Steamboat man enjoys journey of Colorado Trail Race |

Steamboat man enjoys journey of Colorado Trail Race

Jon Kowalsky snaps a selfie at the top of Kenosha Pass on the Colorado Trail Race.
Jon Kowalsk/courtesy

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Colorado Trail Race isn’t about the destination, it’s about a journey and making sure others can take part.

The 500-mile bike race changes routes every year, but this year, cyclists rode from Denver to Durango on a single-track trail, with an overall elevation gain of 70,000 feet.

Because of its difficulty, most riders don’t make it to the end. Last year, just 25 percent of participants made it to the finish.

But there’s no shame in that. The race has no entry fee, support, registration or prize money, just a $15 tracking fee and a strongly encouraged donation to the Colorado Trail Foundation.

Steamboat resident Jon Kowalsky made it through 160 miles of the trek, stopping in Breckenridge with a strained knee.

“I got to the point where I could not ride my bike,” Kowalsky said. “When I was walking my bicycle and I got passed by a little girl with streamers and training wheels on her bike, I thought it was time to re-evaluate.”

Kowalsky had been training since last November, going on long bike rides and working out at Manic Training, so he fully expected to finish the race.

Though he felt he didn’t make it very far, the adventure was unmatched. Kowalsky packed his bike with all the essentials: a sleep system, water, backpacking food and clothing. He didn’t plan his stops, riding each day until he couldn’t anymore.

“You fell into groups of people,” Kowalsky said. “I never plotted out where I was going to stop.”

He enjoyed the beautiful views above treeline on Kenosha Pass, at approximately 11,000 feet, and indulge on Skittles when he found a gas station.

He rode 15 to 18 miles a day, which included two to three-hour stretches of pushing his 50-pound bike up the trail, only to go downhill for 20 minutes.

Besides the physical adventure, Kowalsky enjoyed the people he met.

“There was a gentleman handing out burritos at night in the middle of the trail almost to Georgia Pass,” Kowalsky said. “I met guys from Maine in their 80s, kids from Denver in their teens. It’s really neat and it’s a good vibe. Everyone is out there for the right reasons.”

Kowalsky wasn’t the only Steamboat resident to participate. Donnie Haubert was still riding when contacted for an interview; he was about 100 miles from the finish.

While the race is completely what a rider makes of it, Kowalsky thinks he will take on other segments of the trail with friends in the future to make it less straining and more fun.

But the cause is what makes the race important. The Colorado Trail Foundation is a nonprofit organization funded almost entirely by private contributions, according to

The money from donations goes towards the general upkeep of the trail to make adventure possible, which is why Kowalsky contributed.

“I just like to go out on more of an adventure than a race, I’m not really that fast,” Kowalsky said. “However people do the Colorado Trail, they should do it because it’s a beautiful thing.”

To reach Leah Vann, call 970-871-4253, email or follow her on Twitter @LVann_Sports.

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