Two outfitters approved to offer bike, ski tours on Emerald Mountain

Restrictions will limit congestion on the popular trail network

The Emerald Trail Network is among the busiest in the area. Even with the addition of two approved commercial outfitters, users shouldn't expect much of a difference.
John F. Russel/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Steamboat Springs has awarded the city’s first-ever permits to provide tours and instruction on the Emerald Mountain Trail Network to two local outfitters. 

Ride Workshop and Steamboat Powdercats were chosen by the city after an application period. Both companies will offer mountain biking tours during the summer and fat biking tours during the winter, while Steamboat Powdercats will also offer backcountry ski tours on Emerald Mountain during the winter. 

Many members of the biking community were unhappy about the prospect of commercial tours on the Emerald Trails, so the city attached stipulations to the permits to limit the operations’ footprint. 

Each permit states that only one tour session can be done per day for a maximum of four hours, and the group size can be no larger than five, including the guide. Over the course of the season, only 200 sessions can be hosted. 

“I heard there’s some people who weren’t super excited about outfitting on Emerald,” said Kent Vertrees, who manages Steamboat Powdercats. “I think the city did a good job with the restrictions on it. It’s not gonna be a big moneymaker.”

These permits also limit outfitters to taking their groups down NPR — one of the most popular trails on Emerald — once per session. 

Both outfitters will primarily host tours for people at the beginner to intermediate levels. The stipulations of the permits require outfitters to provide education on trail etiquette.

Many Emerald Trails veterans have long complained about poor etiquette by inexperienced riders. 

“What’s been happening is people have been renting bikes or coming to town with no experience on Emerald,” said Corey Piscopo, who owns Ride Workshop. “They get thrown out there. They have no idea who yields to who, whether they’re supposed to yield to runners, stuff like that.”

Because Ride Workshop already offers similar touring services and has a fleet of mountain bikes ready to rent, Piscopo said he is ready to start taking people up as soon as next week. He hopes to complete 50 sessions by the end of summer, a number he expects to be higher next year with a full summer of operation. The outfitter will host tours Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., a timeframe Piscopo said should minimize congestion because evenings and weekends tend to be very busy on Emerald. 

Ride Workshop is a relatively new outfitter in Steamboat, having been in operation since July 2020. It offers bike and gear rentals, as well as shuttle services to permitted routes. 

Steamboat Powdercats has yet to take reservations for tours on Emerald.

Vertrees said he’s excited about the opportunity to expand his company’s services into biking, as Steamboat Powdercats has traditionally been a backcountry ski tour company servicing Buffalo Pass. Steamboat Powdercats was founded in winter 1983, and will celebrate its 40th year in operation next year. 

Vertrees said his company is still figuring out the best strategies for incorporating this new operation such as forming partnerships with local bike companies to handle rentals. He expects tours to be in operation later this summer and in full swing for the entire winter season. 

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