Lane Malone: Steamboat’s Pete Wither reminisces about cycling
December 30, 2010
Steamboat Springs — The vision of a great cycling community that has emerged recently in Steamboat Springs really is just the evolution of ideas and efforts of many people who have been riding bikes here for years. Lately, I've been interested in learning more about the history and culture of cycling in Routt County, so I asked Pete Wither to share some of his stories and perspective.
Wither and his family have ties to the early Steamboat pioneers. He is an avid outdoorsman, former Steamboat Ski Patrol director, local Realtor, former city councilman and dedicated community volunteer.
"I'm so excited about all these things that are going on in the cycling world in Steamboat," he said. "I've been a promoter of the sport for a very long time."
Wither recalls that he started riding mountain bikes in 1980.
"Most of the time when we went for a ride we got lost, riding all over Emerald Mountain on old roads, cow paths and game trails. It was really an adventure every single time we went for a ride," he said with a grin.
In the late 1980s, 30 people who liked to ride bikes gathered informally for a meeting upstairs in the Ore House restaurant.
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"We wanted to have a bike club that was inclusive of all riders, not just people in Steamboat," Wither explained.
Mike Loomis was elected as the first president of Routt County Riders and served for several years before Wither took over in the early 1990s. After Wither's long tenure, Brad Cusenbary, and most recently Robin Craigen, also volunteered countless hours as president. Most of RCR's work has been focused on getting grants for trail building and promoting cycling with the city, county, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.
When Ski Corp. initiated new summer programs in the early 1990s, Wither helped design and develop a lot of the bike trails. The process of developing the trail that bears his name required a lot of persistence, patience and perspiration. It took two years to figure out the route, two years to persuade Ski Corp. to support it, and two more years to get the Forest Service to approve the design. RCR contributed volunteer support to help put in the first mile or so of trail, working long, hard hours. Someone moaned, "You're working us like a rented mule," prompting Glenn Wiedemer to name their project Pete's Wicked Trail.
From my brief conversation with Wither, and in the space of this short column, I can't thoroughly list and adequately acknowledge the efforts of all the people who have contributed to making our community a great place to ride. Nevertheless, I should note the sense of gratitude Wither and I share for the extraordinary generosity of Gloria Gossard and Lyman Orton. Their gifts of land in our collective backyard are treasures many generations will savor throughout the seasons.
Wither also remarked about all the determination and hard work Gretchen and Mark Sehler and many other volunteers have put into developing trails on Emerald Mountain and running the Town Challenge series. I didn't know the late Larry Johnson, but I could easily imagine that those who did always think of him fondly and send up a prayer when riding the trail named in his honor.
I've decided that my New Year's resolution isn't to ride more or faster or farther. I want to honor the legacy of those who came before me on the roads and trails and savor every mile.