Aspen-area trails are in tip-top shape |

Aspen-area trails are in tip-top shape

A rider crests one of the many ridges on the new Airline Trail that provides access between the Owl Creek Trail and Sky Mountain Ranch. Airline Trail opened in mid-May and is drawing rave reviews.
Pitkin County Open Space and Trails/Courtesy photo |

I can’t imagine the mountain-bike trails and surrounding terrain will get any better than they were last weekend.

Both the Crown in the midvalley and Sky Mountain Park upvalley were in great shape thanks to the rainy weather the prior week. The trails were compacted, but dry weather and hundreds of bike tires haven’t pulverized them into chalky powder yet.

The real delight was the abundance of wildflowers on both mid-elevation humps. The Crown was an explosion of fiery reds, pale yellows, muted blues and deep purples.

I was busy Saturday trying, in vain, to keep up with two riding partners on the Crown. I swear those guys never let up during two hours of climbing, except for an occasional stop. There’s nothing better than chasing stronger riders to help you improve, but man, it’s tough to keep that perspective at the time.

The flowers were great consolation for finding myself off the back.

Sunday, I wanted to tackle the highly touted Airline Trail and found it deserving of all accolades. Pitkin County Open Space and Trails does a good job with all its trail construction, but the crew absolutely nailed it with the Airline Trail. The huge, banked switchbacks are accommodating for the climb up and exhilarating for the scream down.

I incorporated Airline Trail into a route that helped make Sunday heavenly. I followed Skyline Ridge Trail to the delightful 600- foot vertical plunge on Viewline Trail, then looped Lowline and Highline back to Viewline and reserved course. The icing was the trip down Airline. That trail is built for speed. You get good views from above of the switchback sections so you know whether or not anybody is climbing. There are a few blind spots where you need to be careful so you don’t cream another rider or hiker.

I didn’t try out the other new trail, Cozyline, but that, too, is getting rave reviews.

The connections from Sky Mountain Park will just keep getting better as summer nears. The Tom Blake Trail, Government Trail and other routes in that network open in late June, once elk calving season is over. Happy trails, indeed.

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