Photo Feature: Steamboat Springs – Bike Town USA

Words by Damian Breach | Images by Damian Breach

It was only by chance that I ended up at Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I had originally planned to travel to another Colorado location but was convinced at the 11th hour to head to Steamboat instead.

I can recall it vividly; I was having lunch with a sales rep in Park City, Utah and he was describing his sales route. A dream job of frequently travelling to some of the best riding locations in the USA – from Moab in Utah, across the western Rockies and all the way up to Idaho and Wyoming. I asked where he might go for a week of riding, if he had to choose, and rather than spitting out the obvious, he started to talk about Steamboat. I was instantly hooked because of his description of the town, not just the trails.

I love a town that embraces bikes and loves bikes and biker riders as much as me. There have been times where I have ridden some amazing trails but then left a little short of that “feeling” at the end of the day when I returned to town. Like there was always a sense of warmth and genuineness missing. Steamboat, my sales rep friend detailed, was a place that makes you feel at home on a bike, a town that lives for it, and a town that wants bikes to be number one. I was heading there.

And he was right. Steamboat Springs, Colorado is that perfect bike town, and it’s funny as that’s what they call it too. Welcome to Bike Town USA.

Web_Feature_Steamboat-c5

The drive across from Utah to Colorado was lots of this. Steamboat Springs here I come. I have to admit that I am in love with mountain biking in the USA and the driving with epic scenery is part of what makes it special.

Web_Feature_Steamboat-c21

Steamboat Springs is a ski town but come summertime, it is taken over by bikes and people having fun in the rivers. Orange Peel is one local bike shop that’s worth the visit – it happens to be right next to the river.

“Bike Town USA” Initiative is a community movement with a vision for Steamboat: The Ultimate Destination For Cycling Experiences. Chatting with the local community revealed a crew who are passionate about their very ambitious goals of improving safety, building the community, and providing economic development through cycling.

Initiatives and ideas like this do take more than human spirit and the “Bike Town USA” group was lobbying to divert hotel tax revenue into cycling infrastructure, facilities and programs. As you can imagine, diverting such large amounts of money into bicycling would be a hot issue in any community with other user groups also wanting the same resources. It’s such a hot topic in fact that the community is voting on the proposal this month.

Removing myself from the politics of the moment, my personal experience from spending a week in Steamboat showed that even at this early stage, the ideas and the community feel are already working. With over 500 miles of trails in the area, a lifted gravity park, a thriving local cycling industry including being the home of Moots and Stinger, and just a sense of mountain biking being front and centre.

Steamboat Springs has to be one of only a handful of mountain bike destinations in the world where you feel at home and welcomed from the moment you arrive.¬†Although it is a long way from Australia I highly recommend that you add this town, and this experience, to your wish list. It’s not very often that as a mountain biker you are welcomed into a community with such open arms.

Web_Feature_Steamboat-24

My first ride included waking before the sun came up and getting to the top of the mountains for first light. The mountains surrounding Steamboat Spinrgs aren’t the massive epic ones you might expect in Colorado so climbing to the top is more a like a couple of hours, rather than half the day.

Web_Feature_Steamboat-c7

Green is not a common colour for most of my riding so it took a little while for my eyes to adjust. Getting access to land and building trails isn’t at all straight forward but complex land swaps and other deals have opened up even more trails for mountain biking.

Web_Feature_Steamboat-c4

Emerald Mountain Trails are the closest trails to the township and offer anything from a quick hit out to all-day epics when connected with other trail networks. Access to the trailhead was a few minute’s ride from my hotel, and conveniently there were plenty of pubs on the way back. Perfect.

Web_Feature_Steamboat-1

I have an unfounded fear of being attacked by a mountain lion when I am riding but the statistics are by far in my favour. Yep they’re out there watching me as I ride, but I am more likely to be attacked and killed by a bee than one of these. You may see the posted signs but there’s really no need to stress.

Web_Feature_Steamboat-c3

The Aspen forests are a dream to ride in and endless trails let you explore and be one with nature.

Web_Feature_Steamboat-c2

Trails don’t just appear like magic and there is a dedicated crew of locals who sacrifice their own time to play their little part in the vision of Steamboat Springs. On one of my rides I just happened to come across two of Steamboat’s best, Marc and Gretchen. Ski Instructors in the winter and mountain bike riders and builders in the summer.

Web_Feature_Steamboat-30

This was one of my favourite trails on Emerald Mountain. Who knows what is was called though as it was part of a great network of trails from the top of the ridge line, all the way back into town.  It must have been over 5km of descending and a more than worthy reward for the climb.

Web_Feature_Steamboat-c12
Web_Feature_Steamboat-54

A short drive from Steamboat was the Rotary Trails. Exposed, very flowy, and a little different, but it’s that diversity that makes any destination more appealing.

 

Web_Feature_Steamboat-c22
Web_Feature_Steamboat-c1

Some flowers for the flower lovers.

Web_Feature_Steamboat-c13 Web_Feature_Steamboat-c8 Web_Feature_Steamboat-55
Web_Feature_Steamboat-59

Myself and Doug Davis on the way up to Rabbit Ears Pass. It got really steep at the end but the breath-taking views were more than worth it. If you consider the diversity of mountain biking available in Steamboat there aren’t many bases not covered.

Web_Feature_Steamboat-c11

I saw a moose on the trails. I saw a moose the trails.

Web_Feature_Steamboat-36 Web_Feature_Steamboat-c14
Web_Feature_Steamboat-20

My silly fear of mountain lions and this is the only thing that attacked me. Kinda felt a little let down.

Web_Feature_Steamboat-45

Bike Town USA Director, Doug Davis took me riding a few times as we explored his favourite trails.

Web_Feature_Steamboat-69
Web_Feature_Steamboat-67

The Steamboat Ski resort turns into a lifted gravity orientated bike park in the summer months. It’s still in its infancy as a developing location, nut already they had completed building some amazing trails with the Whistler Gravity Logic team. More work is always planned and the resort wanted to keep showing me more but I was just happy doing run, after run, after run, after run.

Web_Feature_Steamboat-50

On the way back from a soak in Strawberry Springs. Life was tough for the week or so I was there.

Web_Feature_Steamboat-c16

I did journey a little down the famous Continental Divide Trail but snow got in the way of that adventure. If you ever visit, make sure you do it in the height of summer and get a shuttle to ride one apparently amazing trail back to town.

Web_Feature_Steamboat-c10

It’s the little things that count. Beer, small animals that don’t attack, discovering that these were dog prints, and a random hood ornament.

Web_Feature_Steamboat-c15

The locals really make Steamboat Springs what it is and I cannot thank them enough for showing me the trails and guiding me to the best places to eat and drink.