Aspen mountain-bike trails earn praise | AspenTimes.com

Aspen mountain-bike trails earn praise

The Aspen-Snowmass mountain-biking trail network received accolades for excellence this summer from an international organization promoting the sport.

The International Mountain Bicycling Association named the Aspen-area system a Bronze Level Ride Center at its 2014 World Summit on Aug. 21. The Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association pursued the designation on behalf of the upper Roaring Fork Valley.

"It's the first time we've applied," said Mike Pritchard, the association's executive director.

Pritchard said the bronze designation recognizes not only the trail system but also the overall experience the upper valley has created for mountain biking. The overall experience is boosted by the views in the Elk Mountains.

The trail system is worthy by itself in the eyes of many cyclists. The classic trail system — featuring old favorites such as Government Trail and Sunnyside Trail — has been buttressed by the addition of a new generation of trails. The newer "flow" trails, such as Deadline, Airline and Valhalla, feature banked turns and numerous whoop-de-doos and special features.

An emerging strength of the trail system is its diversity and appeal to riders of different skill levels, Pritchard said.

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The trail additions planned for the Aspen-Snowmass network by Aspen Skiing Co., the town of Snowmass Village, Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers and the open space programs of Aspen and Pitkin County could boost the network into the International Mountain Bicycling Association's silver designation and ultimately earn gold, Pritchard said. Park City, Utah, holds the only gold designation at this time.

Pritchard noted that the marketing of an area as a mountain-biking destination also earns points in the International Mountain Bicycling Association's designation process. The Aspen Chamber Resort Association, Snowmass Village Marketing and Tourism and the White River National Forest could help the team in that role, he said.

Now that there is an official designation for the upper valley's trail network, so what? Will anyone notice? Pritchard said he believes the designation is getting more attention from International Mountain Bicycling Association riders. It's a signal that an area has a network and atmosphere worth checking out. The international organization has thousands of members who could take note.

The Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association also is spreading the word among its members and partner organizations.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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