Avon, Eagle mountain biking trails could open this weekend, conditions permitting
Seasonal Wildlife Closure Awareness Day set for April 23
Despite the recent snow, soft surface hiking and mountain biking trails in Avon and Eagle are still on track to open this weekend.
That’s the latest from Ernest Saeger with the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance, who wants to remind trail users that when a trail closure runs through April 15, that means it doesn’t open until April 16.
“We’re still kind of getting that one figured out ourselves,” he said of many volunteers who comprise the alliance.
Bureau of Land Management Trails in Eagle set to open Saturday include the East Eagle system (Pool & Ice, Dirt Surfer, Will’s Thrill, Hillbilly, Bellyache Road Gate), and the West Eagle system, (World’s Greatest, Abrams Ridge, School House Rocks, etc.)
Town of Eagle trails set to open Saturday include the Third Loop of Haymaker, Extra Credit, and all Eagle Ranch trails including Lov Connection and Adam’s Way.
Support Local Journalism
In Edwards, the West Side of the Eagle River Preserve is set to open Saturday.
And in Avon, the West Avon Preserve trail system is set to open on Saturday, as well.
But as always, “muddy trails are closed trails,” Saeger said.
Calving season elsewhere
As wildlife moves from lower to higher elevation this time of year, volunteers will be out this weekend reminding users which trails are open and which trails are closed.
These volunteers are part of the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance’s wildlife ambassador program.
Volunteers who want to be a part of the alliance’s wildlife ambassador program need to attend a training session every spring and fall; the spring session will take place Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Vail Coffee and Tea in Minturn.
Saeger said volunteers who are not able to attend in person will have a virtual option, as well, but in-person attendance is encouraged.
“It’s to update folks on spring closures and what we’re seeing out in the field,” Saeger said. “The calving season is the main reason, and the spring migrations are the secondary reason for the closures to occur, so we want to update ambassadors on what we’re seeing there, and updates to our program as far as registration.”
Calving season has already impacted local recreation this spring at Beaver Creek Mountain, where ski patrol closed a portion of Royal Elk Glade in March due to a moose calf and its mother in the area.
The wildlife ambassador program was born out of a desire to create more trails in Eagle County, and has since turned into the area’s best tool in discouraging trail closures, which was the stipulation accompanying new trail creation on national lands in Eagle County. Before any new trails were created, someone had to get closure violations under control on the existing trails.
Vail Valley Trails Alliance helped create a volunteer ambassador program which makes contacts with guests and tells them which trails are closed and which trails are open.
On Saturday, ambassadors at the just-closed North Trail, in Vail, will likely point guests to the just-opened West Avon Preserve, Saeger said.
Over the years, the alliance has kept stats on how many contacts volunteers made and how many people were turned away when informed of the closure by a trail ambassador. The program also uses existing trail cameras to chart its progress.
In 2017, before the program started, a camera on a closed section of the North Trail caught more than 200 people violating the trail closure, Saeger said.
“In 2019, I think we had about 90 volunteer shifts that year. That same location with the same camera went from 217 violations down to 148 violations,” Saeger said. “Not great, but going down.”
In 2021, with the program up to 330 volunteer shifts, the same camera at the same location of the North Trail recorded only 41 violations, Saeger said.
“We want to get to zero,” Saeger said.
Turned away with a snack
This year, the alliance has planned a first-ever Seasonal Wildlife Closure Awareness Day on April 23. As part of Walking Mountain’s Climate Action Week, trail ambassadors at closed trailheads will be saying thanks to those who turn away with snacks, swag, and hot and cold beverages, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“Our goals is to try to get as many volunteers as we can out on Saturday the 23 at these closed trailheads to really make a big day-long impact and make people aware of these closures,” Saeger said. “We trying to get any and all of our ambassadors out for at least an hour on that day.”
Saeger said the alliance is also targeting groups.
“For an organization to get out there it also educates them on the importance of why these trail closures exist, so for us it’s a win-win,” Saeger said.