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 on-again, off-again column about living and riding high in the Colorado Rockies.
Last weekend, I got invited to a fund raiser dinner put on by the fine folks at the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association. Along with a little Sunday afternoon revelry (bike ride first, beer drinking and BBQ after), attendees were brought up to speed on what the club has been up to — and what it hopes to accomplish in the months and years to come. Some goals are modest: a reroute here, some new trail armor there. Some goals are more significant: the dream of a 30-mile connector between Gunnison and Crested Butte lives!
But the No. 1 objective was clear: Raise money.
Turns out that though CBMBA is very likely the oldest mountain bike club in the world (founded in 1983), and maintains some of the best trails on earth (450 miles in a 20-mile radius around Crested Butte), it has a paltry $20,000 annual budget, only one full-time employee, no full-time trail crew, and no vehicles of its own. Doug Bradbury’s truck (yes, that Doug Bradbury) is the primary work vehicle.
Now, I’m sure this is not a unique story. In fact, I’d bet many (if not most) of the local mountain bike clubs across the country are scraping by on crumbs and survive only due to a dedicated volunteer base. And that got me thinking. I’d assume most of the people reading this post are paying members of their local mountain bike advocacy group and that’s awesome. A lot of you also kick some cash to IMBA, the STC, or both. Again, super cool.
I’d also bet that at some point you have loaded up the family wagon and headed to another part of the country to ride new trails. Exploring the unknown is one of the best parts of this great sport. While you were in said uncharted territory, you probably headed out for dinner and drinks, checked into a hotel, and/or hired a mountain bike guide. And when you were done downing adult beverages, noshing on pizza, getting your bags to your room, and/or exploring new terrain with an experienced helping hand, you probably pulled out your wallet and tipped the bartender, waitress, valet, bell hop, or guide.
And that brings me to the crux of this column: Next time you check out some new trails in a new place, why not drop a couple bucks in the proverbial tip jar of the people who made it possible to ride those trails — folks such as CBMBA, Gunnison Trails, Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz, the New England Mountain Bike Association, the Arizona Trail Association, or whoever it was wherever you rode. (If you need some help figuring it out, our friends at singletracks.com have a great list you can use as a starting place.)
It may not always be super easy to give a little back (some club websites are better than others), but in most cases you’ll at least find a contact page that’ll get you pointed in the right direction. And many associations (CBMBA and Gunnison Trails included) have specific donation pages.
Because, as all of you already know, downed trees just don’t magically disappear in the spring, critical trail armor doesn’t fall off the armor tree, and drainage mitigation isn’t an act of God. Sure the Forest Service, BLM, and the like help out. But in many if not most cases, it’s the local trail advocacy groups that make it possible for you to rocket down 401, zip on Zippity Do Da, sail with Captain Ahab, fly on the Demo Forest Flow Trail, brapp brapp on Butcher, and generally have a dirty good time on two wheels.
And that, my fellow fat tire friends, is definitely worth a couple bucks if not a whole lot more. So please, tip your trail builder and maintainer at home — and on the road.
Crested Butte by the Numbers
The folks at local travel and tourism association passed these stats on and I thought they were worth sharing. I’ve certainly never lived in a place where the bicycle is such an integral part of the community. Come visit sometime and be sure to look me up.
- Number of people: 2,500
- Number of bikes (est): 3,500
- Number of bike shops: 7
- Number of bikes stolen annually: 1 (usually returned)
- Number of volunteers that show up for a trail day: typically 225 or more
- Number of volunteer hours annually: 2,500
- Percentage of bikers whose mountain bikes are worth more than their car or truck: 25%
- Number of new trail miles put in each year: 3-5
- Miles of singletrack in the greater Gunnison valley: 750 and growing