Planning to begin on downhill trails in Steamboat |

Planning to begin on downhill trails in Steamboat

Canadian team set to scan Mount Werner, start mapping

Pat West catches some air as he races toward the finish line last summer during a Town Challenge race at Steamboat Ski Area. The ski area announced this week that it is moving forward with plans to build new downhill-only mountain biking trails.

— Dave Kelly said he plans to come to Steamboat Springs and spend four to six weeks wandering in the woods.

This is something he's excited about.

Local mountain bikers can be, as well.

Kelly, with the renowned British Columbia-based trail-building team Gravity Logic, is headed to town to start mapping out the trails on Mount Werner that will fill in the master summer trails plan provided in April by Steamboat Ski Area.

"We are excited to be moving forward," said Jim Schneider, the ski area's vice president of skier services. "Assuming everything going forward works out, our goal would be to be running next spring with a few trails when we open."

That's what local biking enthusiasts are excited to hear. The ski area announced months ago its plans to address the area's lack of downhill-only mountain bike trails, courses tailored to the increasingly popular freestyle method of riding. But a Thursday news release about Gravity Logic's involvement made the project seem all the more real to some who have been trying for years to get such trails started in Steamboat.

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"This is the moment," Routt County Riders President Robin Craigen said. "This is a sign of definite action. We've worked at this for almost a year, meeting with the ski area, hoping they could get a hold of the ideas we had about a need for freeride trails.

"This is a huge step forward."

The announcement comes at the same time as another, saying a rogue freeride trail was discovered on the mountain and would be dismantled.

That's exactly the kind of news Kelly said he hopes to head off.

It won't be a fast process, he explained. First, he and his team will canvass the mountain, spending four to six weeks mapping potential courses, checking for environmentally sensitive areas, overly steep inclines or spots that simply don't work well to ride.

Wandering the area a year ago, he found plenty to be excited about.

Among the ski area's attributes are steep sections followed by flat areas and plenty of slopes covered by aspens and exposed to the south. That means they will dry off quickly in the spring under bare trees, be nice and cool in the summer under the green aspen canopy, and dry quickly again in the fall when the leaves are gone and light rain and snow start to return.

"Steamboat has some really good terrain," Kelly said. "It's an ideal place to build a bike park."

After the routes are established and the U.S. Forest Service grants permission, construction will begin, potentially late this summer and into fall. Schneider said ideally, the goal would be to lay out a whole trail complex at once. Kelly added that those could take years to get approved by the Forest Service.

Instead, Steamboat will start with one or two trails, hopefully ready next spring, and then fill in during the ensuing years.

That sounds just fine to Steamboat's eager riders.

"We're as anxious as anyone to see this happen," Craigen said. "It's been a collaborative effort. It's taken a huge effort by a lot of people, so we're happy to see it moving. This is very exciting."