EAGLE COUNTY — Ski season may not quite be over, but many Vail Valley residents have already turned their attention off the snow and to the dirt.
On April 15, the town of Eagle opened most of its trails and plans to celebrate the beginning of mud season with the The Cycle Effect Trail Jam on April 26. Upvalley, some popular trails remain closed until June or July, but many hikers, runners and mountain bikers have been getting some early season mileage on trails such as the new Avon-Singletree connector and Berry Creek.
Vail resident Diane Finkelstein took her first local mountain bike ride of the season during the weekend at Eagle’s Haymaker trail system and pronounced the trails in great condition. She said she had been itching to get started on her second season of mountain bike racing.
“I’ve trained indoors all winter and was excited to see how all that transferred to the outdoors,” said Finkelstein. “Up until last weekend, the weather really didn’t allow me to get outside, but the temperatures were great, and it was awesome riding.”
Business has slowly picked up as the weather has warmed up, said Charlie Brown, owner of Mountain Pedaler bike shop in Eagle.
“We definitely had a slow start, but we’re rolling pretty good right now,” he said. “I feel like the shop is about three weeks behind because of the weather. People are skiing instead, not thinking about buying bikes. The last two weeks have been more like normal.”
Of course, some trails will remain closed for another month or two due to lingering snow and animal migration, said Forest Service Information Assistant Corey Myers.
The closures allow for elk calving and migration.
“What people need to remember is that elk have endured a long winter with limited food and are at a critical time when they are giving birth in the few areas that are warmer and have less snow for them to deal with,” said Myers. “It just so happens that people also want to start hiking and biking in these drier areas in the spring, which creates conflict. I have actually had hikers come in and tell me they were hiking on trails (that were closed, unbeknownst to them) and came across calves that had been abandoned when the mother was scared off by hikers and bikers.”
Besides disturbing wildlife, riding and walking on muddy ground can also damage trails.
“The Hardscrabble Trails Coalition just did some work on Haymaker because it got ridden when it was wet and we had to work on some ruts,” said Brown of Mountain Pedaler. “The big problem around here is that (bikes) create a deep rut which hardens. People who walk on muddy trails or walk their dogs on it do just as much damage.”
Currently, the North Trail in Vail is closed until June 15, Son of Middle Creek in Vail is closed until June 15, Paulie’s Plunge, Stone Creek and Whiskey Creek in Eagle-Vail are closed until July 1, Two Elk and Vail’s Back Bowls are closed until July 1 and trails in Beaver Creek and Arrowhead are closed until July 1.
Powder days followed by 60-degree weather also has some outdoor enthusiasts guessing at what the week will bring.
“I have to admit I was a little disappointed to have all that snow over the weekend,” admitted Finkelstein, referring to the snowstorm that hit the county on April 13. “It was such a great day on Saturday. As much as I love to snowboard, I was sort of disappointed. It feels so cold to ride outside after those 60-degree days.”
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.