Start of work on the trails leading to Sky Mountain Park | New
Work has begun on a new trail that will provide better access to Sky Mountain Park from Aspen and reduce the risk of collisions for mountain bikers.
The existing Airline trail will be dedicated to downhill only while a new trail will be designated for climbing.
Pitkin County Open Spaces and Trails Manager Gary Tennenbaum said the creation of separate directional trails was one of the key findings of a public inquiry conducted when the open spaces program updated its management plan for Sky Mountain Park last year.
“It’s the first thing people ask,” he said.
The new climbing trail will also be more inviting for hikers and trail runners, he said. A name for the new trail is to be determined.
A crew from the Open Spaces program cut vegetation on the new alignment of the climbing trail. A contractor, Gumption Trail Works of Rifle, will mobilize this week to begin cutting the new trail using machinery. Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, in conjunction with the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, is seeking volunteers for pick and shovel work on special features and ravine crossings on August 13-27. The trail will be ready to ride this fall.
“I think it’s going to really change the Aspen side of the trails,” Tennenbaum said. “It just adds another really fun option.”
The new climbing trail and the descending trail will share an alignment through a riparian area on the first quarter mile from the trailhead of the Owl Creek paved trail. From here, the climbing trail will split west and up the hill, crossing what is called Radar Road several times before hooking up with the Skyline Ridge Trail west of the current Airline Trail summit.
Tennenbaum said the new trail will create a convenient loop for cyclists ascending Skyline. A smaller loop will be possible by jumping off the climbing trail and onto the downhill trail about a third of the way up the grade. It will be convenient for time-pressed riders, families and people who don’t have the conditioning for the bigger loop, he said.
The new alignment will also create options for cyclists using the Cozyline Trail and other routes on Sky Mountain Park.
The Airline Trail debuted in 2013, providing easier access to Sky Mountain Park for cyclists from Aspen and Buttermilk. The route offers a downhill rush through banked turns and straights that invite speed. But thick brush and blind spots also create a risk of collision.
Mike Pritchard, executive director of the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, said riders would welcome a new climbing route and the directional trails. The existing Airline Trail has inconsistent locations, with an average grade of 6% increasing by 10-12% per stretch. The turns were sculpted with downhill travel in mind.
“The turns (on the new trail) will be uphill turns,” he said. And the climb will be more consistent throughout the 2 miles or so.
The downhill trail will also receive some additional tweaks and features. Tennenbaum said that once these changes are made, the airline’s descent will be somewhere between the Seven Star and Deadline tracks in terms of difficult features.
Directional trips are slowly starting to become more common in the Roaring Fork Valley as more cyclists hit the trails. On the Snowmass Village side of Sky Mountain Park, Deadline is a downhill-only route. Line of sight is open to movement in either direction, but is more frequently used as a climbing route.
Some of the trails in the South Canyon and New Castle trail systems are also designated one-way. The Mountain Bike Association lobbied Pitkin County to add a dedicated climbing trail to the Glassier Open Space in the middle valley, but the open spaces program refused to add a trail in the upgrade. day of its management plan.
Anyone wishing to register as a volunteer on the new climbing trail must do so in advance at rfov.org/calendar.