There's been way too much talk about the new Droste Trail so, of course, that's why I'm writing another column about it. You know, it's that three-and-a-half-mile section of dirt path that connects the first green at the Snowmass Club to the Aspen airport maintenance facility. Yeah, forget the epic all-day Aspen to Crested Butte bakery-to-bakery classic mountain bike tour along Richmond Ridge and over Star Pass, we've got the pliers-to-putter route.
Sure it cost about $32 million, all-in, over the years to acquire the property, but that was only money and wishing we had it back for other things like keeping the local school district solvent isn't going to bring it back, so we might as well get out and enjoy the half-hour ride every chance the temperature drops below 85 degrees up there in the blazing sun and there aren't any thunderstorms nearby. Be sure to leave the dogs at home, not because it is illegal to take them up there, but because they might get dehydrated or get struck by lightning. Even the elk won't go near the place until January.
At any rate, what I really want to do this week is talk about how great the trail was until they improved it. The nicest way to say it is that the work the crews did this summer on the new trail section is fantastic, but the new sections of trail aren't. They're boring. Alright, I said it. It's out in the open. Now we can discuss it.
For those who haven't tempted heat stroke yet to get up there to check it out, the newest section of trail skirts off the ridge and detours around one of the high points (literally and figuratively) of the route. It's a funny tweak to a trail supposedly known for its spectacular ridgeline views. But, that's only a minor complaint. The real complaint is that they've taken a perfectly challenging part of the ride out and replaced it with a benign quarter of a mile grunt through the scrub oak, which is fine, if you like that sort of thing. I don't.
The biggest critique about mountain biking in the Rockies is that it's all long climbs and downhills. There aren't many sections of rolling terrain like there is in, say, Moab, Utah. A few such short sections of undulating trail used to exist on Droste, which made it unique, fun and yes, challenging, so they eliminated them. Apparently they wanted all Droste visitors to think they were still on the Rim Trail.
It's kind of like putting luxury boxes and AstroTurf in the Roman Coliseum so it functions more all-purpose like Cowboys Stadium. Yes, we like to train on our bikes around here, but that doesn't mean we have to engineer all the trails to a locomotive grade.
The section of trail that was replaced on Droste was the one section where you had doubts about making it through without putting a foot down (i.e., it was a challenge). There was a 50-yard uphill sprint with an exposed root right at the pinnacle. You had to go hard and hit it at just the right angle to get through, otherwise you would have to get off your bike and hike it about three feet to the next place you could reasonably get back on and ride again. It wasn't a huge penalty for failure. It was a nice setup for the next few short ups and downs along the ridge to come. Now, with the replacement trial, the ride is middle chain ring cruise nearly as easy as the paved Owl Creek bike path, only there's more exposure to ticks.
OK, so I get it that not everybody is looking for a challenge in mountain biking on Droste Trail. And, that's why I really am OK with putting in sections of trail that are smooth and neat and that effectively shorten an already very short trail; especially when the trail work is done mostly by volunteers saving taxpayer dollars. That's all great. What gives me festering saddle sores is that, after they make the trail "improvements," they close the old sections of trail. Why not leave them open to those who want to continue trying them? It seems like that would be an easy thing to do.
Roger Marolt wonders when they plan to pave Droste Trail. Lay it down at firstname.lastname@example.org.