Thursday, April 12, 2012
Steamboat Springs One upside to record high temperatures through March and April: Steamboat Ski Area Vice President of Skier Services Jim Schneider said crews should get an early start on construction of the downhill mountain biking park on Mount Werner.
But that doesn’t mean all is well for those much-anticipated trails.
Not all of the planned work could be guaranteed to be done in time for the Mountain States Cup’s planned July 20 to 22 events in Steamboat Springs, and that was a factor in the event’s recent cancellation of the local stop.
Schneider said work will begin as soon as possible on an intermediate Thunderhead-to-base area downhill trail, and that new trail — named Rustlers Ridge — should be ready early this summer.
A planned advanced trail may not be ready as soon, however, and a ski season with little snow could be part of the reason.
“The Mountain States Cup race is off, and the primary reason being that the ski area, because of a lack of snow this year, didn’t have the revenue to finish the new downhill trail,” Mountain States Cup director Keith Darner said this week.
Darner said there were other factors in his race series’ decision to cancel the Steamboat stop, including that USA Cycling’s Pro Ultra Endurance Series will hold the 12 Hours of Snowmass that same July weekend.
A Mountain States Cup event typically means traditional cross-country races, downhill races on advanced trails and super D races, which take place on gentler downhill trails. Steamboat Ski Area and the race series initially agreed to go ahead with the event and run two super D races on Rustlers Ridge. But the prospect of losing cross-country racers to the 12 Hours of Snowmass, as well as dedicated downhill racers because of the lack of a suitable Steamboat trail, became too much.
“It would have impacted our numbers too much, and it wouldn’t have been good for anybody,” Darner said. “We wouldn’t have been able to break even on that event.”
Schneider acknowledged the advanced downhill trail may not be ready in time, but he said the ski area had tried to accommodate the Mountain States Cup anyway.
“I don’t know that that’s necessarily the answer,” Schneider said, referring to the lack of a trail being a main reason for the event’s cancellation. “Certainly, we’re focusing our capital on getting the bike park open. And so, it was questionable whether we had enough time to get the (advanced) trail, which is where the Mountain States Cup wanted to go.
“We would still host if they would choose to do it.”
Even though Schneider said the race could have gone off, he acknowledged that money could be a factor this summer.
“We are going to build it as fast as we have time and money, and we will open up the bike park,” he said.
New race in place
The decision to cancel the Mountain States Cup event doesn’t clear that weekend of bike races in Steamboat Springs. In fact, Darner said he already has U.S. Forest Service approval for a plan to replace that race with a leg of a new mountain bike series. Steamboat is poised to play host to one of three stops on the Big Mountain Enduro Series.
The event will challenge athletes to bike from near the top of Buffalo Pass to Steamboat Ski Area. It’s generally a downhill event, though not like the more intense variety initially scheduled to be a part of the Mountain States Cup event.
The race is expected to have 6,200 feet of descent but enough pedaling and climbing that a heavy downhill bike wouldn’t be appropriate.
“It’s a format that’s been going on in Europe and growing in popularity, so we are trying to capitalize on that market,” Darner said.
Although some climbing will be required, the trail and race is designed so those elements aren’t the decisive factor in determining a winner.
“If there’s a significant climb in our race, we neutralize that climb,” he said. “You might descend for eight miles, go through a checkpoint where the time is stopped, have a three-mile climb that gains 1,200 or 1,500 feet without a clock. At the top of the climb, you’ll have 11 more miles of descending when the clock will start again and go.”
Darner said he expected more information to be available soon at www.bigmoun
tainenduro.com. The site currently is not active.
Downhill plans progress
Although Schneider said a completion date for the new advanced downhill trail on Mount Werner remains uncertain, other aspects of the ski area’s downhill bike park are coming into focus.
Work on the trails began last summer, and Schneider said Wednesday that those efforts will continue as soon the area is dry enough for work. Two downhill-only trails should be open from the top of the gondola to the base area when the resort begins summer operations.
One will be Rustlers Ridge, which will connect with a number of shorter downhill-only trails near the base of Mount Werner that were completed last year.
The exact route of the second top-to-bottom, downhill-only trail hasn’t been decided. Schneider said it likely will be the easier of the two intermediate downhill trails and will be formed primarily by connecting existing two-way trails.
“We will have five or so named (directional) trail segments that will be operating this summer and two complete routes from the top of the gondola,” he said. “We’re working on exactly which route, but we will have a route on the north side and a route on the south side.”
The Creekside trail, which was downhill only last year, will revert to a two-way, multiuse trail upon the completion of Rustlers Ridge.
The downhill-only trails will require a ticket or pass to ride. Schneider said there still will be free two-way traffic on cross-country trails that will allow access to the top of Thunderhead Peak.
“You will have no loss of uphill cross-country access,” he said. “It just may not be the same routes you’re used to. ... We have had to look at every little trail segment on the mountain and properly designate it, and we’re not quite there yet.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com