New Droste trail near Snowmass close to creation |

New Droste trail near Snowmass close to creation

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – The public will get its first look at the Droste open space Monday, if the weather cooperates. Anyone champing at the bit to hit the planned new trail that will access the property from Snowmass Village, however, will have to wait a few more weeks.

A handful of people got a sneak preview of the route Tuesday, though, and a chance to tweak the planned track that will wind upward through the sage and Gambel oak to the scenic Droste ridgeline.

A Snowmass Village trail crew will create 1.3 miles of trail that climbs 705 feet, creating the missing link to the 845-acre open space acquired late last year by a consortium of buyers that included Pitkin County, Aspen and Snowmass Village.

Gary Tennenbaum, land steward with Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, has bushwhacked up the hillside a number of times, GPS unit in hand, helping choose a route that will find favor with mountain bikers, equestrians and hikers. It will offer climbing curves, but no switchbacks, he vowed, allowing bikers to stay in their pedals.

“We’re going to make it rideable,” he said Tuesday. “The cool thing is, there are some areas where you have to climb a little bit, and then you get a little flat.”

Tennenbaum compared the ride to the climb up the Rim Trail in Snowmass Village from the Horse Ranch side.

“This is going to be fantastic riding,” said Jeff Woods, Aspen parks and recreation director and an avid mountain biker.

On the edge of Snowmass Village, trail users will start on the existing Lowline Trail, accessed off Highline Road near the Brush Creek roundabout, until they hit the new trail, which will meander through the town’s Hidden Valley property and then onto the county’s Seven Star Open Space, climbing to an existing road on Seven Star that connects to the Droste property.

“This is gorgeous up here. Oh, my goodness,” said Carol Dopkin, a member of the Roaring Fork Valley Horse Council, taking in the vistas from Seven Star.

Setting the trail route has been slow going, as snow continued to fall throughout April, noted Jeff Tippett, a Snowmass Village Trails Committee member.

“We intended to do this hike a month ago. The weather has not been cooperating,” he said.

The town intends to get the trail built as quickly as possible, said Pam Mulleavey, parks and trails foreman for Snowmass Village, estimating a mid-June opening.

It has to be done by June 28, she noted, when a celebration of the Droste acquisition is planned at the Snowmass Town Park pavilion, followed by an invitation to hike, bike or ride a horse up onto the open space.

On Monday, however, the only access to Droste will be off the airport’s Radar Road, a dirt road that climbs from Owl Creek Road on the back side of the airport, to the airport’s radar tower. The tower sits on the same ridge that is the highlight of the Droste property – a spine that separates the Brush Creek and Owl Creek valleys, extending from Highway 82 nearly to Snowmass Village.

Open space officials aren’t yet sure whether the Droste property itself will be open to use on Monday, though Radar Road will be open. Wednesday’s predicted snowfall could push back the Droste opening, Tennenbaum said. Officials don’t want a muddy, degrading mess on the ridgeline by opening it before the ground is sufficiently dry.

When the open space does open, those who traverse the ridge will have to return the way they went up, on Radar Road, until the new trail on the Snowmass end is built and open. They will, however, be able to go as far as an overlook on Seven Star that offers stunning views of the peaks surrounding Snowmass.

Parking for Radar Road is available at nearby Buttermilk – not at the airport operations building, airport officials stress. Parking on the Snowmass end will be available at the rodeo lot.

Eventually, trail access to Droste is also planned from Cozy Point South, on the opposite side of the ridge from Radar Road, but that won’t happen this year.

Existing access to the open space from private property in the Owl Creek Valley will be closed off, according to Tennenbaum, unless a route that’s also open to the public can be created. The existing dirt road that extends between Seven Star and the Owl Creek properties should be revegetated, he said.

“This road needs to disappear,” Tennenbaum said.

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