Steamboat Springs The days are shortly numbered on bike riding season with ski season approaching, but by this time last year, bicycles were all but stowed away for a seven-month slumber.
Recommended late-fall mountain bike trails from Routt County Riders
Suggested rides until it gets cold and stays cold:
• Ridge/Rotary Trails
• Mad Creek Trail (seasonal closure begins Nov. 15)
• Hot Springs (a few muddy spots)
• Bear Creek
• Spring Creek Trail (seasonal closure begins for upper begins Nov. 15)
• Uranium Mine
Posted Wednesday on Routt County Riders' Facebook page
With the National Weather Service predicting at least another week of sunny skies with cooler temperatures, late-fall cycling season is outlasting last year by about three weeks. But even with precipitation not in the immediate forecast, picking which trails to trek on a mountain bike needs to be a cautious choice, Routt County Riders Vice President Eric Meyer said.
After Monday's full day of snow flurries, the base of Emerald Mountain still is too muddy for riding. Although popular tracks on Emerald's backside like the Ridge and Rotary Trails get more sun exposure and are fairly ridable at the moment, access points could be murky for the next couple of days.
“I think Emerald by this weekend will be pretty good,” Meyer said. “I haven't been out there too often lately, but my wife did a small hike on Emerald last night and it was actually a little sticky.”
The better bets? Those would be trails like Spring Creek, or for those willing to make the 9-mile drive to Mad Creek, there is one route that has outlasted an exceptionally wet summer and early fall.
“I was surprised how Mad Creek handled the rain and snow, and Spring Creek is always a great choice,” Meyer said.
By Nov. 6, 2013, 20 inches of snow had accumulated on the Steamboat Ski Area slopes and more than a foot in town with low temperatures running about 10 to 15 degrees colder than they have been this week.
If roadsides weren't covered in snow, they were packed with ice at that time, and driving — not to mention biking — was a slippery situation, as evident by Steamboat Pilot & Today photographer John Russell's shot of an overturned pickup just south of Steamboat city limits Nov. 4, 2013.
But Monday's slushy streets quickly melted with Tuesday's and Wednesday's bright skies, paving the way for avid cyclists like Bob Chiampia, 54, who simply didn't have the same luxury a year ago.
“You couldn't do it this time last year," Chiampia said during his regular route along River Road toward Colorado Highway 131 on Wednesday. “My wife and I were cross-country skiing on Rabbit Ears at this point, but I'm definitely enjoying this while it lasts.”
While some of the more popular in-town mountain bike trails dry out during the next few days, Meyer said that doesn't necessarily mean riders are pigeonholed to road bikes.
With the roads clear, gravel routes are just as readily traversed while the snow holds off for now.
“There are tons of roads you can explore on a mountain bike that are set up to take the moisture more than the trails on Emerald,” Meyer said.
For those itching to get some late-season rides in on their bike, they might have to catch some early bird trails. Even with a lack of precipitation, below-freezing temperatures that cause frost on Emerald quickly spell muddy trails for a decent part of the day after the sun rises over the ski area.
“On early rides, be prepared to get back to (Blackmer) Drive to descend if the dirt starts to thaw,” Routt County Riders posted on Facebook on Wednesday.
To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll