In the saddle: First foray onto Droste

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – I got my first taste of riding the Droste Mountain Park trail over the holiday weekend after getting a few second-hand reports that were all over the map.

The trail wasn’t exactly “epic” as advertised by one friend (relaying a message from another friend) but it wasn’t the “Rim Trail without the views” as someone else contended. It was somewhere in between.

One key is to start early on these warm summer days because you definitely get your climbing in whether you start at Highline Drive in Snowmass Village or on the airport ranch side. A buddy and I launched from the Buttermilk parking lot at the crack of 10:15 a.m. Sunday, when the temperature was already well into the 70s and the sun was beating down.

We rode the Owl Creek Trail for a couple of miles to Lada Vrany’s old place at the airport ranch, diverted onto a gravel road that climbed at a steady pace to the radar tower on the shale bluffs overlooking the intersection of Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road. Radar Road was about a 25-minute climb for us. The steep pitch is sustained for a longer time than Smuggler Mountain Road but it’s buffed out and doesn’t present any challenges from erosion or large rocks.

We took a brief break at the top of the road then jumped on the freshly-pecked single-track that veers toward Snowmass Village. By then, the temp was in the 80s, nary a cloud was in the sky and the bugs were jumping from the brush. The single-track keep you on your toes because it’s always changing. Short climbs are followed by rocket-fast downhills. The ride will undoubtedly get more fun as the surface gets compacted.

We stopped near the top of the new Ridge Connector Trail and gabbed for quite a while about life’s twists and turns so, unfortunately, I lost track of time. The descent down to Highline Trail on the connector was the highlight of our foray into Droste. One rider we encountered was slightly bummed that the switchbacks were tight enough that you could never really let ‘er rip. On the plus side, the switchbacks were well-engineered and very rideable.

Droste itself is something a rider can whip through in less than an hour, even on a cooking day. We, fortunately, followed advice and combined it with another trail segment. We exchanged the climb on the exposed slopes of Droste for the cooler climb through the lush forest surrounding the Tom Blake Trail. We took Stark’s Trail down to The Pines subdivision, being somewhat pressed for time, then climbed up Sinclair Divide on the Owl Creek Trail before whisking back downhill to Buttermilk.

All-in-all, Droste is a fun gateway to other trails, but not really a destination unto itself, yet.