Scott Mercier: Winter is coming, so keep riding while you still can
Special to The Aspen Times
Fall in the Rockies is glorious. The colors become vibrant and cool nights and warm days make for a wonderful playground.
But I’m not gonna lie. This recent cold snap, and especially seeing new snow, has me a little freaked out. I know we need the moisture and that August was hot, but I am in no way ready for winter. After all, summer only started in late June.
But the coming of winter has me examining my priorities — and riding a bike is right up near the top. And by riding, I mean riding for the joy of riding. This is no time to be suffering and doing intervals; there are no events worth peaking for until spring.
Even the Wednesday night worlds with the Aspen Cycling Club have ended. Butch Peterson took the overall title for the men and Caroline Tory for the women.
This is a time to hit the trails and stop to enjoy every vista; whether it’s the might of Sopris, the majesty of the Maroon Bells or the pristine waters of the Roaring Fork, slow down and enjoy where you are. Don’t worry about a Strava segment or a personal record.
However, I do find myself checking Strava. And my Stava log tells me that I’m way below the miles and hours I rode last year. I’m trying to take my own advice, but it’s hard. For some weird reason I feel like I need to have more hours and miles than I rode last year, and the year before that. I’m like an addict and I just can’t seem to get enough. I have to have more. Of course, chasing hours and PRs is a shell game, but it can also be fun. I did just ‘win’ my first Strava King of the Mountain in several years this week, so I suppose that’s good! As my idol Ricky Bobby would say, “If you ain’t first, you’re last!”
The fall is also a great time to explore and to ride trails that you seldom do. Government Trail is one of my favorite, and I have yet to ride it this year, so it’s probably one I should ride this week rather than next.
New trails are always a good thing to ride. They’re usually a bit rough and force you to slow down. We have a great one that was just finished a few weeks ago in the midvalley called Vasten. It’s 6 miles of single track off the Glassier/Buckhorn trails. It’s a well-built trail that seems to combine old school mountain biking with a bit of flow. Vasten adds 15 to 20 minutes of steady climbing right from the top of Glassier. It meanders through scrub oak and has just the right grade on the climb and enough twists and turns on the descent to force you to pay attention, but still allow you to get enough speed to keep it fun. It’s dual directional, but it seems to ride better clockwise, starting from the top of Glassier.
The views of upper crown mountain from Vasten are fantastic. Stop and check them out. Of course, since it’s a new trail, your chances of getting a Strava KOM are better than average, so you should probably go hard! You can even create your own Strava “segment” if you want.
In a few weeks the Vasten trail, like many in the valley, will be a kaleidoscope of exploding colors. It also needs to be ridden to help pack the dirt and smooth out the trail, so if you’re grabbing something at Whole Foods, bring your bike and ride.
As I write this, the air is warming and it’s a postcard bluebird day. Let’s hope we get a many more days like this before the snow really starts flying. I think I’ll close my laptop and head out on the trail. After all, winter is coming!
Scott Mercier represented Team USA at the 1992 Olympic Games and had a five-year professional career with Saturn Cycling and The U.S. Postal Services teams. He currently works as a private wealth adviser in Aspen and can be reached at email@example.com.
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The Snowmass Cross Country Center will not reopen its doors this winter for Nordic ski rentals or lessons, Ute Mountaineer staff confirmed Thursday.