Roaring Fork Valley, Snowmass named gold-level mountain bike destination |

Roaring Fork Valley, Snowmass named gold-level mountain bike destination

A racer descends out of the start line during the Snowmass Bike Park race series on Aug. 13.
Maddie Vincent

On Jan. 29, the Roaring Fork Valley was designated as an International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) Gold-Level Ride Center, one of only seven locations in the world and the first in Colorado.

At an announcement celebration Jan. 29 at the Limelight Snowmass hotel, over 50 locals gathered to learn more about the designation, which recognizes the more than 300 miles of single track and dozens of miles of additional mountain biking-friendly paths from Aspen to Glenwood Springs as one high-quality, all-encompassing destination location.

And to make this destination designation possible, it took years of partnership and collaboration among area land managers, chamber associations, town officials, local volunteers and mountain biking enthusiasts.

“None of this could have happened without the collaboration with all of these communities,” said Rose Abello, director of Snowmass Tourism at the Jan. 29 event. She then gave a shout-out to the land managers, Snowmass town officials, Aspen city officials, Aspen Skiing Co., Pitkin County officials, Colorado River District officials and Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs chamber association members in the audience.

According to Abello, shortly after the valley was named an IMBA Bronze-Level Ride Center in 2014, a group of Roaring Fork stakeholders known as the “bike committee” began to convene to look at what it would take to make it to the gold-level.

Although the committee was made up of a variety of valley officials and stakeholders, including Abello, she said Mike Pritchard, executive director of the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association (RFMBA), was the “lynchpin” that helped “guide us to gold.”

According to Pritchard, the detailed report the valley received with its bronze-level designation and the IMBA Ride Center criteria served as a local guide for RFMBA and its valley-wide partners to help it grow and improve to a gold-level status. The criteria include offering a variety of trail types and their mileage, trail experience quality, destination best practices and local services.

“We realized, ‘OK, we’re missing some easier trails, we’re missing some challenging trails,’” Pritchard said. “We said, ‘Yes, we’re starting to have some really great modern bike-optimized trails and we have some incredible, excellent traditional trails, but we’re missing some mileage in those categories,’ so we would try to target those.”

From the backcountry Arbaney-Kittle trail to the paved Rio Grande Trail that serves as the “trunk” that connects everything together, the Mushroom Rock grind near Carbondale to the relatively new Grandstaff Trail in Glenwood Springs and the gravity trails in the Snowmass Bike Park, the valley has developed a range of high-quality mountain biking offerings for all riders out their back door, Pritchard explained.

And in July after a week of experiencing these valley mountain bike offerings, the IMBA specialists saw this high-quality range, too.

“For Aspen-Snowmass/Roaring Fork Ride Center to grow from bronze-level to gold-level is a remarkable achievement, and a testament to the community’s dedication to mountain biking,” IMBA executive director Dave Wiens said in a prepared statement.

RFMBA is a chapter of IMBA, which works to grow the quantity and quality of mountain bike trail communities across the United States. Communities can apply to be recognized as an IMBA Ride Center, a designation awarded to places that “value mountain biking and have a trail-forward approach that serves their community members alongside recreational tourism,” according to an IMBA fact sheet.

Over the past six years, RFMBA has collaborated with the valley’s local communities, including Snowmass Village, to cultivate a trail-forward approach and create a more connected trail system accessible to all riders.

In Snowmass, this growth and collaboration is evident through additions the Discovery Trail and the gravity trails in the Snowmass Bike Park, along with the hosting a Colorado High School Cycling League race the first time last summer.

According to Andy Worline, director of parks, recreation and trails in Snowmass, helping the valley reach its IMBA Gold-Level Ride Center goals is a part of the town’s 2017 Parks, Open Space, Trails and Recreation Plan, and the village has worked hard to maintain and manage all of the town’s trails.

“All of the partners had a vision that we could get to this point,” Worline said of the gold-level recognition. “We want to continue to make connections so it’s easier for everyone to use our trails. … Hopefully this helps us take the next step to provide even more opportunities for all trail users.”

For Abello, the gold-level designation will only add to the culture and summer tourism season and is something all town businesses and organizations can use in their marketing. She also feels the village is ideally situated and suited to serve as the “heart of gold” for the Roaring Fork ride center.

“We want everyone to embrace this,” Abello said. “I really believe it’s a great opportunity to expand our summer appeal.”

Worline expressed similar thoughts.

“Our locals already know we have fabulous trails. This gives us the opportunity to get the message out that this is a destination spot for all types of trail use,” Worline said. “Hopefully people will come to Snowmass and the Roaring Fork Valley and see how spectacular it really is.”