Crested Butte Chronicles: Best time of year to be here

Trails are primo, Evolution Bike Park is open — and it's Bike Week!

Race Coverage Travel
Ripping the new Teaser trail at the Evolution Bike Park.

Ripping the new Teaser trail at Crested Butte’s Evolution Bike Park.

Editor’s Note: Last September, Mtbr features editor Jason Sumner fled Colorado’s crowded Front Range and moved his family to Crested Butte, one of the world’s premier mountain biking destinations. Crested Butte Chronicles is Sumner’s new on-again, off-again column about living and riding high in the Colorado Rockies.

It’s hard to say exactly when Crested Butte’s mountain biking season officially kicks off. Locals have been blissfully spinning laps at nearby Hartman Rocks since the middle of spring. But it’s only in the last few weeks that the trails on the northern end of the valley have really started opening up.

It happens in waves, first lower elevation options such as Caves, Cement Creek, Lupine, Tony’s, Upper, and the Upper Upper trail melt out. Then Strand Hill, Deer Creek, Snodgrass, Happy Hour, and Fence Line. And finally the higher stuff, Doctor Park, Teocalli Ridge, 401 and on and on. The local PR peeps claim there are 750 miles of trail in the Gunnison-Crested Butte area and I have no reason to doubt them. I just know I haven’t come close to riding it all — yet.

The wildflowers are going off — and the trails are in primo shape. Photo courtesy CB Chamber of Commerce/Lydia Stern

The wildflowers are going off — and the trails are in primo shape. Photo courtesy CB Chamber of Commerce/Lydia Stern

Not all the trails are “good to go” right now. For daily updates, check in with the Crested Butte Mountain Biking Association and their Facebook page. But if you’ve been waiting for the perfect time to head this way, this week is about as good as it gets.

On June 11, the lifts at Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s Evolution Bike Park started spinning, offering easy access to most of the park’s 30 miles of trail that range from beginner cross-country to full-pucker-factor downhill gnar. Evolution, with its 29 total trails and about 1000 feet of vertical, will never be confused with Whistler. But it’s a great compliment to the valley’s immense trail network, and a good place to catch your breath and rest the legs after tackling a few days of backcountry XC adventuring where just about every ride starts at 8900 feet — and then heads up.

About the bike park scenery... It's pretty good, too.

About the bike park scenery… It’s pretty good, too.

“One of the great things about [Evolution Bike Park] is that a competent rider on a good 150mm to 170mm trail bike can ride almost everything,” explained park manager Christian Robertson. “There are really only two trails that will make your think. But at the same time, you can have a blast here on a downhill bike, too. It’s a really diverse place to ride.”

Same goes for lowlander beginners, who will find plenty of newbie-friendly XC track that’s lift accessible, so you don’t have to suffer through altitude acclimation just to spin around in the woods.

And if you’re looking to try a new bike (or don’t have your own), Evolution just refreshed its entire demo fleet thanks to a new partnership with Scott Bikes. In the week leading up to the grand opening on the 11th, a quartet of staffers from Scott’s Salt Lake City office descended on Crested Butte, and helped the CBMR shop team build up 70 brand new bikes, ranging from Gambler downhill rigs, to Genius LT and Genius LT Plus trail bikes, to women’s specific and kid’s rigs.

Scott Gambler downhill bikes ready to shred the Evolution Bike Park.

Brand new Scott Gambler downhill bikes ready to shred the Evolution Bike Park.

“It’s an amazing partnership for us,” said Scott Bike PR man Zack Vestal. “Crested Butte is such an iconic — and amazing — place to ride, and we feel like this new fleet of bikes is a great way to explore the trails here.”

Unless you rode the park late last season, you’ll also be treated to a pair of new trails. Teaser is an intermediate, high-bermed flow trail that zips through a large groove of mature Aspen starting near the top of Prospect Road and finishing at the base of the Painter Boy lift. It’s the same trail that was used last winter on the final day of the Fat Bike World Championships, except traction is a lot better this time of year.

Meanwhile, the Happy Hour trail was a collaborative effort between CBMR and CBMBA, which connects the bike park to the town trails. It rides both ways, but downhill is certainly the preferred direction thanks to a mix of flow, berms, and some great alternative lines if you like to get the wheels off the ground.

The world famous Chainless Downhill Race: Part competition, part costume party, all time fun. Photo courtesy CB Chamber of Commerce/Lydia Stern

The world famous Chainless Downhill Race: Part competition, part costume party, all time fun. Photo courtesy CB Chamber of Commerce/Lydia Stern

Link Westside (in the bike park) with Happy Hour, Upper, and then Tony’s for a seriously ripping XC downhill that drops you off just shy of the various watering holes on Elk Avenue. (The Brick Oven Pizzeria has a beer list that rivals anything you have back home, I promise.)

This coming week also features the 36th (yes, 3-6) running of Crested Butte Bike Week. Highlight events include the world famous (or maybe infamous) Chainless Downhill Race from the top of Kebler Pass to town. It’s classic Crested Butte: Dress up, ride bikes, party hard. Not necessarily in that order. Start time? 4-20 of course.

Bike Week also includes the Fat Tire 40 cross-country race on classic trails such as Deer Creek and Stand Hill (And yes, it’s a 40-mile race that’s almost exclusively on singletrack). There’s also the Gravity Slave downhill at CBMR, and a lots of clinics, guided rides, live music and parties. It’s a true celebration of all things mountain bike in one of the world’s best places to ride mountain bikes.

“We’re partnering with the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association and all the proceeds from Bike Week go to them,” said chamber of commerce director Eliza Cress. “So you get to ride some of the best singletrack anywhere and you’re supporting the world’s oldest mountain bike club.”

Enough said. Check out the full Bike Week schedule below — and then drop me a note when you get to town. Let’s go for a ride!

The famed peak of Mount Crested Butte is accessible via a 15-minute chairlift ride + 45'ish-minute hike. The view from up top is world class.

The famed peak of Mount Crested Butte is accessible via a 15-minute chairlift ride + 45′ish-minute hike. The view from up top is world class.

Crested Butte Bike Week: June 23 – 26

Thursday:


Friday:

  • Chainless World Champs – Reg from 10 – 12, Race start at 4:20pm, CBMBA Benefit
  • Yoga for the Peaceful – 9am
  • Wheelie Clinic – Backcountry Bike Academy 10:30pm
  • CB Devo Slow Race – 3pm

Saturday:

  • 8th Annual Fat Tire 40 8am, CBMBA Benefit, free entry to Trout Steak Revival.
  • Yoga for the Peaceful 8:45am
  • Guided Ride – Big Al’s Bicycle Heaven – Doctor Park 9am (amazing downhill!)
  • Guided Ride – The Alpineer – Teo Ridge 9am (another amazing ride)
  • Skills Clinic – CB Devo 10am
  • Cornering Clinic – Backcountry Bike Academy 10:30am
  • Women’s Clinic – Rippin’ Chix 2pm
  • TROUT STEAK REVIVAL – CB Music Festival 7:30pm

Sunday:

  • CB Devo CB Jr. Wildflower Classic 9am
  • Gravity Slave DH Race – CBMR Evolution Bike Park
  • Women’s Singletrack Camp – Rippin’ Chix 9am
Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.


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