Kristen Lodge – Outdoor Adventures: Map your way to mountain-biking bliss |

Kristen Lodge – Outdoor Adventures: Map your way to mountain-biking bliss

I love maps. I started collecting maps at 8 when the first one fell out of the yellow National Geographic Magazine my father received in the mail each month.

I pinned these maps to my wall and dreamed of the places I would visit. My dad brought home old maps for the kids to use as scrap paper; I didn’t understand what the squiggly lines meant. When I began hiking in the mountains of New Hampshire, I studied trail maps for hours before leaving to drive north.

Now that I live in the mountains, I have most maps of Grand County and study them frequently. No GPS for me – yet. I still like holding the maps in my hand and planning a hike or bike ride. In preparation for mountain biking Winter Park Resort, I taped the Trestle Bike Park Map to the wall above my desk; after all, I am a navigator’s daughter.

As I ride the Zephyr Express Chairlift at Winter Park Resort I’m in awe of the mountain peaks. At the top, I refer to the trail map to decide which trail to take; I love all the trail names: Upper Roof of the Rockies, Fantasy Meadow, Shy-Ann, Jury Duty. I take Long Trail (The name reminds me of Vermont). It is the perfect first run. It is, indeed, long and my legs get a quick warm up. The trail meanders through meadows and cuts through ski trails with rocks and roots to navigate over and around. After 30 minutes of riding I wonder how I finished the Xterra triathlon last week. I should have been training here on these trails instead of the cross country trails in Fraser and Granby. At the 5 Points Intersection there is a porta-potty and water station; a great place to stop and take in the scenery in all directions, and I do.

I have an internal debate about trying out a downhill trail. I’m ready to try downhill, yet I think I’m just a cross country rider. I decide to stay on Long Trail. Before I leave for the day I vow to come back and bike Icarus on Mary Jane before closing day.

At SolVista I ride the Quick Draw Express with Geoff Hollister from Steamboat Springs. He has a season pass and comes here every week to ride. He tells me SolVista is the best downhill biking in the state. He wears full body armor and just rode Tron, an intermediate downhill trail.

“What is the trail like?” I ask.

“Technical, fast” he replies with a grin.

Goeff’s enthusiasm for downhill riding is contagious. I want to ride a beginner trail but remember the advice from Ana Coucke, Retail Manager at SolVista.

“If you want to ride the downhill trails, you should have a downhill bike,” he said.

At the top of the lift Geoff and I part ways and I study the trail map Ana gave me. I decide to ride Moga’s Mile. The trail is manageable at first but then there are steep drops and obstacles that scare me. I get off my bike after a few minutes and sit on the side of trail to watch riders go by before walking my bike to the maintenance road for the safest way down.

I take the lift up again, but this time ride down Vista Ridge to Sweet Nancy for the last run. It’s mellow and fun: Sweet!

Downhill riding is thrilling and adventurous, but I am sticking to cross country. I like the up and down; the lung burning uphill and the arm-shaking downhill. We are lucky to have two world-class mountain biking resorts in our county; plus the hundreds of miles of trail in between.

Guest Guide Publications prints a colorful mountain biking/hiking trail map available at all Visitor Centers and Chambers in Grand County. It is also available online. Pick one up – I’ll see you on the trails.

On the Web

Bike map:


If you go:

Winter Park Resort

Parking: Free at the base

Tickets: At the Trestle Shop across from Starbucks (not the ticket window) open at 9 a.m.

Terrain: 2 lifts, 32 miles of trails.

When: Bike Park is open until Sept.27; last ride on Zephyr Express Chairlift is at 5 p.m., except on Freeride Fridays when it is 7p.m.

SolVista Basin

Parking: Free at the base

Tickets: Get your lift ticket at the Retail shop.

Terrain: 1 lift

When: Bike Park is open Friday-Sunday until Sept.27; Friday 12-5 p.m., Sat/Sun 10-5 p.m.