EAGLE COUNTY — There’s just something more satisfying about riding a trail that you helped build.
That’s the feeling expressed by members of the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association, who were hard at work on Thursday on the new Saddleridge trail between Avon and Edwards. The trail — which the association is hoping to have completed before the start of the ski season — will connect the Wildridge and Singletree neighborhoods of Avon and Edwards.
It’s all part of a larger effort to help Eagle County attain a “Ride Center” designation from the International Mountain Biking Association, something that could open up a world of possibilities for the local mountain bike community.
Presently, there is only one International Mountain Biking Association gold-level Ride Center in the U.S., and it’s in Park City, Utah.
“Mountain bikers from around the world are looking for places to take a bike vacation,” said Jamie Malin with the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association. “When they see a community that is a Ride Center they know the community has a variety of great trails along with great lodging and dining options.”
Malin is the owner of The Kind Cyclist in the Edwards Riverwalk, and will host a meeting there at 6 p.m. on Oct. 15 along with members of Senator Mark Udall’s staff, the International Mountain Biking Association and the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association. He’s encouraging anyone interested in mountain biking in Eagle County to attend.
“Speakers will get guests up to date on the work done between Udall’s staff, IMBA and VVMBA, along with the VVMBA’s application to be given IMBA Ride Center status,” Malin said.
Built by hand
Having plenty of intermediate trails is among the criteria for International Mountain Biking Association Ride Center designation. And with an average grade of 6 percent, the new Saddleridge trail will be considered intermediate.
“As you may know from living in the Vail Valley, there isn’t a lot of intermediate trail access,” Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association president Peter Geyer said from the Saddleridge trail on Thursday. “This will be an awesome trail for hiking and biking.”
But first, it needs a little more work.
A few more volunteer days are planned in the coming weeks, one at 5 p.m. on Oct. 17 and another on Oct. 26 from 8 to 11 a.m. The volunteer days will probably go into November as well, say members of the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association.
“If we could get 20 people to volunteer three hours on two days, that’d be all we need to finish this trail,” said Mark Luzar, Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association board member.
The work isn’t hard, it’s just a little tedious as the Saddleridge Trail is being constructed by hand, without the use of machines.
“Building it by hand makes it harder to get it done as quick, but it’s cheaper and leaves less of an impact,” said Geyer. “When you get into the gulch and you’re dealing with the hillside, it can take whole a day just to do one turn.”
Never see trails the same
Volunteers who show up to the work days don’t need trail building experience, but they certainly will gain it through their efforts. The Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association uses trail-building techniques passed down from the International Mountain Biking Association, which has enacted standards to ensure trails are made properly and built to last.
“After working on these trails and learning the IMBA standards, you end up looking at all trails differently,” Malin said on Thursday. “Now when I’m out hiking with my wife, I’ll think, ‘This trail needs to be redone or this was well constructed.’”
One of the major indicators of a well-made trail is how it reacts to running water along the hillside, something the Saddleridge trail builders got to see firsthand during the heavy rainfall Colorado saw in September.
“It was great to see how the parts we had worked on reacted to the heavy rain, and it definitely gave us some perspective as to why we’re building them the way we are,” Malin said.
Those interested in learning about trail construction and helping the Saddleridge effort should bring gloves, boots, long pants, a snack and plenty of water, although none of those items are totally necessary.
For more info, call Geyer at 970-331-6392 or follow the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association at facebook.com/vailvalleymountainbikeassociation.