Steamboat Springs In the winter, Mount Werner looms over Steamboat Springs like a little devil on your shoulder whispering, "Don't go to work. Go skiing."
Then the ski lifts close and the little devil element of the mountain must go to Mexico for mud season or something because the whispering is gone. But right around this time of the summer the little devil returns, but it isn't skiing that's on his mind anymore. Instead, he whispers, "Lets go mountain biking."
When the snow melts and the slopes turn from white to green, Mount Werner transforms from a busy-body ski resort packed with people to a mellow portion of the Routt National Forest that is great for hiking and mountain biking.
"It definitely takes on a different feel," Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. spokeswoman Cathy Wiedemer said. "It's more of a private experience."
Wiedemer is an authority of mountain biking on the mountain. She was one of the first employees for Ski Corp. to work on mountain bike patrol which is similar to ski patrol.
More than 10 years ago, under the eye of then ski patrol director Pete Wither, the Ski Corp. officials carved out the mountain bike trails that today consist of 15 different routes and loops equaling about 50 miles worth of riding on the ski resort alone.
"We wanted to create a mountain biking experience," Wiedemer said. "Most are single track trails that were specifically built from mountain biking."
There is no trail fee to ride on Mount Werner and essentially the rules are the same as in the Routt National Forest.
But there is one perk. Ski Corp. supports a staff of six bike riders, three of which are certified as Emergency Medical Technicians, that patrol the trails and are ready to assist on accidents.
Avid mountain biker and manager of Sore Saddle Cyclery Rich Takesuye riding Mount Werner is a unique element to have so close to town.
"It truly is a gem," he said.
One of his favorite routes is Valley View Trail on the lower portion of the mountain.
"It's classic, going up or down," he said. "It's one of the most scenic trails."
He added that the Sunshine Loop, which crosses the face of Storm Peak also is a popular scenic route in the area.
Another great aspect of mountain biking on Mount Werner is the area is a great entry way to the Continental Divide Trail, Takesuye said.
"From there you can go a lot of places," he said.
That trail connects open up the opportunity for monster loops because it connects to Fish Creek, Buffalo Pass and the trails in the Rabbit Ears Pass area.
Hikers are welcomed on all the trails, but also can walk on the hikers-only Thunderhead Hiking Trail. That goes from the base to the top of the gondola. From there hikers can take the one-mile Vista Nature Trail loop. That trail is often used by neutralists from Yampatika, who do numerous interpretive trail hikes through the summer there.
For those who want to explore the backwoods of the ski resort without as much work, passes for the Silver Bullet Gondola can be purchased for mountain biking.
A gondola ride costs $17 and an extra $8 for the bike to come along, too, Wiedemer said.