Hit the path downvalley
Vail CO, Colorado
When spring rolls around in Eagle County, most residents trade in their skis and snowboards for bikes.
But the mountains don’t have such an easy transition.
Before the ski slopes close, mountain bikers venture west, to popular spots like Moab, Utah, and Fruita.
This year, when Beaver Creek closed in the second week of April, local bikers had plenty of options that didn’t include hours of driving.
“As the temperature warms up, you don’t have to travel so far to get good weather and good trails,” said Jay Henry, a local professional mountain biker.
By mid-March, trails start opening up downvalley, and by mid-April, nearly all of the terrain is in great condition.
“Everything is open and dry,” said Leslie Kehmeier, an avid biker who works for the Eagle County Geographic Information Systems Department and helps design maps for biking trails in the county.
Kehmeier has seen the many downvalley trails become popular areas for bikers throughout the county.
“Eagle is quite the hot bed for riding in the last couple of years,” she said. “It has a good slice of the most popular rides.”
This early in the year, when many of the upvalley trails are still closed due to snow and animal migration paths, the downvalley paths are even more
“I get 15 calls a day sometimes on, ‘What’s the weather, are you guys ridable?'” said Charlie Brown, who owns the Mountain Pedaler of Vail, which is located in Eagle.
“There’s not much to ride (upvalley) except Berry Creek,” said Julie Morrow, who lives in Edwards. “There’s hours and hours of riding in Eagle. There’s not a need to drive (to Fruita). I think Eagle is almost better than Fruita ” it just doesn’t dry out as much.”
Downvalley bikers relish the opportunity to bike without getting in a car.
“It’s nice just going out the door,” said Heather Sappenfield, who lives in Eagle. “It’s fun because everyone comes to me and asks to park at my house.”
Sappenfield, who rides several times a week with friends, likes that she can also ride with her daughter in Eagle.
“There is a half-mile loop geared towards kids and beginners with a park in the middle,” she said. “My daughter can also ride some of the trail.”
Kehmeier, who can take lunch breaks to go riding, knows the trails in Eagle quite well. For the past three years, Kehmeier has helped put together the Ecosports trailguide, which is a collection of more than 20 mountain rides throughout the county. This guide may be available for free in bike shops at the end of this month, while an interactive guide can be found at ecosports.com
“I have my particular favorites,” Kehmeier said. “You can rotate a whole weeks’ worth of riding and not have to ride the same stuff. Towards the middle of summer, if it gets hot, you can go out towards Sylvan Lake. And there’s stuff up on Hardscrabble.
“The best part about knowing your local area is that my secret stuff is probably different from someone else’s secret stuff.”
On May 23, the Vail Recreation District’s mountain biking series kicks off at 4 Eagle Ranch.
“Until mid-June, downvalley is still king,” Henry said. “It’s perfect, you get the rain every once in a while, and it keeps the trails in great shape.”
On the web: http://www.ecosports.com
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or