Deadline Trail will give Aspen-area downhillers a thrill |

Deadline Trail will give Aspen-area downhillers a thrill

Construction is scheduled to begin this week on an Aspen-area mountain bike trail designed specifically with downhill thrill seekers in mind.

Pitkin County Open Space and Trails will build the Deadline Trail from the top of Sky Mountain Park to the Highline Trail on the Snowmass Village-side of the ridge. The trail will be nearly 2 miles long with special features like drop downs, where riders can catch air if they are so inclined, according to Gary Tennenbaum, assistant director of the open space program.

Deadline Trail will be posted with signs advising that it be treated as a downhill-only trail, but uphill traffic won’t be prohibited.

“We’re not going to legislate it or regulate it,” Tennenbaum said. “We’re just going to recommend it.”

“We’d rather see people self-regulate,” he said.

The trail will be a “flow trail” where banked switchbacks allow riders to use the berms to make the corner without a lot of application of brakes. There will be a lot of rolling contours where riders can catch air.

Open space officials don’t believe trail-use numbers warrant requiring one-way travel. Some trails in the foothills of the Front Range get so heavily used that different uses are designated on different days, or one-way travel is designated on different days.

Pitkin County’s open space program doesn’t have enough seasonal rangers to patrol a trail for one-way travel, Tennenbaum said.

The addition of Deadline will come close on the heels of the opening of Airline Trail, which has been immensely popular this spring. Airline connects the Owl Creek Trail west of the airport runway to Sky Mountain Park’s Skyline Ridge Trail. It was constructed last fall and was unofficially opened to riders. It opened officially in mid-May and has drawn hundreds of riders already, according to Tennenbaum. It was packed with uphill and downhill traffic on Saturday and Sunday. The trail is experiencing a “honeymoon” phase where everybody wants to check it out, Tennenbaum said. Sky Mountain Park and its trail network are also at a lower elevation than some surrounding national forest lands and its more exposed, so the trails have dried out sooner.

Deadline Trail will connect into the existing trail network on the upper end where Skyline Ridge Trails melds into the Viewline Trail, which ascends-descends from Sky Mountain Park into Snowmass Village. It will connect on the lower end where Highline Trail climbs steeply near a Holy Cross building on the road to the Snowmass Village cemetery. Highline will be recontoured to ease that steep section.

Open space officials hope trail use patterns evolve so that riders climb Viewline Trail and use Deadline Trail for the descent, Tennenbaum said. However, neither trail will be closed for travel either direction, he stressed.

Progressive Trail Design, which has a branch in Boulder, was hired to build Deadline. It also constructed Airline. Deadline will be open sometime in mid-July, according to Tennenbaum. The contractor’s use of a machine makes trail work quicker than when volunteers are recruited for hand construction. (Yet another new trail to Sky Mountain Park — Cozyline Trail — was opened this year after trail crews built it last year.)

Deadline will cost an estimated $56,000 to build, Tennenbaum said. The Walton Family Foundation provided a grant to cover half the expense. The city of Aspen, Pitkin County and Snowmass Village teamed to provide the other $28,000.

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