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  • Writer's pictureRandy Martin

Why Build Trails at Ski Resorts?

Skiers and snowboarders, as you may know, flock to the snow in the winter. Housing, shops, restaurants, and so on have all been built and are ready to serve those clients. But what happens when there isn't any snow?

Trail Build at Sugar Bowl

There are a few things that people do in the mountains, with trails being by far the most popular. Bicycling, hiking, and running are examples. Trails are the most requested amenity. However, if the ski area relies on existing trails and haul roads, it will discover that few people want to use them because these routes are purely functional. They are for function rather than to delight the user. What will attract people are recreational trails. Recreational trails are intended to provide an enjoyable experience while on the trail. These trails have been purposefully designed to be enjoyable so they are used alot. The percent grade of the trail is one key difference between functional and recreational trails. They should be constructed at a low grade, around 5%, so that people of average fitness can walk, run, or ride uphill without being overwhelmed by a steep grade. On the way down, a slope of about 5% works well because trail users will not feel as if they are going to slip. Similarly, a bicyclist will not have to hit their brakes or feel like they’re heading over the handlebars.

Our trail at Sugar Bowl is a great example of function and recreation. Perfect for walking, running or riding!

Beautiful views are presented in well planned recreational trails. They should direct the users' gaze. Another feature of our resort trail builds is that they are designed to handle higher levels of traffic. This means they are a little wider and have places to pass. With the popularity of electric bikes in ski areas, the resort does not necessarily need to have lifts running to create a downhill experience. Electric bicyclists will discover that going up is just as enjoyable as going down. However, if the ski area decides to become a downhill bicycle destination, they may find that they have enough riders to keep their seasonal employees on board, as well as some of their hospitality staff, and a likely bump in real estate values. The planning phase is critical for resorts interested in adding a trail. This is the most important because approvals from municipalities or forest services can take years. Furthermore, organizing with the ski area management takes time. As a result, it is best to start planning in one summer and then build the trail in the following. Trailscape is able to provide trail planing for a reasonable fee, which can aid in the approval process. We always recommend hiring a qualified trail designer early in the process. A common mistake we've seen is resorts using a preliminary trail plan to get approvals only to discover those plans were flawed. This is often hard to change as the forest service will approve a corridor for the trail that may not be optimal after all the environmental studies are complete. Thus, costing more time and money for a product with less value.

Happy Trails!

Randy Martin

Expert & Exclusive California Trail Builder

300+ Miles of Trails Designed and Constructed for Private Land Owners


CONTACT: | (530) 852-5155


LEARN MORE: | Request a complimentary trail & firebreak plan here.


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