A bittersweet end to the Fraser Valley biking season
Mountain Biking with Keith
I think I made the last ride of the season in the Winter Park area on my cross country mountain bike. Winter has really arrived. It is like it was waiting for us to say good bye to fall by letting us hold onto the last ties to summer just a bit longer.
It was a hard decision on what was going to be the last classic ride of the year. I thought Tipperary would be very fitting. It has always been an iconic trail and has a vast history. Our first races where held there. The race course aka Tipperary Race Course had national and international status. At one point Velonews magazine named it one of the top five cross country race courses anywhere.
We were a haven for world class mountain bikers. It was not uncommon to see the who’s who of international mountain bike racing training here. A get together of mountain bikers was more like seeing the future Hall of Fame inductees in their youth. World Champion Julia Furtado was a regular along with icons Susan DeMattei, Missy Giove as well as many others. Local pros Wade Wilderman, Todd Wilderman and Bill Reed (they built WTB) lived and trained here.
We set off, riding up the Church’s Park road, being careful while navigating the occasional snow and ice. Once we made the turn to Tipperary we were met with a few additional challenges. The first stream crossing was frozen on either end. After carefully tip-toeing across the stream in order not to get our feet wet we continued up the trail. There was ample snow in the shaded areas. What was normally good traction on dirt was now covered with a few inches of snow, making us work that much harder. Open areas gave way to clear trail.
Animal tracks were abundant. A bear had walked down and elk had walked up. Moose tracks seemed to wander on and off of the trail. Occasionally we had to walk a bit when deep snow was a bit much for our cross country bikes. The last mile, which is normally the easiest part, held the deepest snow as it is the most shaded. This normal easy section now became an accomplishment. Upon reaching the top it was both a reward to be there and reality that fall and summer had just about ended.
Rolling down toward the St. Louis Creek Road was a joy. The exposure allows more sun to reach the trail and the track was mostly clear. The normal springs were frozen, which made you pay a bit more attention, but for the most part it was like summer had returned. Animal tracks were easy to see near the top due to the snow cover. It still surprises me as to how many animals use and cross the same trails we ride. I remembered Eric Hendren’s story from many years ago of stopping to change a flat only to hear some noise from a couple of bear cubs perched high in a tree above him.
The ride home was bittersweet. As anxious as I am for winter, it is always sad to see summer and fall come to an end (on that note, you can typically ride in the Kremmling area now). It has me thinking of next year and the things to come. The summer and fall riding was so much fun. I’m looking forward to what is in store in the future. The trail system will change. The changes that have happened have overall improved the riding experience. The years of neglect of the trail system are over, and with that a planned and designed system is possible. Those will all be topics of future articles.
Beavers Sports Shop at the Best Western in Winter Park weekly group ride is now over for the season. Come join us this spring as soon as conditions will allow, 970-726-5988
Looking for more information? Like Grand Mountain Bike Alliance (GMBA) on Facebook. GMBA is your local mountain bike group. Check out Mountainbikecapitalusa.com. Great site by the Winter Park Chamber!
Keith Sanders is the President of the Grand Mountain Bike Alliance, 3x US National Mountain Bike Champion and owner of Beavers Sports Shop. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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For the oldest members of the Middle Park High School girls soccer squad, it’s been a spring they won’t ever forget.