Everkrisp Trail opening: ‘Our community coming together’ | VailDaily.com

Everkrisp Trail opening: ‘Our community coming together’

Multiple initiatives and lots of volunteers led to Everkrisp Trail opening

Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance President Jamie Malin leads the way up the new Everkrisp Trail from Minturn on opening day, July 12.
Special to the Daily

How to help

To volunteer, or to donate to projects like the Everkrisp Trail, the Eagle County Trail Fund, or the planned Minturn bike park, go to vvmta.org.

EAGLEVAIL — Trail advocates had a simple idea — build a singletrack from Minturn to EagleVail, adding a key piece to the valley’s trail network.

It ended up being not so simple.

The Everkrisp Trail took 3,000 hours of work, with a mini-excavator leading the way and volunteers following with pick mattocks, Pulaski axes, McLeod rakes and shovels.

But Everkrisp was also built thanks to work on trails near Edwards, Avon and Vail, where volunteers cleared overgrown bushes and cleaned out drainage ditches. That work allowed the overburdened Forest Service employees to evaluate the new Everkrisp trail.

It was also built at local trailheads across the valley, where new signs, gates and volunteer ambassadors reminded trail users that wildlife closures were in effect. That assuaged wildlife officials’ concerns about effects on wildlife of the proposed trail.

“This trail, besides being a great addition to our community, what it’s done as far achieving multiple other initiatives because of it, I don’t think that should be overlooked,” said Jamie Malin, president of the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance, which spearheaded the effort.

The new Everkrisp trail opened this month as the first new non-resort trail in the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District in 10 years.

Creative solution

In 2015, four local trail advocates walked into the Forest Service office asking about building the new trail.

The answer was “no.”

“I was like, guys we can’t do this — we just can’t,” said Aaron Mayville, district ranger of the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District. “We have 600 miles of trails and I have a trail crew of two.”

Instead of giving up, or just continuing to ask for approval, the four trail advocates — Malin, Lee Rimel, Pete Seibert and Andy Gunion — and their organization — now called the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance — did something more creative. They developed an Adopt A Trail program, aiming to recruit volunteer groups from the community to do the basic trail maintenance work that the Forest Service was struggling to keep up with.

The group launched a GoFundMe campaign, raising over $50,000 to hire a seasonal Forest Service ranger and a volunteer coordinator.

In the first year, 2016, various community groups adopted 30 trails across the valley.

The effort freed up the Forest Service employees to be able to consider new projects, such as the Minturn-to-EagleVail trail.

Grand opening

Officials from the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance, the Forest Service, Minturn, EagleVail, as well as mountain bikers and trail runners from across the community gathered on a recent Friday afternoon to celebrate the trail’s opening.

After a ribbon-cutting, they rode the four miles of trail, with about 1,000 feet of elevation gain, through meadows, aspen groves and pine forest.

They later gathered at EagleVail Pavilion for beers and barbecue to celebrate the new trail — as well as the community volunteer and fundraising effort that made it possible.

“This community effort around this is really cool,” Mayville told the crowd. “I’m glad we had a little reception here to celebrate not just a new trail, but our community coming together around something so cool like that.”

Dirt and sweat

The town of Minturn and the community of EagleVail both committed funds to the trail.

Trail construction began in 2018, including weekly trail crew events put on by the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance as well as a couple of Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado events, which each brought dozens of volunteers over two days.

The mini-excavator, purchased as a result of another GoFundMe campaign, led the way in the creation of the trail, then the volunteers used hand tools to buff out the trail. In total, about 3,000 hours of volunteer and paid employee work went into building the trail itself.

“The whole thing could not have been accomplished without the community support,” said Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance board member Casey Wyse. “It’s hard, sweaty, dirty work, and everybody just kept coming. I’ve got to give them a lot of credit.”

Over the two years, Wyse himself put hundreds of hours into the trail construction — often accompanied by fellow board member Mark Luzar.

Wyse even took a week of vacation to run the machine. Yes, that’s his idea of a vacation. He put in 65 hours building the trail that week.

“Actually, it was great,” he said. “I enjoyed every second of it.”

National recognition

Malin said the Everkrisp Trail does several things. For one, it’s a nice connection between Minturn and EagleVail. It also opens up access to the Whiskey Creek Trail, which was closed to mountain bikers in 2011 because it crossed State Land Board land.

So adding the 4-mile Everkrisp trail really adds about seven miles of trails.

The trail runs through an area that is used as wildlife habitat — notably, elk habitat — in the winter, so it will be closed from Nov. 23 until June 20. As part of the Everkrisp approval, the Trails Alliance started a couple of initiatives valleywide to better communicate wildlife closures. That included a Trail Ambassador program as well as adding more signs and better gates at trailheads.

Also as part of the Everkrisp trail, some illegal trails, including the Oh So downhill trail, were closed.

The Adopt A Trail program continues to grow. As of this year, the program covers 53 trails. Last year, it improved 181 miles of trail thanks to 745 volunteers and 2,591 volunteer hours.

The four men who walked into Mayville’s office in 2015, as well as employees of the local forest service district, were awarded a Chief’s Honor Award for innovation in creating the Adopt A Trail program.

To catch the trail from Minturn, head up the Line Shack trail from the southeast end of the dirt parking lot at the Ranger Station near Dowd Junction. After a quarter-mile of climbing, bear right onto the Everkrisp singletrack.

From EagleVail, the Everkrisp trail meets the Stone Creek Trail about a quarter-mile from the Eagle Drive trailhead.