trail network. We recently completed a tunnel underneath Skyline Drive on a very busy intersection in South Ogden and the county completed a key road connection. It now completes a 27-mile loop with very few road crossings. There are a couple of places that you go on the road but it is a designated bike route. A little over half of it is paved and you have 6-8 miles of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail included. It’s a great loop and you can go out and cruise for 3-4 hours. It probably has about 1,400 feet elevation gain on the 27-mile route and it’s doable for most people.
Cycling Utah: What made this TrailFest celebration happen and how are the bike trails financed?
Greg Scothern: It’s really exciting. This is our First Annual TrailFest. We wanted to do something to engage the public for four years now. We have done fundraisers and auctions for trail projects but people have trouble paying for the operational funds to keep things going. Most people assume the government finances the production and maintenance of the trails. General fund tax money does not pay for a single foot of trail in Weber County. Funding for trails is all through private donations and pass through. We are fortunate to have a RAMP tax where a lot of the funding comes from a 1/10% sales tax. But that funding is limited each year and requires matching funding from the community to back up those grants. We are fortunate to have a community that is very supportive. A typical paved trail can cost as much as $35-40 a foot to build. We just completed a section of the Pineview Loop Pathway that had very challenging engineering and design issues. It was a quarter mile stretch and it cost $130,000 to get built. It was worth it because it links the two communities of Huntsville and Eden. Natural surface trails, easy digging, natural soil, can be as cheap as $3 a foot but most trails cost somewhere between $8-15 a foot for natural surface trails. We raise the funds, then we partner with the Forest Service, Weber County and other government agencies to make the projects happen. Quite frankly, we are in the business of getting the trails done.
Cycling Utah: What form of exposure do you use to get the word out about the bike trails?
Greg Scothern: The most effective means of exposure has been Facebook and Instagram. We push those pretty hard. We also send out a quarterly newsletter to all our friends and supporters. We create events like TrailFest here, and we produce about 20,000 trail maps annually. The maps are our number one touch with the public. We produce new maps every year because each year we have made additions to the trails. Riders can download the maps on their phone, and easily locate the trails. These maps are available at all the bike shops as well as outdoors gear shops, hotels and many of the restaurants on 25th Street. They are great resource for information on where people can enjoy riding.
We partnered with Weber County to produce high quality GIS data for all the trails. These link to our electronic version of our maps that riders can download. Download an app called ArcGIS and scan the QR code on the printed map to load the information into the app. That will provide all the information they need: the elevation, the surface, even issues on the trail. It’s a great resource.
Cycling Utah: What are the primary safety issues that you promote?
Greg Scothern: We advocate very heavily for trail etiquette. We explain the proper etiquette to yield to different users of the trails. The majority of our trails are multi-use and we want to keep it that way. The biggest safety issue we promote is reminding people to use their bells on bikes and not to wear ear buds while running, because those with earbuds often cannot hear a biker approaching even if they are ringing a bell. And of course, there is a conflict on trails with those riding horses, but there doesn’t have to be. The mountain bike community has really embraced being courteous. Lately, I have received a lot of feedback from those on horses that the mountain bike community has been paying more attention to doing the right thing.
High School Mountain Biking
Cycling Utah: Tell us about your role in coaching mountain bike riding at the high school level?
Greg Scothern: I am an assistant coach at the Ogden High School mountain bike team. NICA (National Intercollegiate Cycling Association) has done brilliant things to keep kids on bikes. We constantly hammer to the kids to be responsible and make sure you are representing your team and yourself properly. We have this constant influx of kids on trails and there are a lot more kids riding each year. And who could argue with that? But if they’re not safe, they are creating problems on the trails. The message is that you cannot under estimate the importance of safety while you are riding. Such as: spilt up into smaller groups, always yield, and always err on the side of courtesy. Whether someone is riding a bike, walking, hiking, running or a horseman—we all have to get along on the trails.
Cycling Utah: Jenny Scothern, you are affiliated with GOAL. How does that organization enhance cycling?
Jenny Scothern: GOAL (Get Out And Live) Foundation was initiated around the Winter Olympics. It was organized to recruit volunteers for the 2002 Games. It was so successful, it was decided to just keep GOAL going. We like to bring outdoor recreational events to the Ogden area and we provide all the volunteer support for those. We are a 501C3 (non-profit) organization for anything the City of Ogden needs regarding volunteer work. Regarding the sport of cycling, we have supported the USA Collegiate Cycling events, the Tour of Utah, the Master Cycling Events and the Fat Bike races up at Snowbasin. We are contracted by the City of Ogden to produce the Ogden Marathon. For that event alone, we are known for our volunteer support. Annually, there are approximately 1,200 volunteers for the marathon and we have 8,000—9,000 runners each year.
Cycling Utah: What are your primary tasks concerning teaching youngsters and bike camps?
Jenny Scothern: This is our fifth year of GOAL Foundation Mountain Bike Camps. We teach kids from the 3rd grade to the 6th grade — start with beginner mountain bike section and progress to the intermediate level. Many schools in Ogden, Morgan City, and Bonneville have mountain bike teams. At our camps, they are taught with the spirit of NICA. We begin with skills training on pavement, cornering, braking, and shifting. Following that, they go over wood planks. All of that is done before we ever go onto the trails. We use the lower Bonneville Shoreline and the Rainbow Gardens area. The intermediate kids go to the River Bottoms, which is close to Riverdale. We also utilize the Bike Park. Having won the contract has helped us grow the programs. We think the cycling community is amazing and we want to get more kids on bikes and support the high end cycling events.
Ogden Trails Network
Cycling Utah: Sunny Hayes, you are with the Ogden Trails Network. Could you tell us more about the Network?
Sunny Hayes: The Ogden Trail Network is a non-profit organization that falls under Ogden City. The committee members must fill out an application that is approved by the Mayor. There is a lot of talent on this committee: from engineers to the U.S. Forest Service. We basically take care of a lot of bike trails. We are responsible to work with the city and the volunteers. We maintain the trails in Ogden City and we also partner with the Weber Pathways, which has to do with the countywide level.
As others have mentioned, the best way riders can help us is to use a bell, so hikers and others on the trails will know they are coming, All riders must stay on the trails, so they don’t make their own switchbacks. Basically, we expect them to enjoy the trails and leave no trace. We would like to build more trails but we are happy to maintain the ones that we have and connect to other trails. Presently, there are 266 miles of maintained trails and 36 miles of paved trails in Weber County.
Ben Chournos and Ogden Cycling
Cycling Utah: Carla, you are an avid bike rider in the community as well as an instructor with the bike camps. You work directly with Ben Chournos. Tell us about the impact he has made on cycling in the Ogden community?
Carla Taylor: Ben is the owner of Shiftworks Bike Shop here in Ogden, but he helped start the Intermediate Mountain Bike Camps. We were able to take the students to the Bike Park, which Ben helped develop. He has taught the first two years of our intermediate mountain bike classes. He loves to work with bikes, kids, and has volunteered his time. Ben will do an awesome job on any repair work. No matter what kind of bike you have, whether it is new, a clunker out of the shed, he will fix it. If he says it’s safe and fixed properly, than it is just that. He’s the best in the west when it comes to being a bike mechanic. He’s really about customer service. To the bike community, he is very well known and respected. We are happy to know that Ogden is a great community for bicycling.