BASALT - There will be no Town to Town Tour this weekend, but organizers of the former nordic tour from Aspen to Basalt have settled on a new and hopefully enticing idea that involves locals and their favorite trails. And weather won't be a factor.
Basalt-based Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers will launch Climb For Trails this summer. The fundraiser will run from Memorial Day through Labor Day, giving participants a chance to raise money for the organization while they're doing what they presumably do anyway - hiking or biking up their usual workout route.
Every community has the classic climb that many residents do regularly for exercise, noted Suzanne Wolff, a member of the board of directors for Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers. In Aspen, it's the hike up Smuggler Mountain; in the Basalt area, it's the Arbaney-Kittle Trail; in Carbondale, it's the Red Hill/Mushroom Rock hike and so on.
Climb For Trails challenges participants to log their outings on these trails throughout the summer and raise money with each and every climb. Proceeds will support Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers in its efforts to create and maintain trails and other public-lands projects.
Climb For Trails takes the place of the Town to Town Tour, a nordic event that debuted in 2008 and would have been scheduled this weekend on the Rio Grande Trail had its hosts not given up trying to hold a snow-dependent activity. A lack of snow forced postponement of the tour in 2011, and it was canceled altogether last year.
"Of course, this year, there's snow on the trail, but we're OK not having to go through that headache - will there be snow, won't there be snow?" Wolff said. "We're done with the weather thing."
After last year's cancellation, the organization turned to its volunteers, putting out the call for suggestions to replace the tour with some other sort of event.
"We had 40 different ideas of what we should do," said David Hamilton, executive director of the nonprofit. Climb For Trails was suggested by someone familiar with Climb the King, an annual fundraiser in Jackson, Wyo., that challenges locals to log their trips up Snow King, the ski area on the edge of town. It's a popular workout route for its vertical rise of about 1,500 feet. The 2012 Climb the King website tallied 840 participants, 58 teams and 9,001 climbs.
Climb For Trails will take a similar approach, allowing individuals and teams to log their climbs up the classic routes in each community: Smuggler, the Rim Trail in Snowmass Village, Arbaney-Kittle, Red Hill in Carbondale, Red Mountain/Jeanne Golay Trail in Glenwood Springs and Colorow Trail in New Castle.
The event is appealing for many reasons, Hamilton said. Participation should be broader, it requires less staff time for Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, and it presents less risk than taking on the expense and arrangement of a weather-dependent nordic tour.
It also happens to showcase trails that Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers has actually worked on, though in the case of Smuggler Mountain, the organization's recent efforts have centered on the Smuggler Mountain Open Space that is just beyond the typical turnaround point for many who hike or bike the dirt road for exercise. Volunteers did help replace the viewing platform on Smuggler a few years back, though, and create a new spur trail to reach it.
In the case of Colorow Trail, a 3.5-mile loop on Bureau of Land Management property just north of New Castle, volunteers spent three years actually building the route.
Climb For Trails is far more in keeping with the mission of Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers than was the Town to Town Tour, Wolff said.
"Yeah, it's cool to ski the Rio Grande Trail, but it's not a trail we ever worked on," she said.
A website for the new event - www.climbfortrails.org - went live this week, though it is still a work in progress. Registrants need an email address to sign up and, once registration is under way, will be asked to pay a $15 entry fee, for which they'll receive a Climb For Trails cap. Participants can then pledge any amount they wish to Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers for each climb they make and seek others to sponsor them, as well. There will be opportunities for team participation and sponsorships. Employers can pledge on behalf of their employees as a wellness initiative, Wolff said.
Swag and prizes are envisioned for top climbers and fundraisers. The website will track participation.
This year will feature just the six community hikes, but there is the potential to add others in future years or make it a winter event, as well, Hamilton said.
"We really hope the community agrees with us - thinks this is a great idea and gets on board with it," he said.