Upper Emerald Mountain trails to close for at least one month | SteamboatToday.com

Upper Emerald Mountain trails to close for at least one month

Mountain bikers head toward the Emerald Mountain trails Wednesday afternoon. Beetle-kill mitigation efforts will shut down many upper-mountain singletrack trails.

— Many of the trails on the upper section of Emerald Mountain will be closed for at least four weeks starting Monday, officials said Wednesday afternoon.

The closures come as efforts to clear the mountain of beetle-killed trees continue.

"It's the nature of the beast," said Trent Jones of Rogue Resources, which will run the operation. "The point we hope the community understands is that, yes, we're closing the trails for four or six weeks, but it's for the purpose of keeping the trails open for the next 20 years. If we just let these trees fall and die or it all burns, the trails would be closed on pretty much a permanent basis."

The closures are expected to affect much of the mountain above the MGM pond, and much of the work will take place south of the radio towers. The upper portion of Quarry Mountain Trail will be closed, as well as Abby's, Stairway to Heaven, Forest Loop and Root Canal.

The work continues efforts Rogue Resources made during the winter when it cleared 43 acres on Emerald. Jones said that work is about 90 percent complete and that finishing the project will result in temporary closures of trails such as Lane of Pain, Blair Witch and the lower end of Quarry Mountain.

He said work on the 58-acre tract is stimulus-funded and adds 30 jobs. The affected trails will remain closed for pretty much the whole time, Jones said, as waves of workers with different tasks will work on the entire acreage at the same time.

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"We ask that people respect the closures," he said. "This is dangerous stuff. We've had hikers and bikers going underneath our cabling system, and it's no joke. You don't just duck the rope and accidentally get hit by falling trees or killed by the cabling system. We're worried enough about our own employees, much less innocent bystanders.

"We'll get in and out as quickly as possible."

Routt County Riders trail coordinator Gretchen Sehler said all of Emerald's trails would be open this weekend and there is no finer time for eager locals to assault the mountain.

"It's riding pretty sweet," she said Wednesday, still catching her breath from what she said was a great ride. "I would take advantage of the biking this weekend because it could be closed for up to two months. It's too bad, but it's for the betterment of the forest. The beetles won this year."

She did say Rogue Resources has pledged to try to work around the Town Challenge Race Series schedule, which includes two dates on Emerald Mountain in the next six weeks. Final route maps haven't been posted for either the June 30 Emerald Cross-Country Slash & Burn race or the July 28 Emerald Beetlekill Cross-Country.

"For that first race, they might go in and log and if they're in a good place curtail things for a day or two and let us hold it, then start logging again," Sehler said. "This will all have impact for bikers and racers, but in the long run it will be for the best."

Beetle-kill worries aren't limited to Emerald Mountain, either. The Forest Service released a statement Wednesday warning visitors to the Routt National Forest to be wary of dead trees falling. There is a greater risk because recent rains may have helped rot the root systems of already decaying trees.

It's unclear whether any relief for local mountain bike riders will come this weekend in the form of the trails on Mount Werner.

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. spokeswoman Loryn Kasten said the trails are being reviewed to determine their status, but it is still unclear when the green light will be given.

"Friday is our opening day, and that's when the gondola opens and the Adventure Zone activities open. We're still assessing the trails to see if they're in shape to be open this weekend," she said. "We're working to get them open soon. We want to open our trails to the public as soon as they are ready to be open."

— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@steamboatpilot.com

Avoiding falling trees

■ Be aware of your surroundings. Avoid dense patches of dead trees. They can fall without warning.

■ If you are in the forest when the winds increase, head to a clearing out of reach of any potential falling trees.

■ Park vehicles and put camps in areas where they will not be hit if a tree falls.

■ Park close to a main road; if trees fall across the road you may be trapped.

■ Bring an ax or chainsaw to remove fallen trees from roads in case you become trapped.

■ Don’t rely only on cell phones for safety since there is no coverage in many areas of the National Forest.

■ Remember, your safety is your responsibility.

Source: U.S. Forest Service

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