Vail Daily column: Follow these tips to respect the trails
As winter draws in and the snowpack gets deeper, it seems the array of toys we can play with and transportation methods we can use only increase. This time of year, trail users range from fat bikes to skinny skis, snowshoes to hiking boots, and everything in between. We are lucky here in the Vail Valley, where we have an abundance of trail networks and open spaces that allow so many different users to enjoy the same area.
With that in mind, the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association would like to encourage a few winter tips to keep our treasured trails in good condition.
TAKE CARE OF THE TRAILS
Leave no trace: No one wants to see Clif Bar wrappers halfway up Saddleridge left behind by nonchalant bikers. Please keep track of your own rubbish, and maybe even pick up where you see others have forgotten. While it may slow down your Strava time, you will feel a lot better about yourself if you stop a moment to pick up trash (whether it is yours or not) vs. beating your personal hill climb record. By working together, we can keep our trails pristine so that visitors and locals alike can enjoy a true natural experience.
Winter closures: When one door closes, another opens. Here in our valley certain trails will close periodically or for an entire season for various reasons. Often these closures are due to wildlife regulations, but they also have a lot to do with preserving the trail itself. Hiking, biking or slipping on wet and muddy trails can do an amazing amount of damage to the trails. This damage can take people like me many hours to fix just a small amount of trail. Please only play on open trails that have significant coverage to enjoy. As the biking community likes to say, mud is murder. Hike early in the morning or on shady, north-facing slopes that usually keep snow longer to help avoid mud damage.
Dogs: We all love our pets, but pets must be supervised accordingly. As you see the snow melt on warmer days, you might notice the dog waste along trails. Please remember to pick up after your pet and that leash laws exist on most trails. This is not to punish your pet, but rather to allow the trail to be enjoyed by all (without dog poo on your shoe). So please don’t forget to grab poo bags despite the snow and keep your pet on leash, especially if they are excitable around other trail users. Remember, the trail is for everyone to enjoy!
Skin tracks: With so many different types of trail users, there will be times that you come across different types of trails. Skintracks are seasonal trails formed in the winter by skiers and splitboarders skinning uphill. These tracks tend to be very smooth, similar to those of Nordic tracks. Be careful following these tracks, as they do not always follow a summer trail or lead to a familiar destination. It is good trail etiquette to avoid these types of trails if your are on snowshoes or a fatbike, similar to that of a Nordic track.
As anyone from Colorado will so fondly tell you, the weather here can change as fast as the one stoplight in Avon. Bringing the right layers for a day on the trails is a bit more complicated than putting on your outerwear and going skiing. Even on a warmer day, it can get pretty cold once you round a corner into the shade or the sun goes behind a peak. Always bring extra layers, some snacks and plenty of water just in case your time on the trails takes a little longer than planned. And trust us, trail days are almost always longer than planned! For trail advice, conditions and directions, look up the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association’s Facebook page.
Joe Mahan is a board member of the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association.