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Top-to-bottom skiing and a new mountain manager as Aspen Mountain opens

The quiet off-season came to a close with the early opening of Aspen Mountain on Saturday. Skiers and snowboarders lined up early, eager to get to the top to start off the season. Excitement was in the air as people loaded the Silver Queen Gondola, ready for the start of a new season.

Longtime Aspen Skiing Co. employee Travis Benson took the reins as mountain manager at Ajax over the summer and had his first opening day on Saturday. Formerly the Buttermilk mountain manager, he has been with Skico since 2005. Benson, an Aspen native, is the former head coach of the Aspen High School football team.

His first Opening Day as Aspen Mountain manager went went smoothly, he said, but not without knocking on wood because “it’s only 2:15,” and the day was not over yet.

“Winter is here, and it’s exciting,” he said. “Opening on a good snow surface on a sunny day. There were lots of smiles.”

People wait in line to load the Silver Queen Gondola for some of the first runs of the season on Saturday, opening day at Aspen Mountain.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Aspen Mountain opened with top-to-bottom skiing. The cold weather, paired with the ability to make snow across the mountain, allowed for an early opening that excited beginners and experts.

Benson said things went smoothly and estimated they were able to open about 260 acres of skiable terrain, which made for a “huge success” on Opening Day.

“From maintenance all the way through to what I call the ‘dark ops’ of cats and snowmaking, to lift-off patrol to guest-facing services, everybody was on point. I am truly honored to be working with this team,” he said.

Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan greeted everyone at the bottom of the Silver Queen Gondola in the early morning, calling this his “last first day.”

“It’s awesome. I couldn’t ask for it to be any better, right? The sun’s out, we have incredible snow on the ground,” said Kaplan, who will step down from his post after this season.

Both he and Benson gave kudos to employees and emphasized how smoothly operations went because of their efforts.

“Hats off to the operations team,” Benson said. “From snowmaking to winter trails to lift operations crew and maintenance. Everyone was diving in and cranking away to get us where we are. The guest services team was out in force this morning. Every ounce of this mountain, every employee put in a ton of work.”

“(The crews) took advantage of every minute of cold temperatures and every inch of snow we got and put it down,” Kaplan said.

He estimated staffing was up 40% from where they were last year.

“We’re doing a lot better with staffing, significantly better than last year,” he said. “We’re in much better shape than we were really the last two years.”

Aspen Mountain kicked off the year with Buckhorn Cutoff, Buckhorn Trail, Copper, Copper Bowl, Silver Bell, Deer Park, Dipsey Doodle, Easy Chair, Lazy Boy, Midnight, North American, One and Two Leaf, Pumphouse Hill, Silver Dip, Spar Gulch, and Little Nell all open. Silver Queen Gondola, Ajax Express, and the Gent’s Ridge chairlift were running.

“It’s amazing up there. I couldn’t be happier,” Kaplan said.

A young skier begins the journey down Aspen Mountain on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, which was Opening Day for the 2022-23 ski season in Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

The Sundeck at Aspen Mountain was open for food and drink. Music on the Mountain returned from noon to 3 p.m. for the crowds of people to enjoy during their mountaintop break.

Kaplan added he was planning on tackling both Aspen and Snowmass Ski Area on his last first day as president and CEO.

Looking forward, Aspen Mountain is dependent on Mother Nature to see what terrain will be open next.

“We have some more snowmaking capabilities on the west side, but Mother Nature is going to have to assist us with some of the other steeper terrain,” Benson said.

Opening day at Snowmass was equally successful and featured a lot more terrain than Skico originally expected.

As of Friday, the night before opening day, Snowmass was set to open with only 78 acres, recently adding skiing to the top of Village Express Lift into play. Upper Scooper, Lower Hals, Fanny Hill, Elk Camp Meadows, Upper Hals, Upper Velvet, Pocket Park on lower Fanny, and the ski-back trail to the clinic were scheduled to be open. The operating lifts were scheduled to be Sky Cab, Village Express to midway, Elk Camp Gondola, and Elk Camp Meadows.

However, officials said they were able to open the frontside of Sam’s Knob, as well as a portion of Big Burn. This brought the skiable terrain up to 418 acres over 18 trails at Snowmass.

Aspen Highlands is still set to open Dec. 10. Buttermilk will open Dec. 17, giving ample time for construction to wrap up on the new base area.

To reach Audrey Ryan, email her at aryan@aspentimes.com.

Thanksgiving Turkey Trot tradition on track for return to Glenwood Springs

Thanksgiving Day has felt a little emptier the past couple of years in Glenwood Springs as the traditional Turkey Trot fun run was on hiatus. 

But that’s all set to change next week, as the 34th running of the turkey day 5K run comes to Glenwood, and to a new (sort of) venue.

Tiffany Lindenberg, the fitness and wellness supervisor at the Glenwood Springs Community Center, was busy this week mapping out the new course. The run will take off from the Community Center at 10 a.m., head down the pedestrian path along Midland Avenue to the Roaring Fork River Trail and over to Two Rivers Park for a couple of loops, then back.

A trio of runners have fun as they start the 32nd annual Turkey Day 5K in 2018 at the Glenwood Springs Golf Course.
Kyle Mills / Post Independent

It won’t quite be the same as the long-standing Turkey Trot venue at the Glenwood Springs Golf Club, affectionately known as “The Hill,” as the numbers for the popular event have long-since outgrown that site.

But the beneficiary is the same as it has been for the past several years, as the Trot will once again be hosted by the Team Sopris Barracudas swim team, with proceeds also going to support the Glenwood Springs High School swim and cross country teams.

It also marks a return to an alternative start line that was used for a few years in the middle of the last decade, as the Thanksgiving holiday tradition got more and more popular locally and across the United States.

Lindenberg said it was problematic when, at that time, it was decided to plot a course along the nearby Wulfsohn Mountain Park dirt trails.

“It ended up being kind of dangerous for people with baby joggers and dogs out on the trails, especially if it had snowed, so we decided to try something different,” Lindenberg said. “We want it to be a family event, so we need to make it the safest possible.”

With that in mind, it’s more a fun run than a race, though there will most certainly be the hardcore runners out looking for a fast time. Speaking of which, there won’t be an electronic timing system this year, so self-timing is encouraged if runners want an accurate time.

A growing tradition

Derek Young, dressed as a turkey, Jonathan Cappelli, dressed as a pilgrim, Michael Merrill dressed as a Native American, and Ryan Young dressed as a banana, run in the 2017 Glenwood Springs Turkey Trot 5K at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.
Christopher Mullen / Post Independent |

What Glenwood’s and other local turkey trots are mostly about is community. Thanksgiving morning 5K trots are also planned in Carbondale, Basalt and Rifle, and at Anytime Fitness south of Glenwood Springs by the CMC turnoff on Colorado Highway 82. 

“Just being able to see everybody and bringing families out for a fun morning, that’s why we were so adamant about bringing it back,” Lindenberg said, referencing the two-year break due to concerns about large gatherings during the pandemic and venue uncertainties. 

“I kind of feel like we lost that community feel a little bit,” she said. “In those three years our community looks a little different, too, so it’s a chance to get out and not only see friends but also meet some new people.”

Costumes are of course encouraged and dogs are allowed, but dog owners are asked to have a poop bag or two handy. And, there will be pumpkin pie at the finish line for the finishers.

Having her own children grow up in the Barracudas youth swim program, the purpose is also near and dear to hers and a lot of other parents’ and participants’ hearts.

Longtime Team Sopris coach and former trot organizer Steve Vanderhoof recalls the early days of the former Turkey Day 5K at the golf course, which essentially started on a whim back in 1986.  

“I just always liked being up there and seeing people you maybe only see once a year, and some of the former students who come home for the holiday,” Vanderhoof said. “Our daughters are both grown and gone away from home now, but we have fond memories of pushing them along in the stroller, then running together and that whole progression.”

Longtime golf course Superintendent Jim Richmond and avid local runner Mike Vidakovich started the race.

“The Turkey Day 5K was Thanksgiving to me,” Vidakovich said in a 2021 interview. “It’s always been part of my spiritual fiber.”

Registration for the Glenwood Turkey Trot is $20 online ahead of time through Active.com or $25 on race day.

Carbondale Trot

A turkey hunter with sling-shot in hand waits for the start of the annual Carbondale Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Though there’s less history behind it, the Carbondale Turkey Trot returns for a sixth year, and is slated for a 9:30 a.m. start Thanksgiving morning from the Carbondale Recreation Center.

Same as Glenwood, the Carbondale organizers are rolling out a new 5K and 1-mile course utilizing the streets through old town, instead of the former back-and-forth course along the Rio Grande Trail.

“We’ve always wanted to go through town, but we need more volunteers to do that so we can have people at all the intersections,” said Jamie Wall, special events coordinator for Carbondale Parks and Recreation.

Volunteers are still needed. Contact jwall@carbondaleco.net if you can help out.

Wall said the Carbondale trot is looking forward to a more modest number of runners this year, after being overwhelmed with some 600 participants last year who, absent the Glenwood event, were hungry for some pre-turkey running.

“We already have more than 130 people signed up, so it will still be a pretty big event,” she said.

Baby strollers and joggers are allowed at the Carbondale trot, but no dogs after a canine tangle last year resulted in the race timing system getting knocked out of whack.

After the run, the Village Smithy will be providing mini pumpkin pie slices along with the usual post-race snacks.

Carbondale Trot advance registration is at carbondalerec.com; $15 for adults and $7 for children and youth ages 3 to 17 and seniors age 62 and up. Race-day registration is $20 and $10.

Rifle Trot

A dog keeps up with its human during the 2021 Rifle Turkey Trot.

The Rifle Turkey Trot is a benefit for the Rifle High School track and field program. It takes place at Rifle’s Deerfield Park, starting at 9 a.m. for the “little gobblers” and 9:30 a.m. for adults.

Registration begins at 8 a.m., or register in advance at active.com 

“We’re hoping for 150-200 participants, looking to raise at least $10,000 for the track program,” RHS Athletic Director Chris Bomba said. “It’s just a great community event that started with a lot of people bringing their families. It’s probably going to be one of our biggest events of the year.”

Anytime Trot

The annual running of the Anytime Fitness “Burn the Turkey 5K” takes place this year at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, instead of the day after.

The event takes place on the Rio Grande Trail behind the gym, and is a benefit for Lift-Up. The entry fee is any non-perishable food items that will be donated to Lift Up.​

Basalt Trot 

Basalt Elementary School hosts its 6th annual Basalt Gobble Wobble fundraiser for the school’s outdoor education program equipment, at 9:30 a.m. Thanksgiving Thursday.

“We are incredibly excited this event continues to thrive,” said BES Principal Grant Waaler. “The community support and participation is tremendous. Our entire school looks forward to this event every year.

“Despite living in an area with a plethora of outdoor recreational options, many of our students lack the resources and opportunities to participate in these incredible experiences located right in our valley,” he said. “Providing the chance for young students to gain confidence, build character and create positive memories through outdoor education at our school would be invaluable.”

Register online at bit.ly/basaltgobble and choose either the 5K run or a 1-mile fun run. The cost to register individually is $20 per adult and $10 per child, or a family of up to five can register and receive a capped entry fee of $50. 

The first 100 participants to register receive a custom Longhorn knit hat, and all who register receive a raffle ticket toward amazing locally sponsored raffle prizes.

Post Independent interim Managing Editor and senior reporter John Stroud can be reached at jstroud@postindependent.com or at 970-384-9160.

Community profile: Election over, new Sunlight Mini-Mayor ready to race down his list of campaign promises

It was a tough election with many mini opponents and strong campaign promises, but Micah Erickson came out ahead as Sunlight Mountain Resort’s first male mayor in almost a decade. 

Erickson, a student at Glenwood Springs Elementary School, ran his campaign on the promise of making the mountain more accessible for beginner riders like his little sisters. 

“I want to add in a magic carpet because beginners mostly go there,” he said. “Even though other mountains have a magic carpet, most beginners go to Sunlight.”

He has no plans to ride a magic carpet himself, because he’s no beginner when it comes to carving turns. 

A skier since he was 2 years old, Erickson is about to start his second year on the Buddy Werner ski racing team, aiming to win more than just political races for the season. 

The day after celebrating his victory, Erickson showed true strength and endurance through his ability to climb across the big playground at his elementary school without ever touching the ground, and he did it with no gloves on. 

After taking a quick break to warm his hands with his breath on the cold November evening, he proceeded to show his ability to climb the really high monkey bars, explaining that he could also climb on top of them but would wait for another day to show off those abilities. 

Erickson also proves to be a very family-orientated politician by always finding time to look out for his little sisters and awaiting his favorite ski partner to visit him from Wisconsin, his grandpa.

A true fan of the mountain riding lifestyle, Erickson keeps maps of some of his favorite ski mountains posted on his bedroom wall, and spent his younger years walking around the house with his full skis and boots on constantly. 

The floors in his house might not have been too grateful, but his mom, Sara Erickson, said she saw it as a factor of his ambition.

His favorite aspects of the mountain are shredding hard and fast, zipping through the trees, catching air and warming up at the end of the day with a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows on top. He already has his favorite tree lines mapped with his dad on Sunlight, and his mom knows exactly where to wait for him to pop out. 

7-year-old Micah Erickson plays on the playground at Glenwood Springs Elementary School on a chilly evening after school.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

“On the mountain, there’s a lodge,” he said. “I always get (hot cocoa) there with marshmallows on top.”

A good politician knows you can’t forget the marshmallows. 

His mom said he sometimes even stores extra hot cocoa on the cozy drive back down the mountain after a long day on the slopes. 

Erickson is an advocate for sharing, admitting that he already has a pass to Sunlight for this season. He will be sharing the pass with friends and family to give them more access to ride on his mountain with him. 

He is most excited to celebrate with his grandpa and get him up to his domain to show him all of the best spots. 

“We’re adding our first mini-senator from Maryland, and our first foreign ambassador representing Argentina,” said Troy Hawks, the marketing and sales director at Sunlight. “He’s from Buenos Aires, and we’re are excited to expand our mini-congress.”

This year’s election featured two representatives from out of state. They were chosen as the first members of the newly established mini-congress, Juan Martin Giura and Andrew Jarrell.

“We can’t wait to meet them,” Hawks said. “Usually, the election happens and then we normally set up our first meeting at the bottom and they share their ideas with us. We haven’t actually met Micah yet, but we’re certainly happy to meet him. We can’t wait to hear what ideas he may have.”

Post Independent reporter Cassandra Ballard can be reached at cballard@postindependent.com or 970-384-9131.

Snowmaking on Sunlight Mountain Resort begins

Opening day is still slated for Dec. 9, but with snowmaking now underway the mountain is officially closed to uphill travels and activities. 

The mountain finally received 48 hours of cold to create a good base for snowmaking to be possible. 

“Ideal snowmaking is about 20 degrees or lower to really get a good layer of snow,” said Troy Hawks, the marketing and sales director at Sunlight. “That’s kind of what we look for and generally don’t want it to be too windy.”

In addition to snowmaking, Sunlight will have new printed and on-mountain trail maps for riders to follow this season. 

“We redid all of our trail maps,” Hawks said. “That’s in lieu of the five additional runs that were added to East Ridge a couple seasons ago.”

Rainbow in snowmaking on Sunlight Mountain Resort for 2022 season
Courtesy of Troy Hawks

Sunlight also upgraded to a new digital trail map at the top of Primo Lift on top of the mountain. 

“Skiers and riders will be able to just look at a glance and see which runs are open or closed or have been groomed, with an electronic digital trail map at the top of the mountain,” he said. “So another nice improvement.”

For more information, visit sunlightmtn.com 

Diggin’ the dirt: Glenwood, Carbondale riders lead strong local contingent to next week’s state high school mountain bike championships at CMC Spring Valley

Glenwood Springs High School student Chloe Luftgring goes for an afternoon mountain bike ride on the Wulfsohn Trail system near the Glenwood Springs Community Center.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Chloe Lutgring is all about taking her pursuit of competitive mountain biking to the next level, while always keeping in mind the fun aspect of her favorite thing to do in the outdoors.

“The whole reason my friends and I did this in the first place was just to have some fun going out on the trails on our bikes,” Lutgring said of the growing contingent of high school athletes who are taking up mountain biking through local club programs, including her Glenwood Springs High School Dirt Demons.

“The biggest thing I always tell people is to just try it and enjoy riding, and don’t think about the stress and pressure of racing,” Lutgring said. “I love just having fun on my bike, and that’s also why I enjoy racing and pushing myself as far as I think I can go, and even further.”

“Further” she has taken it, indeed, having competed internationally on the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) circuit for the past two years, and getting her first European racing experience this past summer.

Lutgring, along with Roaring Fork Fork High School mountain bike team member and former teammate Corbin Carpenter, are among the favorites of the varsity girls and boys going into the Oct. 22-23 Colorado High School Cycling League (CHSCL) mountain biking state championships. 

And this year, the championships are right in their backyard, on the relatively new trail system at the Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley campus southeast of Glenwood Springs.

Carpenter is the boys varsity points leader going into state, and Lutgring sits in third among the varsity girls after a pair of young, talented riders from Columbine High School, sophomore Ella Kearney-Turner and freshman Kira Mullins, advanced to the varsity ranks this season.

Outdoor culture

Together, Lutgring and Carpenter have helped to build the mountain biking culture within the area high schools, as several schools now host teams. 

In addition to Glenwood Springs and Roaring Fork, Basalt and Aspen have a combined team, Colorado Rocky Mountain School has a team and a few students from Coal Ridge and Rifle have joined up with the Dirt Demons.

Lutgring and Carpenter, both seniors, are Legacy riders, a designation given for riders who compete all four years of high school through the freshman/sophomore/junior varsity and varsity ranks. That included their sophomore years when the pandemic canceled the season, but a series of small, informal “challenge” events counted as a season.

“My family got me into biking at a pretty young age, so I’ve ridden bikes pretty much my whole life,” said Carpenter, who is also a competitive Nordic ski racer with the Aspen Valley Ski Club.

Roaring Fork High School senior Corbin Carpenter leads a group of fellow mountain bike team members up the Prince Creek trail south of Carbondale on Monday.
John Stroud/Post Independent

Before the Roaring Fork High mountain bike program got started, Carpenter raced with the Dirt Demons then started talking it up at his own school to get a team together his sophomore year.

The pandemic disrupted plans for a competitive season, but the program took off nonetheless.

What started as a group of about five or six riders on the Carbondale team that first year has grown to 19 this fall.

“To have a team at my own school it feels like we can build more community around it,” Carpenter said. “We have a pretty tight-knit group, and it’s been awesome to watch it grow.”

Roaring Fork coach Kyle Crawley said Carpenter and fellow senior co-captain Henry Cole have been a big part of developing the fledgling program and build that culture.

“They bring great leadership skills, and even led a camp this year with some of the younger riders to teach them some basic mountain biking skills,” Crawley said.

Unique sport

Mountain biking offers an alternative high school sports experience, and fits in with the area’s outdoors culture, he said. 

“It’s just great to get out on our local trails and visit other trails around the state,” Crawley said.

The CHSCL season includes five races around the state, including Snowmass, Eagle, Steamboat Springs, Leadville and then the state championships, which the local teams are fortunate to host this year.  

“It’s a really supportive environment for the kids, and the vibe at the races is pretty unique,” Crawley said of the competitions. “The races are also spread over two days, so families make a weekend out of it.”

The Glenwood Dirt Demons program, meanwhile, has grown to more than 40 student riders since it began in 2015. This year, Glenwood has advanced 14 athletes to the state championships under the direction of coach and former Olympic cyclist Jeanne Golay.

Lutgring has been a big part of bringing some of the younger riders along, Golay said.

“She’s really tried to challenge herself, especially this last year with some international races. That’s a big step, and she has a lot of family support,” said Golay, who connected Lutgring with USA Cycling so she could obtain a scholarship to attend a cycling academy before going to the European event.

Ultimately, the program is about “keeping it fun,” she said. 

“There is a certain level of competitiveness for some of the kids, but my goal is for them to learn skills, to be safe on the bike and to develop a love for a sport that they can keep for the rest of their life,” Golay said.

Loving the trails

Lutgring certainly echoes that.

“I just love being out in nature, and that’s where I feel most at home, whether I’m on a bike, or hiking, or skiing,” said the former competitive alpine ski racer. “They’re all just as beautiful and just as amazing.”

Lutgring said it was good for her to have some stiff competition within the high school ranks this season, after having won all of her races her junior year and taking second at state.

“I’ve actually enjoyed it,” she said of the younger athletes who’ve pushed the pace this season. “I believe riding with people who are faster than you, or just as fast, makes you a better rider every single race.”

She’s also enjoyed watching the Dirt Demons program grow.

“I’m glad people are getting out to ride bikes. Even if they’re just racing for fun they’re still out challenging themselves, and it’s been fun to help show them the ropes, too.”

Carpenter also wants to finish his senior season on a high note, and is in prime position to win state.

“My primary goal was just to have fun in my final season, but I definitely wanted to win going into this season,” he said.

After a string of second-place finishes his freshman year and again his junior year after the suspended season, he said he wanted to take that next step.

Home tracks advantage

Being the points leader going into state puts a target on his back as the front-line starter. But the fact that state is so close to home for both Carpenter and Lutgring will be a huge advantage.

“It’s good to have a chance to go up and ride it and practice the course a little bit more than the other riders,” Lutgring said, adding the trail system itself is just coming into its own.

“There’s not really any big berms yet, so it needs to be ridden a lot to break it in some more,” she said. “It’s got some good ups and downs, so it will be fun.”

Added Carpenter, “We’re trying to get some kids from our school to show up and help cheer us on, so hopefully it’ll be a super electrifying community event. I’m really excited for it.”

Hosting the state championships is also huge for the broader community and for CMC, said Golay, who works as the regional development officer with the CMC Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising arm of the college.

The races, which include the freshman, sophomore and junior varsity divisions on Saturday and Sunday morning and conclude with the varsity races on Sunday afternoon, are expected to draw upwards of 1,500 people, including 870 competitors.

“CMC is thrilled to be hosting this, and it’s a really great fit with the college’s mission to get high school kids on our campuses,” Golay said. “It was a pretty easy sell for me.”

In addition to filling the area lodges, the Roaring Fork School District is allowing use of a vacant parcel that it owns in Spring Valley for camping that weekend. 

“It’s huge to be able to represent locally, and show off some of our local trails,” Crawley said. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase what we have going on locally.”

Carpenter and Lutgring are both looking to take their athletic pursuits beyond high school into college, but Carpenter said he’ll most likely lean toward Nordic skiing. Lutgring said she has already been accepted to Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, which has a Division 1 mountain biking team.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Overnight fees coming to Maroon Bells wilderness in 2023

Backpackers in the most visited areas of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area will be face overnight fees next year from May 1 through Oct. 31, the Forest Service announced Friday.| Courtesy of USFS

Backcountry campers will have to pay to stay in the most popular areas of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness starting in 2023, the U.S. Forest Service announced Friday.

People hitting the “most visited areas” will be required to have an overnight permit and pay a nightly fee of $10 per person from May 31 through Oct. 1, the forest service said.

The areas include Conundrum Hot Springs, the Four Pass Loop (which includes Crater Lake and Snowmass Lake), Geneva Lake and Capitol Lake. They make up less than one-third of the 181,535-acre wilderness area, which has a trail network of 173 miles and is jointly managed by the White River National Forest and the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests.

“Approximately 28% of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness will require a permit and fee in 2023. Additional areas in this wilderness may require a permit and fee in the future if environmental damage becomes too great,” the forest service’s announcement said. “The proposed fee would not apply to day visitors as permits will not be required for day visitors.”

The fees are one way the forest service is trying to ease the pressure on parts of the wilderness the 2017 Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Overnight Visitor Use Management Plan identified as “the most heavily degraded and damaged area,” the announcement said.

The area has quadrupled in overnight use since 2006, resulting in overcrowding, abandoned trash and human waste, user conflicts and such “large-scale environmental damage” as trail erosion, loss of vegetation and campsite soil and vegetation compaction,” the forest service said.

“We have been hearing loud and clear that the public wants us to keep this area a premiere backcountry destination by getting a handle on this over-use and environmental damage,” said Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Kevin Warner in a statement  “This overnight permit and fee program is critical to giving us the resources we need to effectively manage, restore and protect this cherished area.”

Revenues from the fee program help fund the restoration of the heavily damaged areas, increase ranger presence and educational outreach efforts.

Fees won’t be required for children 16 years old and younger or for approved school groups. A $6 processing fee per permit will be charged by recreation.gov.

The reservation period for 2023 overnight permits and fees starts in February on recreation.gov.

Advanced reservations start at 8 a.m. on the following dates.

  • Feb. 15: overnight permits for April 1 through July 31
  • June 15: overnight permits for Aug. 1 through Nov. 30
  • Oct. 15: overnight permits for Dec. 1 through March 31 

Hilaree Nelson, renowned ski mountaineer, found dead after Mt. Manaslu accident

Courtesy image from The North Face

Hilaree Nelson, one of the world’s most acclaimed big-mountain skiers, went missing on Monday while in Nepal on an expedition in Mount Manaslu.

Two days after she went missing, her body was found on the side of Larke Peak by a team of rescuers, according to The Himalayan Times.

On the day of the accident, she and her partner, Jim Morrison, had successfully climbed their way to the top Manaslu at 10:42 a.m and quickly regrouped to ski down the mountain, according to Morrison’s Instagram post on Wednesday.

“I skied first, and, after a few turns, Hilaree followed and started a small avalanche,” he said. “She was swept off her feet and carried down a narrow snow slope down the south side (opposite from climbing route) of the mountain over 5000’.”

Hilaree Nelson (right) and her partner Jim Morrison on Mount Manaslu.
Screenshot from Hilaree Nelson’s Instagram

He safely made his way to basecamp to seek help. However, there was an avalanche in the lower summit area impacting another group of climbers.

The avalanche left one at least one person dead and 12 injured, according to The Himalayan Times. With the weather conditions, the search for Nelson was postponed to Tuesday.

“I did everything I could to locate her but was unable to go down the face as I hoped to find her alive and live my life with her. I spent the last two days searching from the air in a helicopter,” said Morrison on Wednesday.

Hilaree Nelson (right) and Jim Morrison on an expedition.
Screenshot from Jim Morrison’s Instagram.

Four Demon players advance to Class 4A state tennis tourney

On Monday, The North Face brand — Nelson’s sponsor — took to Twitter to share: “We are in touch with Hilaree’s family and supporting search and rescue efforts in every way that we can.”

We reached out to The North Face, which said they are not taking interviews at this time because they, and the community, are grieving.

The company said in a release on Wednesday: “Today we lost our hero, mentor and our friend. Hilaree Nelson held a spirit as big as the places she led us to. She embodied possibility. Her adventures made us feel at home in the vastness of the world.”

“For us, Hilaree transcended the idea of an athlete, a sport or a community. She helped lead our family at The North Face, by being a teammate and team captain who changed our perspective of the outdoors by showing us exactly what it can mean. Her light will forever be an offering, and her optimism in the face of adversity, will forever be our guide.”

Nelson moved mountains

Courtesy image from The North Face

Nelson was a Seattle native but lived in Telluride with her two children.

She is considered one of the most prolific outdoor adventurers of her generation. In her lengthy list of accomplishments, she was the first female to summit two 8000-meter peaks, Mount Everest and Lhoste, in one 24-hour push.

In 2017, Men’s Journal named her one of the most adventurous women of the last 25 years. In 2018, she was named The National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.

She spoke about being an endurance athlete past the age of 40 at Aspen Ideas Festival back in 2019.

That same year she told told the The Aspen Times: “I’ve done this so long and put so much time into it, my senses are so adapted to what I do that I’m so much more efficient and better at it, even if I’m not physically even close to as strong as I was in my 20s.

“Another big part of it is I love it. That gives me a greater ability to take risks. Even if I fail, I’m excited I got the chance to be there and to try.”

To reach Kristen Mohammadi, call 304-650-2404 or email kmohammadi@aspentimes.com.

On the Fly: It’s as good as it gets right now

Dry fly fishing enthusiasts from across the globe are here this month for a very good reason. The fall blue winged olive (BWO) hatch on the Roaring Fork has begun in earnest, and the prolific mayfly hatches on the Fryingpan are the best of the year — right now! The Fryingpan River is boasting excellent hatches of red quills, craneflies, blue winged olives, pale morning duns and the mother of all mayflies (in this part of the world, anyway): plump size 10 and 12 green drakes.

Many locals (and visitors alike) enjoy the technical aspects of the BWO hatch on the Roaring Fork, although fishing tiny dries on a big river isn’t for everyone. BWOs hatch heavily on this freestone river in spring and fall, and the fish definitely kick into a higher gear with the bi-annual emergences of these prolific size 18 to 22 mayflies. Dry flies of note for the Roaring Fork are CDC BWO Biot Comparaduns, Harrop’s CDC Thorax BWOs, Biot Dun BWOs and CDC Biot Emergers. Nymphs like RS2s and Roy Palm’s Biot Baetis Emerger are fishing very well on the big river.

You’ve got to put in your time on the Fryingpan tailwater to unlock its secrets, but having a watchful eye and noticing the subtle changes in hatches (and the trout’s appetites) is half the battle. We notice waves of insects, and you’ve got to change your offering as the mood of the fish changes back and forth. No two days are the same; in some zones, the hatches are sparse and in others, thick. Moving around until you find a happy part of the river is key, as well.

Some fish on the Fryingpan are as skittish as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Others will swim 6 feet across the river to inhale a mayfly right at your feet. If you slow down and try to understand each fish’s behavior, you’ll find some are happy to eat, others are pouting. They can get picky in the bright sun, so finding some shade can play in your favor.

Don’t leave home without AK Best’s Parachute Red Quills, Harrop’s CDC Thorax Pink Alberts and Last Chance PMD Cripples, plus our custom Sparkledun Drakes, High-Profile Drakes and DJL Drakes. It’s as good as it gets right now!

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or TaylorCreek.com.

PHOTOS: A day trip to the Crystal River Valley

The Crystal River flows through the valley just outside of Redstone.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
People go for a mid-morning walk down Redstone Boulevard in downtown Redstone before a rain storm rolled into the valley.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A man sits outside the Redstone General Store soaking in the morning sun while enjoying a cup of coffee.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
The Redstone Inn was opened in 1902 by John Cleveland Osgood to house miners and their families working the nearby coal mines.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
The Redstone General Store in located in the heart of the old mining town of Redstone.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
The view from McClure Pass along the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway on Colorado Highway 133.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A fisherman enjoys a quiet morning at Beaver Lake in Marble before a midday rain storm.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
A kayak sits along the shore of Beaver Lake in Marble during a quiet morning before a rain storm.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Writers on the Range: Can we live with electric mountain bikes on trails?

The first time I saw an electric bike — better known as an e-bike — I was struggling up a hill. Suddenly, a silver-haired man came whizzing by in regular city clothes. I felt a wave of envy as he left me in the dust.

That was probably five years ago, and, since then, e-bike use has exploded. In 2020, e-bike sales in the United States for just the month of June totaled roughly $90 million, up 190% from the previous June.

It’s hard to remember, but regular mountain bikes didn’t become commercially available until the 1980s; and, when the early adopters hit trails previously used only by hikers and horseback riders, conflicts happened fast.

People claimed the bikes increased erosion. They worried about collisions and scaring horses. They theorized that mountain bikes would frighten wildlife. Today, those same arguments are being used against electric mountain bikes.

Once again, the controversy seems to stem from the fear of change, perhaps some arrogance and maybe a little jealousy. After all, since I suffered to get to the top of the climb on my own power, shouldn’t you?

In 2017, the International Mountain Bike Association, which had said that e-bikes should be considered motorized vehicles, softened its stance. Instead, it proposed that local land managers and user groups should determine — on a case-by-case basis — whether to allow e-bikes on naturally-surfaced trails. Many members canceled their memberships. Some comments were harsh.

One wrote, “If you’re too old to still ride the trails you love, do as many beforehand, reminisce about the good old days and encourage the young. Don’t throw them and our public land under the bus.”

That kind of attitude does not bode well for land managers to find an easy compromise.

So, what are the impacts of electric mountain bikes. Do they harm trails, or cause more accidents?

In 2015, the International Mountain Bike Association studied the environmental impacts of mountain bikes, both electric and self-propelled and found no appreciable differences between the two in terms of soil displacement on trails. Overall, bike impacts were similar to the impacts of hikers.

Horses, motorcycles and off-road vehicles do much more damage to trails.

As for problems caused by speed, traffic studies show that accidents and their severity escalate as differences in speed increase. But, do electrified bikes go that much faster than traditional bikes?

To find out, Tahoe National Forest measured the top speeds reached by intermediate and advanced riders using both kinds of bikes. Differences on the downhills were small. On uphills, traditional bikers averaged 5-8 mph, while electric mountain bikes traveled 8-13 mph. This was a difference, but not enough of a difference to cause more accidents, especially if bikers alert others to their presence and ride in control.

Rachel Fussell, program manager of the nonprofit PeopleForBikes, says that more than a battery boost, speed on trails reflects rider skill as well as trail design. She believes that all users observing proper trail etiquette would avert most potential conflicts.

Celeste Young has been a biker all her life and now coaches mountain biking. Her fleet of bicycles has recently grown to include an electric mountain bike.

“The most negative thing I’ve heard is, ‘Oh, you’re cheating,’” she says. “But, it’s just another way to be out there. You get an extra boost going up these really hard trails, so it makes a challenging trail fun, rather than demoralizing.”

It’s a puzzling notion that someone accused her of cheating. It would be one thing if you secretly put a motor in your bike during a race, but when it’s an amateur rider going out for fun and exercise, how is having an electronic boost cheating?

The whole thing reminds me — a skier — of the controversy that erupted after snowboards appeared at ski resorts. They were new and fast, and their rhythm on the slope was different than the rhythm of people on skis.

We didn’t like them, and I doubt they liked us. But, we’ve worked it out. Now, public land managers face the knotty problem of how much access to allow e-bikes and where, or whether, to segregate them to their own trails. Welcome to the crowded West.

Molly Absolon is a contributor to Writers on the Range, writersontherange.org, an independent nonprofit dedicated to spurring discussion about Western issues. She lives in Victor, Idaho, and has worked as a wilderness educator, waiter, farmer and freelance journalist to support her outdoor recreation habit.