More than 18 miles of new Buff Pass trails come into focus
September 23, 2017
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Rain fell, and a small crowd shivered in jackets and hid under hoods. It wasn't the best of moments to show off a summer's worth of work.
"Wait a few minutes," Kent Foster said, "and it'll be snowing."
They passed on the opportunity to show off the work, but Foster, Hahn’s Peak Ranger District recreation program manager, and a dozen other Steamboat Springs-area cycling enthusiasts and local officials did take the opportunity Saturday to briefly celebrate what had been accomplished this summer, meeting at the Dry Lake Campground parking lot on Buffalo Pass to cut the ribbon on 18 miles of trails that had been added in the area since the snow melted.
"Our major focus this year was here, and we did it well," said Gretchen Sehler, who helped lead the summer's trail-building efforts.
The work was part of a larger project to add trails, mostly multi-use, to the Buffalo Pass area, largely as part of the voter-approved Amendment 2A plan to spend millions of dollars of Steamboat's lodging tax revenue on area trail projects.
This marks year four of the decade-long commitment, and this summer marked a big one for the Buff Pass trail system.
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Sections of the new Flash of Gold trail opened through the summer, including, most recently, an additional upper section.
Other new trails include the Panorama trail, finished in July, a redesign on BTR — which once was an unauthorized pirate trail — a new trail near Dry Lake called Fiddlehead, named for a fern that grows in the region, and an as-of-yet named trail that loops around Dry Lake. Only Friday afternoon, another new section of trail was officially finished and approved by the U.S. Forest Service, a lower section on Grouse trail.
"We've been lucky enough to be able to allow me to concentrate on this," Foster said. "It adds up to about 18.5 miles, so we're about halfway there."
A total of 43 miles are planned for the area, and at least some work will continue as deep into the fall as the snow will allow.
Up next is a motorized trail to link the Dry Lake area to more motorized trails higher in the mountains without forcing riders to take the road.
"It's not all just bikes," Foster said.
He said an analysis of user data this summer underscored that point, indicating there was an even 50-50 split on the newest Buff Pass area trails between cyclists and hikers.
"I was on Flash of Gold the other day and saw four horses," said Pete Wither, chairman of the 2A Trails committee. "It really is a multi-use trail."
Other looming projects for next summer include a trail around the flanks of Buffalo Mountain, work on the Soda Creek Trail and a downhill mountain bike trail to parallel the Spring Creek hiking trail.
The effect is already being felt.
"It's taking the pressure off Emerald," Sehler said. "Emerald isn't as packed as often as it used to be, so this is already spreading people out more. … It just makes me excited to be able to give adults a playground to play in."