Go Play: Mountain-bike trails open Saturday in Snowmass, Colorado
When to Bike Snowmass
The Elk Camp Gondola will operate from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through Sept. 7 and weekends through the end of September.
For more information or to buy gondola tickets, visit www.aspensnowmass.com.
The Elk Camp Gondola starts daily operations Saturday, and that can mean only one thing: Bike Snowmass is open for business.
The network of biking trails within the ski-area boundary is becoming more popular every year, partially because it stays fresh by improving existing routes every season. This year, upgrades have been performed on Viking Trail, formerly known as Easy Rider, to turn it into more of an intermediate trail, and features have been moved around on Valhalla to change up that route.
John Wilkinson, an avid cyclist in Snowmass, likes to ride all over the village but said the lift-served trails are unique in how long and flowing they are.
“It’s just such a rush because it just keeps on going, and once you know the trail you can choose to go for it 100 percent or you can back off and just enjoy the descent,” Wilkinson said.
That’s how he likes to approach the trails, particularly Valhalla, with its steep grades, multiple features and pitches. But for others, such as Four Mountain Sports employee Aaron Malley, the opportunity to grab some air can’t be missed, and there’s a lot of those on Valhalla.
“It’s really well-designed,” Malley said of the expert trail. “There’s a lot of little things you can get out of it.”
Megan Cerise, who last summer held the women’s record for the fastest time descending Valhalla, is a thrill-seeker, too.
“That’s part of the fun,” Cerise said. “I like to scare myself a little bit.”
But with the addition of the Verde beginner trail last summer, Cerise said she can bring novice riders or friends from out of town to Bike Snowmass and there is still plenty of trail for them to ride.
“There’s something for everyone,” she said.
Wilkinson likes to “earn his turns” and ride to the top of the downhill trails. But the descent is the payoff, he said.
“With the downhilling, it’s a different way of seeing the terrain,” Wilkinson said. “You’re descending through so many different zones. … You see a lot of the environment — that is, if you’re looking and not trying to get massive air off every table top.”
“The way the wildflowers are going right now, it’s crazy beautiful,” he added. “There are wildflowers out that haven’t been out in a long time because it’s been so wet.”
Some of that precipitation is lingering in the form of snow at the top of the Elk Camp Chairlift, so the Vapor Trail, which starts there, will remain closed until conditions change.
For Aspen Skiing Co. premier-pass holders, riding the gondola is free, and loading a bike costs $10 per day. During the first seven days of the season, though, passholders can get one free day of Bike Snowmass access and discounts on rentals and clinics.
Other activities at the top of Elk Camp include hiking, paintball, a climbing wall and eurobungy. The Elk Camp Restaurant will be open daily for lunch starting this weekend, too.
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The Lake Christine Fire charred thousands of acres of national forest and downed timber of three popular hiking and biking trails on Basalt Mountain. Two of those trails reopened this month thanks to the efforts of the Aspen-Sopris District trail crew.