Joel Reichenberger: My public comment

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Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Joel here.

The U.S. Forest Service released for public comment Steamboat Ski Area’s reworked summer trails master plan last week.

As a certified member of the public, I’d hate to miss the opportunity.

The plan essentially reroutes or reclassifies two main trails on the outside of Mount Werner’s current trail system to allow uphill traffic and to make room for a mass of new downhill-only trails in the center of the ski area.

It’s supposed to be a “freeride park,” and with excellent cross-country mountain biking options available across the county, I expect it will quickly come to define the ski area cycling experience.

There’s a whole lot to like, but a little that worries me, too.

My only word of warning is about the downhill trails and the reclassification of Zig Zag as an uphill-only trail. The first downhill-only trail to be completed is supposed to be intermediate. That’s great, though, I’m not sure how an intermediate downhill-only trail compares to a regular intermediate trail.

A trademark of Zig Zag in its multiuse, multidirectional present form is inexperienced tourists making their way down from the top of the gondola on rented mountain bikes, helmets strapped on tightly and fear in their eyes.

Zig Zag isn’t a tough trail. It’s rated intermediate, but for a pure beginner, there are tough sections. It’s the right kind of challenge for someone just getting into the sport.

It’s the kind of experience we may take for granted, but one nonbiking visitors might go home and talk about.

I hope the new trails don’t eliminate options for those kind of bikers. They’re not interested in jumps or in-trail features that are supposed to make downhill-only trails thrilling. I hope that whatever takes Zig Zag’s place as the primary downhill trail for the masses is fit for the masses.

Among the things in the plan to cheer is that it exists in the first place. So much positive has happened for cycling this summer in Steamboat Springs, thanks to many groups and interests coming together and merging their dreams. It’s all happened with great community support, but it’s also happened by slogging through a diminishing but still ever-present pessimism.

The attitude from some of the freeriders who stand to benefit the most has been disbelief. Maybe “believe it when I see it” is appropriate given how long they’ve waited for this to happen, but major props can be handed out to those who didn’t give up on the process and have helped the ski area work toward what is looking more like a fantastic conclusion.

Of course, the trail plan’s being offered for public comment still doesn’t mean “shovel in the ground” or “rubber on dirt,” but it’s yet another step in the process — one of the final steps. If the Forest Service approves the plan, which could happen in spring, ski area officials have said trail work could start immediately. Riders, no matter how much they thought it would ever happen, could be riding by the middle of next summer.

My comment is that sounds pretty sweet.

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