Whereas my bike coach, Piglet, rode forward on the downhill mountain bike path on the Snowmass Bike Park, I adopted cautiously behind, making an attempt to recollect what she had stated about not having a “dying grip” on the handlebars.
Crouched within the impartial downhill stance she taught me earlier within the day, I traversed over rocks, cruised round turns and tried my finest to lookup from the path each as soon as in awhile to catch a glimpse of the lavender, yellow and white wildflowers among the many groves of leggy aspen trunks.
Once we neared the underside of the mountain, she took me to the newbie abilities park and defined easy methods to safely journey over a small bounce. Although I didn’t catch any air, I let loose a “Wheeee!” as I crested the small mound of grime. Piglet was proper: Going downhill on a mountain bike does make you are feeling like a child once more.
The Snowmass Bike Park is one among many the reason why the Roaring Fork Valley — house to the mountain communities of Aspen, Snowmass, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt — earned a coveted gold-medal designation from the Boulder-based International Mountain Bike Association earlier this year.
This Colorado valley is one among simply seven areas on this planet to earn the gold-medal title from IMBA’s biking specialists, who additionally judged the realm’s bike outlets, rental choices, guides and instructors. What’s extra, they thought of what it might be prefer to spend a bike-centric trip within the valley, making an allowance for the accessibility of different actions, leisure choices, bars, eating places, lodging and procuring.
However maybe most necessary, the area stood out as an award-worthy biking vacation spot as a result of it’s pleasant and accessible to freshmen. A few of IMBA’s objectives embody breaking down obstacles to entry into the game and serving to folks in any respect capacity ranges enhance their biking abilities.
Information of the designation, coupled with the need to spend extra time outside due to the pandemic, has made the Roaring Fork Valley a well-liked vacation spot for individuals who prefer to journey bikes this summer season — or need to find out how.
“The paths, the roads, the instructors — the stoke stage is large right here,” stated Erik Skarvan, a longtime bike racer and proprietor and teacher at Aspen’s Sun Dog Athletics, which presents an entire host of outside experiences and classes. “Simply when it comes to the vibe, biking is the snowboarding of summer season.”
As a newbie myself, I wished to test it out and expertise first-hand what the Roaring Fork Valley needed to supply by spending a protracted (socially distanced) weekend right here, totally on two wheels.
Downhill mountain biking
I spent most of my time on the bike park (OK, if I’m being trustworthy, all of my time) on the simplest path on the mountain, Verde. Piglet (whose actual title is Peggy Harris-Foster, and he or she’s a complete badass) spent your entire day with me, beginning with a lesson in easy methods to use my bike’s brakes, easy methods to flip a nook whereas going downhill, easy methods to place my physique on the bike and, importantly, easy methods to get an enormous mountain bike onto the gondola.
Throughout the winter, Snowmass is roofed with snow and teeming with skiers and snowboarders. However through the summer season months, it’s lush and inexperienced, with a criss-cross of flowy mountain-bike trails designed with assist from the professionals at Gravity Logic, which focuses on constructing epic and intentional mountain bike trails.
The bike park first opened in 2011. Since then, Aspen Snowboarding Firm (together with loads of different companions) has been including an increasing number of trails to enhance the park’s variety. As with snowboarding, mountain bike trails are color-coded by problem — inexperienced is the simplest, blue is medium problem, black is probably the most tough.
At present, you’ll be able to sort out one inexperienced path, six blue trails and 4 black trails, together with one double-black diamond. Some are lengthy, some are quick. Some are tremendous easy and flowy, whereas others are extra technically demanding. All advised, there are greater than 25 miles of terrain providing 2,893 ft of vertical descent right here.
“We’re lastly at a degree the place we have now a extremely sturdy variety of path choices each when it comes to ability-appropriateness and when it comes to the type,” stated Tyler Lindsay, a longtime mountain biker who helps run aggressive occasions placed on by Aspen Snowboarding Firm.
When you choose to earn it, there are a handful of cross-country trails on the bike park. You possibly can simply hook up with the greater than 300 miles of singletrack all through the valley, with out actually having to get off your bike.
“You can begin on the high of Elk Camp at virtually 10,000 ft and journey steady singletrack all the way in which right down to the Rodeo Lot and even all the way in which right down to Brush Creek some 4,500 ft beneath you, and that’s fairly distinctive,” stated Lindsay. “One of many best elements (of the bike park) is the way in which it ties into the present legacy community of singletrack.”
And if downhill mountain biking isn’t your factor, after all there are many different alternatives to benefit from the mountain: mountain climbing, a problem course, a climbing wall, an alpine coaster or simply normal sightseeing and high quality time together with your canine.
Driving the Rio Grande
No go to to the Roaring Fork Valley is full and not using a stroll, jog or journey alongside the Rio Grande Path, a 42-mile paved surprise that stretches from Glenwood Springs to Aspen. The path is straightforward to entry from downtown Aspen and might join you to many singletrack networks if you happen to’re itching for one more day of mountain biking.
“It’s fairly good if you happen to don’t need to get right into a automobile to drive to a trailhead,” says Mike Pritchard, government director of the Roaring Fork Mountain Biking Association. “You’re not going to journey all 40-plus miles in your mountain bike, however most of the time, you’ll be able to journey from house alongside that path a few miles or a number of miles in the midst of your journey. It actually does join all the pieces.”
The Rio Grande is what’s often called a “rail-to-trails” mission, because it changed a prepare route of the Rio Grande Western Railroad. After trains stopped operating within the mid-Nineteen Nineties, native governments, nonprofits and the Colorado Division of Transportation purchased the hall and created the Roaring Fork Transit Authority to assist construct and handle the multi-use path.
I opted to journey a cruiser bike to discover the Rio Grande path, beginning with a cease on the John Denver Sanctuary, a beautiful little backyard on the Roaring Fork River that includes the lyrics of a few of Denver’s in style songs (and quotes from different noteworthy figures) etched into boulders. You’ll go away with “Rocky Mountain Excessive” caught in your head, nevertheless it’s so price it for a second of quiet reflection and to think about Aspen by way of Denver’s eyes.
When you like having a vacation spot in thoughts whereas driving, head out of Aspen and pedal for about 8 miles (principally downhill) till you attain Woody Creek, a tiny city that’s finest identified for being the house of Hunter S. Thompson (and a handful of different celebrities, too).
Earlier than you flip again, cease for a margarita at Woody Creek Tavern, a cool dive bar with parking for dozens of bikes out entrance. And perhaps don’t have too many, because you’ll nonetheless must journey again to Aspen — and this time you’ll be going uphill.
Cruising to the Maroon Bells
E-bikes, specifically, are additionally having a second within the Roaring Fork Valley. These high-tech bikes are usually not new, however they’ve turn into exceedingly popular here since the start of the pandemic.
You continue to need to pedal, however you get some help from an electrical motor, which makes them nice for commuting across the valley.
(Although the principles range all through Pitkin County and based mostly upon the kind of e-bike, these bikes are usually solely allowed on roads, multi-use trails and paved trails — not on singletrack, sidewalks, pedestrian malls and non-paved trails. When you determine to hire an e-bike, make sure that to teach your self about the place you’ll be able to and can’t go together with it.)
They’re additionally a well-liked alternative for driving on the highway as much as the enduring Maroon Bells, a route that climbs greater than 1,300 ft in 7 miles. After all, if you happen to’re up for a problem, you’ll be able to journey your common highway bike as a substitute. (Go forward and likewise plan a journey up Independence Go when you’re at it.) An alternative choice: Lease a motorbike and get a journey from Blazing Adventures, an clothes shop with particular permission to drive as much as the Bells, then coast again down.
Due to COVID-19 and the wild reputation of those twin peaks, guests must make a reservation to entry the Maroon Bells and the highway is usually closed to car site visitors between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., aside from shuttles and sure exemptions.
The excellent news? This implies there are only a few vehicles on the highway, which makes it safer for cyclists. Even so — and even on an e-bike — it’s necessary to grasp your individual bodily limitations (bear in mind: the air may be very skinny up right here!) and take all the mandatory security precautions of driving a motorbike on the highway.
Alongside the way in which, don’t overlook to maintain an eye fixed out for wildlife, like bighorn sheep, deer, tons of birds, marmots and black bears (I used to be fortunate sufficient to see one ambling throughout the highway on my means up!).
Questioning how else to spend your time? Listed below are a number of concepts.
- Take a look at the cleverly named “Sculpturally Distanced” exhibit at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass. Right here, you’ll see 17 sculptures from native, nationwide and worldwide artists.
Take a tour of the artwork and grounds of the historic Aspen Institute, aka Aspen Meadows Resort, which was designed within the German Bauhaus type by architect and artist Herbert Bayer between 1953 and 1973.
- Study concerning the foraging exploits of Barclay Dodge, proprietor and chef at Bosq in downtown Aspen. Dodge, who grew up in Aspen and educated everywhere in the world as a chef, repeatedly heads into the close by wilderness to forage wild meals and utensils like watercress, pine needles and serviceberry branches. The restaurant’s menu highlights his foraged elements.
- Wander by way of the Aspen Historic Society’s Wheeler/Stallard Museum to study concerning the area’s humble silver mining beginnings. Or, take a guided historic strolling tour with one of many society’s docents.
- Study concerning the valley’s wildlife on an informative guided hike with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.
- Take a socially distanced yoga class among the many wildflowers on the highest of Aspen Mountain with Aspen Shakti yoga studio.
Put on your masks within the Roaring Fork Valley
Aspen, Snowmass and different communities within the valley are taking the coronavirus pandemic very severely. When you’re planning a highway journey, bear in mind to respect and comply with all native guidelines and pointers associated to stopping the unfold of COVID-19.
Most necessary, put on a masks that covers your nostril and mouth always whenever you’re in public, particularly whenever you’re in busy areas. Sure, that even contains carrying a masks whenever you’re mountain climbing, biking or in any other case hitting the paths within the valley and different persons are round.
Since necessities can change, make sure you keep watch over metropolis and county authorities web sites (or name earlier than you go to).
The Aspen Chamber, for instance, has put collectively a comprehensive COVID-19 visitor resource guide.