VAIL — It may be the middle of winter, but some Colorado fat tire enthusiasts are already looking forward to summer. And excitement for the summer biking season is only a side effect of the International Mountain Biking Association’s new film “Crossing the Divide.”
The true purpose of the 6-minute video, much of which takes place on trails in Vail, is to encourage conservation and recreation communities to continue to work together to create bike-friendly land protection designations.
For the Vail Valley, cooperation between such groups could lead to a more robust network of trails in the area, like a connector between the popular North Trail and Booth Falls trail in Vail, said Aaron Clark, of the International Mountain Biking Association.
“We’ve worked together with the conservation community to make something like that connection possible,” Clark said. “We’re hoping to have a trail go along the aspens there.”
Most of the riding in “Crossing the Divide” — beautiful, sweeping shots of picturesque trails — takes place on the North Trail, Spraddle Creek and Son of Middle Creek trails near the area of the potential connector. And while the subject of the short film is the pending federal legislation that seeks to protect land in Eagle Summit and Pitkin counties, it seeks to appeal to anyone interested in mountain biking in the Rocky Mountains and showcases the beauty of the area in the process.
“The message is as simple as ‘Get outdoors and enjoy,’” said Peter Geyer, of the Vail Valley Mountain Biking Association, which supported the International Mountain Biking Association in the production of the film. “And that is the message we need to embrace. More people getting out and enjoying these trails will encourage the creation of more trail connections linking together in Eagle County, while also keeping in mind environmentally safe and special management areas. It will give people ownership through small backyards with stewardship programs, taking care of something that will be here for years for us to enjoy.”
Another group that supported the production of the film is the Wilderness Workshop, one of a number of conservation groups that have worked to incorporate the interests of the International Mountain Biking Association’s chapters as a way to enhance public support.
“The challenges to successful public land conservation efforts are daunting,” said Wilderness Workshop Executive Director Sloan Shoemaker. “Now more than ever, people who share conservation as a common core value need to join hands and work together if we are to protect the natural areas that sustain us.”
While the International Mountain Biking Association has worked closely with the legislative sponsors of the recent land protection proposals such as Congressman Jared Polis and Senator Mark Udall, Clark says there’s still much to be done.
“We want to ensure that future legislation for [Eagle County] is more bike-friendly, while providing the necessary protections that we all rely upon for keeping these places beautiful,” Clark said. “This video shows that we are well on our way to making that happen.”
The film begins by recalling the “Hidden Gems” wilderness proposal from 2009, and why it wasn’t successful.
“While wilderness designations provide a high standard of land protection, they also can curtail some forms of recreation,” the film’s narrator says. “While a land protection package for Central Colorado has yet to be passed, the idea is gaining the broad community support it lacked a few years ago. Mountain bikers and conservationists are discovering they share the same values, and together, can be more effective at looking out for their interests and their communities.”
Geyer says at the core of the issue, however, is the same challenge that most new efforts face: money.
“Here in Eagle County, there is not enough funding for trails to fix those in existence or to create new trails,” Geyer said. “The federal government and the International Mountain Biking Association are opening their arms to the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association, and working harder to bring communities to the table.”
He said the group is off to a good start, but that more cooperation needs to happen, especially in grass-roots efforts.
“Many Eagle County outdoor clubs are reluctant to work with federal government agencies based on their perception that we are closed (to collaboration),” Geyer said. “But government can be better partners in local efforts and has worked with Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association with open arms, gaining access to repair and build trails for all user groups.”
To get involved with the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association’s efforts, Geyer says the best place to start is by becoming a member of the group and contributing some volunteer hours.
“People seem to find the trail work we do very rewarding,” he said. “They also learn a lot about trail construction in the process.”
For more information, visit the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association is online at www.vvmba.org.
“Crossing the Divide” was produced by the Grit & Thistle Film Company of Salida and can be viewed at vimeo.com/84260177.