Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance plans ‘Trails For All. Trails Forever!’ fundraiser

The Mill Creek reroute singletrack, completed at the end of last fall, opened on July 1

Ellen Miller leads a Vail Valley Mountain Trail Alliance hike.
VVMTA/Courtesy photo

Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance (VVMTA) executive director Ernest Saeger said the idea of hosting a fundraiser has been on the nonprofit organization’s radar for a while.

“The way we’ve grown and been able to support our community requires some more resources,” he stated in advance of the “Trails for All. Trails Forever!” fundraiser, scheduled for July 14 from 6-9 p.m. at the Gore Range room at Vail Golf Club and sponsored by East West Partners, Cooley Mesa Detailing and Slifer Smith & Frampton. The event, which costs $95 to attend and is limited to 160 individuals, includes food and beverage, a live performance from the Runaway Grooms and group rides in the morning for ticketed guests. There’s also an online auction open to the community starting Monday.

“We’re hoping to raise some resources here through this event and into the future to run our programs, take care of our trails and improve our communities’ experience in the outdoors,” Saeger stated.

VVMTA’s growth is undeniable. In 2019, Saeger became VVMTA’s first employee; five full-time employees and eight seasonal full-time trail crew members are on staff today. The ‘Adopt-A-Trail’ program has expanded from 30 teams in 2017 to 80 in 2023.

“We’re getting hundreds of people outside through 80 events a year,” Saeger said of VVMTA’s free programming. The expansion — in activity and trail mileage — is costly, but worth it.

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“It’s incredibly expensive, and it’s very important,” he continued.

The cost for each of the eight trail conservation crew members is $15,000, and there’s a similar bill for the Adopt-A-Trail teams’ tools and supplies. Soul Dirt, VVMTA’s new-for-2022 program which encourages sustainable recreation through trail-based experiences and introduces community members to their backyard, costs about $200,000. Hiring a professional trail contractor can run about $35,000 per mile.

“I think we all see that more people are out there using our trails and getting outside, which is awesome — but it takes a lot of planning and management and execution to help make sure that experience is still everything that we’re looking for,” Saeger admitted.

According to its website, the VVMTA “advocates for soft surface trails, manages trail stewardship programs, maintains and builds trails, coordinates and trains volunteers, educates outdoor recreational users, and creates opportunities to access the outdoors. We provide our expertise, resources, and experience to support local land managers in various soft surface trail initiatives.”
VVMTA/Courtesy photo

While tickets to the event itself are going fast, anyone can take part in the online auction, which in and of itself reflects what VVMTA is all about.

“We kind of kept it local and fun and keeping it with our mission — connections and our community,” Saeger said. There are 10th Mountain Division hut stays, bikes from Venture Sports, Mountain Pedaler, and High Gear Cyclery, rounds of golf at Frost Creek, Vail Golf Club and Eagle Ranch and a private backcountry ski trip for four from Paragon Guides up for grabs.  

The fundraiser’s name — “Trails For All. Trails Forever!” — is also significantly paired with VVMTA’s long-term approach to trail stewardship and promotion.

“What that means to us is that our trails and our community are open and accessible for our public and for our enjoyment, and we want everyone who lives here to get out there and enjoy them and use them and become stewards of them,” Saeger said.

“It’s why a lot of us live here. It’s why we love to do what we do out on the trails and we’re here to make sure we can continue to do that for us and our future generations.”

Update on current and future projects

The women’s trail crew works to remove a tree.
VVMTA/Courtesy photo

A glance at VVMTA’s calendar reveals a schedule packed with trail crew evenings, Soul Dirt rides and more. Outside of those offerings, Saeger identified a couple projects currently in the works and one recently finished one worth checking out.

The groundbreaking for the Eagle Bike Park is set for this fall.

“That’s a big project where we’re bringing something like the Minturn Bike Park to the community of Eagle,” Saeger said of the roughly half-a-million dollar project.

Since the Town of Eagle Open Space and Trails Master Plan was approved in July 2022, VVMTA has also been working with the Hardscrabble Trails Coalition (HTC) on proposed trail improvement projects. Those plans have been shared since November; now, an environmental assessment review through Bureau of Land Management is taking place.

“A lot of really exciting new trail connections, kind of creating some trail hubs, really cleaning up the trail network and making it a much better user experience,” Saeger described of that project, which is accepting substantiative comments providing new information, data and other ideas and proposals through July 9. More details are available at

Up-valley, Saeger said VVMTA is in a “planning stage year.”

“So, looking at potential future opportunities — where recreation is occurring and keeping that impact where it is, how we can improve it and meet the growing demand for trail use that’s out there, that will really excite and bring some good new stuff to our community,” he said.

Finally, on July 1, the new Mill Creek reroute, completed at the end of last fall, opened for summer business. The 6.5-mile singletrack climbs gradually to the top of Benchmark Peak at 11,800 feet.

“It’s just incredibly sweet, through aspen and pines. You get up on the top of East Vail chutes and the views are just 360-degrees of everything,” Saeger said, adding that because it opened right before the first snowfall last year, not many were able to test it out.

“I’m excited for people to get out there and try it,” he continued.

“It’s a grind because it’s just long, but it’s not a super steep, crush-your-soul kind of thing. You just kind of settle in and pedal. Same with trail running — you can kind of get in your groove and it can be super enjoyable.”

“Most people think there’s magical trail fairies out there taking care of our trails and public lands,” VVMTA executive director Ernest Saeger said. “Trees aren’t getting cleared on their own, or trails being built, maintained, or planned on their own — it takes a lot of funding, time, volunteers and staff.”
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