SCRANTON — An online petition urging Montage Mountain Resorts to open its ski slopes to mountain biking in off-seasons is gaining traction with more than 3,000 supporters in two weeks.
Resort officials noticed the growing push for mountain biking and are taking a closer look at the prospect.
“At 3,000 (signatures), I would be a fool to not consider it and try to figure something out,” said Charles Jefferson, whose investment group owns the resort.
Only two weeks ago, the resort was still basking in wrapping up a banner ski season. On March 27, the resort posted photos on Facebook of overnight snowmaking with the message, “Sooo, about last night. #makingallthesnow.”
That prompted Peter Derenick, a longtime snowboarder at the resort and a newer fan of mountain biking, to post a reply referencing the upcoming warmer months.
“You guys should make mountain bike trails,” Derenick said in his Facebook reply, adding three emojis of a smiley sun face wearing sunglasses.
Montage marketing director Jeff Slivinski upped the ante and replied: “Petition???”
Derenick accepted the challenge, replying “Ask and you shall receive,” with a winking sun face emoji.
His petition hosted on change.org and called, “Create Mountain Bike Trails at Montage Mountain, Pennsylvania” seeks 5,000 signatures. By Wednesday afternoon, it garnered at least 3,062 signatures.
Derenick, 27, a software analyst from Spring Brook Twp, has been snowboarding at the resort since boyhood and has taken up mountain biking in the past few years. Friends with many more biking miles and years under their helmets spoke of mountain biking elsewhere on ski slopes in the off-winter seasons.
For example, Blue Mountain Resort in Palmerton and Mountain Creek Resort in Vernon, New Jersey offer mountain biking with season passes or day tickets.
With 24 bike trails open from May through October, Blue Mountain’s website says: “There’s always a new challenge whether you’re a hardcore mountain biking expert looking to improve your skills, or are just starting out with imaginary downhill training wheels.”
Mountain Creek boasts a network of 52 mountain bike trails, encompassing rocky and rugged technical trails, rolling flow zones and more than 60 jumps and features that “will challenge everyone from the beginner mountain biker all the way up to World Cup downhill racers.”
While Derenick has not yet biked down a ski slope, he wants to do so and lobbed the idea at Montage Mountain, the resort in his backyard.
Montage Mountain Resort actually began looking at whether offering mountain biking would be feasible and financially worthwhile about a year and a half ago, Jefferson and Slivinski said. It would involve ski lifts, which raises the question of whether to modify at least one, the main lift in front of the lodge, to better accommodate riders and their bicycles, Jefferson said.
“Our lift chairs are old school,” Jefferson said. “Ideally, I’d like to have the right lift mechanism to get people to the top in an efficient way. Ideally, I’d like to upgrade the lift.”
For example, Blue Mountain says it has a high-speed lift “to get you back to the top so you can crush the mountain over and over.”
Montage possibly could proceed without any changes to lifts, Jefferson said.
“That’s not to say we can’t figure out a different way around it, or slow the lift chairs down” to load and unload bikes, Jefferson said, adding they are looking into it now because of the petition.
Another consideration for Montage is the creation of mountain biking trails with certain surfaces or features amenable to the sport, Jefferson and Slivinski said. The resort had a course designer access the mountain for that.
It takes a lot to make an actual course, including dirt sculpting, Jefferson said.
“We’ve been considering it for some time and to see if it’s feasible for the mountain and something the community would support,” Slivinski said. “The petition definitely puts the right foot forward and we’ll see where it takes us.”
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