Last year was a bit of a step back, with fewer bike sponsors and attendees, so we remained cautiously optimistic about 2022. As the spring wore on, it became clear the the festival would be coming back strong in 2022. But would it achive the success it did in 2019?
We spoke to festival director Tony Ferlisi to get the dirt. You can skip to the interview below or stay here to learn a bit of history for this neo-classic mountain bike event.
WYDAHO: The early days
I’m trying recollect, but I think the first event must have taken place around 2008. The first couple years was a locals-only affair…with a party and shenanigans held at the old Broulims grocery store-turned city hall right on Main Street in Driggs. Tim Adams was running the event for Teton Valley Trails & Pathways (TVTAP) and it was great fun. I remember Scott Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald’s Bicycles in Victor, hosting a fun obstacle course race on the front lawn—with full-grown riders perched on tiny kids bikes.
The first couple three years was a locals-only affair…with a party and shenanigans held at the old Broulims grocery store-turned city hall right on Main Street in Driggs
In the following years, and with a move up to Grand Targhee Resort, the Wydaho Bike Festival took off and became a must-attend event for riders across the intermountain region.
In 2008, there weren’t a lot of trails up at the ’Ghee. Rick’s Basin was just about it. But the writing was on the wall and the resort stepped up and started building trails. Andy Williams led the trail building team and he definitely deserves a lot of credit. But let’s be honest: if your boss told you he would buy you a Ditch Witch and pay you to build trails, I think you would feel like you had the best job in the world. We may need to credit Wendell Stam as well. I seem to recall that the infamous guerrilla trail builder was hired in at least an advisory capacity.
Let’s get off Memory Lane, shall we?
The last full Wydaho Bike Festival
In 2019, TVTAP and Grand Targhee put on an amazing event. Bike Demo crews showed up from Santa Cruz, Specialized, Pivot, Rocky Mountain and others—each bringing dozens of bikes. I must have demoed six or seven bikes that weekend. The rides, the parties, the camping and camaraderie were off the charts.
My favorite part was the free Millcreek shuttles. I took advantage of that feature several times—with a moderate climb up Andy’s to the top of Millcreek, then a 3000 ft descent down to Teton Canyon, a quick foot soak in the cold Teton River and the shuttle back to the top.
The COVID Blues
The MTB community was definitely looking forward to 2020, but the pandemic settled over the sport like a flea-ridden blanket. I remember doing a solo ride in Park City that spring. The trails were empty and it wasn’t until I posted images on social media that I learned Summit County, Utah had earlier imposed a ban on outdoor activity.
Like that would have stopped me. I remember getting shit on from a few unhinged Facebook “friends” for whqt must have been the crime of the century.
Despite the lockdowns, and what likely was a lot of pushback from a few masked citizens, festival organizers were upbeat about the 2020 event taking place. I mean, how long would this COVID thing last? Surely is would be over by August?
I was solidly in the “Fuck COVID, Let’s Do This” camp. I recall talking and exchanging many emails with then organizer Dan Verbeten over the weeks and months. Dan was very optimistic, but he kept putting me off on the big question. It seemed Grand Targhee was wavering. After several months of deliberation, the resort ultimately put the kabash on the 2020 fest.
In 2021 organizers were again optimistic. But the world was literally still panicked about the disease and, with very little interest from bike and gear vendors, the event did take place but it was like a skeleton of its former self.
Had we known then—that masks, social distancing and lockdowns were completely useless—would the event have went on? Who knows. It’s water under the bridge.
But here we are in 2022 and it seems at least half the world has been awakened. All around the world people are protesting lockdowns. And with Omicron seemingly nailing everyone with a mild, antibody building cold, I’m super optimistic this year will return to normal.
What Wydaho Bike Festival Organizers Have to Say
I contacted festival director Tony Ferlisi to ask about the 2022 event. You might remember Tony from an article we wrote on proposed legislation on Wilderness Trail Access for mountain bikes. At the time, Tony was Executive Director for Mountain Bike the Tetons. Here’s what Tony had to tell us:
Wasatch Rider: What can tell us about vendors for this year…who you’re hoping to get or who is about to sign, etc?
Tony Ferlisi: Pivot is out. Specialized is “likely” but still waiting to confirm. Santa Cruz is also a maybe. We’re really hoping for SC and I’m hoping that Transition and Canyon will come through (also two maybes). Really stoked to bring more adaptive MTB brands to the festival for demos this year, both for adaptive riders and able-bodied riders to try out. Aside from bike manufacturers, we’ve got Industry Nine coming back, 7 Protection, Smartwool, Go-Fast Campers and a slew of others rolling in.
WR: In 2021, you had a smaller event…all Covid impact…understandable. What can you tell me about that?
TF: We were thrilled to be able to offer an opportunity for folks to take time away from a really challenging year and come visit Grand Targhee, spend time riding with friends and to be able to connect with us in a safe way. We understood what the bike industry was experiencing with disrupted supply chains, shipping delays and workforce challenges but still wanted to provide a venue for celebration of our beloved sport of mountain biking and an event that brought our community some real joy.
WR: In 2020, organizers seemed to be in the dark on the whether or not Targhee would let the fest happen, until the day they pulled the plug. I have to assume “YES” but would like to know if Targhee is fully committed to hosting this year?
TF: 100% yes.
WR: What’s new or changing for 2022?
TF: Our goal this year is to focus on what works. We’re keeping it simple. Targeted clinics, an expanded adaptive mountain biking component, great live music, group rides and good vibes. We’re excited to elevate the advocacy component of the mountain biking community, inviting a suite of regional advocacy organizations to share their important work and host an evening panel discussion. Look for some new exhibitors, new and revamped trails, the usual evening shenanigans, massive raffles and giveaways and an unrivaled festival camping experience .
WR: Anything you want to say regarding the 2022 event?
TF: We’re back to full-capacity this 2022. Our partners, sponsors and supporters are stoked to re-connect with the mountain bike community after two tough years. We’re excited to build on the robust WYDAHO tradition while continuing to evolve the festival into a weekend that’s really got something for everyone.
Update August 28, 2022
Since writing this story several months ago, Ferlisi and his team have stepped it up and locked down some great bike demo manufacturers for the event. They are still a bit shy of 2019 lineup, but they have added Norco, Kona and Rocky Mountain. All told, this year’s Wydaho Bike Festival should be a fantastic event. For a full list of exhibitors, see here.