Public mountain bike park, tubing area planned for Black Hills mountain community
Developers are planning a luxury private housing development on a mountain in the Black Hills with a public, 1,000-foot-long tubing run and mountain bike park designed by a world-class trail builder.
Deer Mountain Village is located on 680 acres at Deer Mountain, a former ski area near Lead.
"We first just looked at it as a residential home development because of how beautiful the mountain was and how beautiful the views were and then figured out that it's not the greatest mountain for skiing, but it could be one of the most special mountain biking locations in the U.S.," said Alec Keating, president of Keating Development. "The reason we looked at it a lot harder is looking at revenues from other mountain biking communities."
"We looked at our mountain and it's a hell of a mountain, but with how short it is and the expense and the amount of snowfall that it gets, it's just not an economical ski mountain," Keating added.
Keating Development is billing Deer Mountain Village as the highest community east of the Rockies at 6,200 feet in elevation. That distinction is currently held by Beech Mountain in North Carolina.
The developers at Deer Mountain are preparing about 200 lots averaging 1.1 acres that will sell for $250,000 to $500,000. Buyers will then build their own homes.
Keating Resources later plans to add condos and retail space at the base of the mountain.
"Our idea is to create something that doesn't exist in the Black Hills," Keating said. "A cool village, something you might see in Colorado or Wyoming, Idaho, Tahoe."
The tubing and mountain bike areas would be open to the public for a fee.
Keating Resources says the 1,000-foot-long tubing run — accessible by a conveyer belt-like "magic carpet" — would be one of the longest in the country.
Meanwhile, Deer Mountain's two existing ski lifts will be retrofitted with bike carriers.
The mountain bike park is being developed by Pete Costain, owner of Terraflow Trail Systems. Costain is behind popular parks including ones in Big Sky and Whitefish, Montana.
Josh Bruhn, a mountain bike enthusiast who lives in Rapid City, said Deer Mountain should attract tourists given that he and others enjoy travelling to bike parks, including Costain's in Montana.
"It's really good for tourism and bringing people in for using that outlet for recreation," he said. "Mountain bikers have to eat, drink, everything. They come with not much, so they're good for the local economy."
Bruhn said building on private land means the trails will be ready quickly. Most trails in the Black Hills are on public land and can take years to develop since there are multiple regulatory hurdles to jump over.
The only other lift-accessible trails in the Black Hills are at Terry Peak Ski Resort (which occasionally opens to mountain bikers), also near Lead. Bruhn said those trails are great for advanced riders like himself, but it would be nice if the Deer Mountain trails accommodate all skill levels.
"I think if we want to use it as a draw for tourism we've kind of got to make it friendly to take the family," he said. Costain can "build trails that are flowy and easy riding for a beginner and a whole lot of fun for an advanced rider."
Advanced trails can have rough terrain, rock gardens, obstacles, jumps and berms that allow riders to tackle turns at high speed. Bruhn said Costain has also built trails that accommodate multiple levels where beginners have the option to ride around the advanced features.
Bruhn said Costain builds trails that are sustainable over time, require little maintenance and properly drain snow and rain to avoid mud and erosion.
Keating Resources plans to hire a private operator to rent out bikes and oversee the park, which will be open year-round. Cyclists can ride in the winter on fat bikes, which have wide, low-pressure tires that can handle snow.
Costain expects to begin building the trails in June and open the park in July 2023. Keating Resources plans to begin selling lots this spring and expects owners to begin building next year.