Steamboat Springs Richard Sanford has been hiking in Steamboat Springs for 13 years, and he was annoyed this past weekend to find trails on the ski mountain still closed.
The explanation has been that lingering snow left trails muddy and vulnerable. Not so, Sanford said. He said he went ahead and hiked up the Thunderhead trail Sunday with his 9-year-old grandson and a friend.
In addition to "closed" signs, they found two muddy spots, one measuring about 5 feet and the other about 15 feet, he said.
"Yesterday, it was totally absurd," Sanford said Monday. "That was as good a condition as I've seen it."
He also said contractors had left no room for hikers and bikers to skirt mountain construction sites.
Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. spokesman Mike Lane said the ski area aims to have trails open this weekend from Thunderhead down.
"It's all weather dependent. : We need to get crews up on the trails and make sure they're in good, safe shape to make sure we can get them open this weekend," Lane said.
Crews have been checking and working on trails, Lane said. When the paths open, hikers and bikers will have access around construction areas, he said.
Lane reiterated that trails remained closed and asked that people stay off them.
"We just ask for people's cooperation so that the trails we have will be in good shape and open all season long," he said.
Sanford said it was easy to avoid the muddy spots, adding that he met hikers and bikers who said they had been using the trails for weeks.
"My interest and experience here is pretty extensive," he said. "I don't like somebody pulling a 'you can't go here.'"
Sanford added that the trail was beautiful and considers himself something of an expert. In college, he studied wildlife, biology and zoology. He has taught ecology and outdoor education and at Outward Bound.
"We should have access," he said, adding that more tourist money could be coming in through bicycle rentals.
Across town, most of the Howelsen Hill trails are open. The left half of Blair Witch and all of Lower Jaw are off limits, said Gretchen Sehler, director of the Town Challenge mountain bike race series and trail coordinator for the Routt County Riders bicycle club.
"We have closed signs up there, and please respect those closed signs," Sehler said.