Steamboat bikers eye summer 2011 for new downhill trails | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat bikers eye summer 2011 for new downhill trails

— Steamboat Springs-area freeĀ­ride mountain bikers again are being asked to be patient, but officials with Steamboat Ski Area insist that it all will pay off in a collection of downhill-only trails to rival any in the nation.

Jim Schneider, ski area vice president of skier services, said the first two trails for what will become a bike park in the central part of Mount Werner have been mapped, walked and flagged by renowned trail-building company Gravity Logic, and the proposed paths are being studied by the U.S. Forest Service to ensure they meet all the right safety and environmental guidelines.

Their location, partially outside the ski area's permitted boundaries, adds an extra hurdle, however, and will push the start of trail construction from this fall to spring.

"We have to go through that process because the folks we hired to look at our palette of possible trails told us that's the best place to go to put them," Schneider said. "We feel it's in our best interests to take the time to make sure we are building the best possible product for the long run."

Schneider said legal directional mountain bike trails still can be a reality in Steamboat Springs for the 2011 summer season.

"We are told it takes two months to build one of those trails, so maybe if we start in mid-May when things are melting off, we can still end up with six weeks to two months of the riding season," Schneider said. "We think this all will provide us a bike park that could rival anything in North America."

Riders support Creekside as 1-way

Monday's Routt County Riders monthly members meeting included more than an hour of debate about the Creekside Trail at the ski area, and in the end, the group voted to support the trail's conversion from a two-way multiuse trail to a downhill-only venue.

The vote carries no legal weight, but it does solidify biker sentiment concerning the trail, which became embroiled in controversy this summer. The trail, a 1.7-mile breakaway from the popular Zig Zag trail, was signed for several years as a downhill-only trail but never was cleared for that designation by the U.S. Forest Service. The signs were changed early this summer to return the trail to two-way, multiuse status, frustrating area downhillers who felt it was their only venue in the region.

The Forest Service's Janet Faller said Monday that changing the trail would be a process that couldn't possibly be completed this summer but could be done before next.

"Because it's so controversial, we'd have to open that up to public comment," she said.

Before that can go forward, however, the ski area must get behind the request. Schneider said in light of the work going on elsewhere on the mountain to create such trails, he's unsure what the right move would be.

"We will have to chew on that a little bit to see what makes sense," he said. "We will take our time and assess whether that's the right thing to do or not. Everyone will know here soon."