Mountain Biking - fall trail ride

Taking Mountain Biking to New Heights

February 28, 2022

We know that Rib Mountain State Park is a popular downhill skiing destination. What if it also offered great mountain biking trails that could be used all year?

Mountain Biking- kids on trail

Oh, yes! That’s what biking enthusiasts are hoping will happen.

Mountain biking is seeing an eruption of interest in just about all age groups and all seasons. Families and adventure seekers alike have been flocking to the trails in our area, including Nine Mile County Forest, Sylvan Hill Mountain Bike Park and Ringle Trails.

The DNR is considering revisions to the 2005 Master Plan for Rib Mountain that include potential mountain biking opportunities like gravity lift-served trails and winter lift-served fat tire trails.

A dedicated mountain bike lift running down the backside of Rib Mountain would be the first of its kind in the Midwest and could take mountain biking in Wisconsin to new heights.

“If you look throughout the state — even the Midwest — there are very few public places that have the geographical and topographical features that Rib Mountain has. It has tremendous elevation and rock formations,” said Aaron Ruff, president of Central Wisconsin Offroad Cycling Coalition (CWOCC).

With over 320 members and growing, CWOCC focuses on maintaining and building sustainable, environmentally sound offroad bicycling trails.

Ruff predicts that the economic impact of creating mountain bike trails will be significant. “It’s already true with the ski operation at Granite Peak. People come from all over to ski, and lift-access mountain biking would provide that same opportunity all year-round,” he said

Rib Mountain State Park contributes roughly $30 million annually in economic benefits to the Wausau area. Maximizing the full recreational potential for year-round activities could more than double the impact.

With gravity mountain biking, the rider starts from an elevated position and uses gravity to propel downhill.

Many U.S. cities have been reaping the rewards for decades as ski resorts upgrade their mountainous terrain with bike trails. From Park City, Utah, to Duluth, Minnesota, nearly every state with a decent vertical has at least one bike area to hang its helmet on.

Imagine flow trails and gravity-oriented mountain biking at Granite Peak. Plus, with the bike parks and excellent trails already offered in the area, Wausau could become the mountain biking mecca of the Midwest.

“You would see an upsurge of mountain biking culture when you have thousands of people coming to ride here,” Ruff said. “And believe me, they will come.”

Mike Repyak agrees. As a director of International Mountain Bicycling Association’s Trail Solutions Program in Madison, he knows a thing or two about great trails. Having extensive experience in recreation planning in big outdoor markets like Summit County, Colorado, and smaller ones in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, he has seen firsthand that bike trail systems can be transformational. As an economic engine, trails attract tourists, support local businesses and make communities healthier.

Properly planned and executed bike trails serve a wide range of users while minimizing environmental impact and maintenance needs. “When we’re developing natural surface trails on landscapes, we’re very flexible in order to avoid impacts to sensitive resources,” Repyak said.

Under the proposed alternatives of the Rib Mountain State Park Recreation Needs Assessment, Alternatives 2-4 seek to enhance recreational opportunities while minimizing the impact of trail development within areas of ecological concern.

Careful planning has been done to add shared-use and bike-optimized trail experiences at Rib Mountain, while the hike-only trails remain and improvements are recommended for trails that are in disrepair.

Trail building is all about creating a harmonious relationship between humans and nature. 

Mountain biking trails draw people outdoors all seasons

Trails draw people outdoors to enjoy the changing seasons. “That’s the beauty of trail recreation. You could be on the same trail 365 days a year, and it will be a new experience every time because of different temperatures, different weather or different reasons for being out there,” Repyak said.

Whether you’re aiming to exercise, have some family fun or blow off steam, mountain biking is quite possibly the perfect outdoor activity. “I like that trails give you an escape, something that everybody needs right now,” he said.

If you’re pumped about mountain biking at Granite Peak and Rib Mountain State Park, let your voice be heard during the next DNR public input period coming soon.

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The Greater Wausau Prosperity Partnership is a collaborative group of business and community leaders coming together to help develop a stronger, more competitive economic development platform for our community. Our primary purpose is to assist in the implementation and execution of the Greater Wausau Region Economic Development Strategic Plan. The primary objectives of the plan are to 1) attract and retain talent, 2) embrace technology to grow local enterprises, and 3) engage in placemaking to enhance amenities and quality of life. For questions or more information, contact