Trying anything new this summer, Vail Valley? |

Trying anything new this summer, Vail Valley?

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Vail Daily file photoSome Vail Valley residents say learning to mountain bike is a priority this summer

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado ” This summer, Andy McNeill will be trading his rope and chalk bag for a paddle and kayak in Colorado’s Vail Valley.

Most summers, the Edwards resident can be found rock climbing or backpacking, but this season, he’s planning to take up kayaking.

“I always grew up around the river but never really had the time to get on it,” said McNeill. “Now I’m working at a kayak shop and surrounded by people who do the sport and know about it. I’m definitely going to be picking it up more.”

He’s already been on the river a few times, and has enjoyed learning the ropes so far, said McNeill.

“It’s always fun to take yourself back down a notch,” he said. “It was a lot of fun, kind of stepping out of your comfort zone and being able to float down a river and get wet.”

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McNeill is not the only one looking for a new summer diversion ” Gypsum resident and mountain biker Cory Strickler has plans to get on a road bike this summer.

She’s been saving for the purchase with money earned from teaching summer school, and even hopes to complete a century ride in the coming months.

“I’ve mountain biked since I was about 10, but a lot of people are telling me that I would like (road biking),” said Strickler. “I don’t really like going out on long mountain bike rides alone, so I like the idea being able to road ride for a long period of time and riding in town.”

Others, such as Alicia Quinn, are taking up a new summer sport as a warm-weather alternative to skiing. Quinn, a skier in the winter and runner and golfer in the summer, is planning to jump into mountain biking.

“I love downhill skiing, and I love the thrill of the speed and going vertical,” she said. “I thought that mountain biking would be fun because it’s technical, but also has some speed. Also, I just wanted a new challenge.”

Edwards resident Molly Enright was looking for a tamer new challenge as the weather warmed up as well. Enright, along with five others novice gardeners, started a vegetable garden that they’ve been tending each weekend near Glenwood Springs.

They built the garden from scratch and have planted an array of vegetables, including beans, peas, tomatoes, leeks, onions, lettuces and carrots.

“I’ve always wanted to start a garden, and the opportunity to use this land arose,” Enright said, adding that she has been teaching herself the basics of gardening. “I checked out about every book I could find from the library.”

The group hopes to enjoy the harvest as well as learn about canning and preserving the vegetables, she said.

“It’s been a really great learning experience,” she said. “Also, when you plant your own food, you really feel like you’re sustaining yourself. It feels really good to know you’re in control of what goes into the food you eat.”

While many, such as Enright and McNeill are happy to teach themselves or get some help from experienced friends, there are also plenty of programs around the valley designed to get people started in their new ventures.

Quinn said she plans to get some formal instruction by attending a women’s bike clinic with Vail Mountain Bike Camps. The programs, run by former professional mountain biker Mia Stockdale and a staff of coaches, offer weekend camps for everyone from beginners to experienced riders.

“I’ve been on a mountain bike maybe twice, and I’ve never had anybody try to teach me,” Quinn said. “When I went, I just tried to figure out gears and such on my own, and it didn’t go so well. This time I’ll try to learn from the pros.”

Cory Glackin, of Alpine Quest Sports in Edwards, said the store’s most popular program is the three-day beginner kayak course. The courses help beginners get started on the tamer sections of the river, and teach them how to rock around on the kayak, paddle and eventually roll, one of the basic moves of the sport.

“It’s good way to try something totally new,” she said of the courses. “Once you’re proficient, you’re able to see whole different parts of Colorado you can see only by river, such as beautiful canyons. Once you get into kayaking, it doesn’t take that long to be proficient. It’s just about getting out there and practicing.”

Here is a by-no-means comprehensive list of programs designed to get you out there for a summer adventure.

– Kayaking ” Alpine Quest Sports offers a three-day beginners course for $169. Just looking to get out on the river with other kayakers? Join the paddle club, which is free, with the option for $25 gear rental. The clubs start around Memorial Day at 5 p.m. on Thursdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, see or call 970-926-3867.

– Mountain biking ” Vail Mountain Bike Camps offer weekend camps as well as three-hour skills workshops for all levels and ages of mountain bikers. The next scheduled camp is June 13-14 in Eagle for $275. For more information, see

– Gardening ” Wildflower Farm in Edwards is offering a series of free “Grow Your Own” gardening classes. The next class is June 14 at 3 p.m. Maintenance supervisor Carley Schreiber said she’s seen many new gardeners lately, and is happy to get them started with high-altitude tips and resources. For more information, call 970-926-5504.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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