Horse Gulch Blog

Watchdogging for the greater Durango area

2 Jan 2013

Momentum for freeride trails at DMR grows; public hoping for participatory inclusion

Posted by Adam Howell


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A new downhill/freeride-bike oriented “flow” trail at Purgatory would be the first permanent and legal one of its kind to be constructed at the mountain, with the Resort’s Executive Team eyeing Trails 2000 to do both the planning and construction of it.

Most of the land under Lift 4 at DMR belongs to the US Forest Service. The Resort's Executive Team is eyeing Trails 2000 to do the planning and development of the first permanent, gravity-fed "flow" trail that would descend from the top of 4 to the Purgatory Village.  Most trail building plans would hinge on Forest Service approval after conducting an Environmental Assessment..

Most of the land under Lift 4 at DMR is managed by the US Forest Service. The Resort’s Executive Team is eyeing Trails 2000 to do the planning and development of the first permanent, gravity-fed “flow” trail that would descend from the top of 4 and end at the Purgatory Village.

Durango Mountain Resort’s new enthusiasm comes while knowing that the U.S. Forest Service would need to environmentally assess and approve of all new proposals for trails or terrain parks on National Forest property where most of the Resort’s ski runs and lifts currently exist.

“The initial steps have been taken as far as our team and Trails 2000 just kind of walking to get a lay of the land and seeing what’s there and what we can potentially do,” said Durango Mountain Resort’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Sven Brunso. “And now we’re in the process of looking in to map stuff out so we can kind of take the next step and do feasibility studies to see what would be involved and get an approval to do those things. As well as what would be involved in terms of man power and financial resources on our end for these trails to be done right.”

This land on the back side of Purgatory has yet to be mentioned in any planning for potential downhill/freeride trail construction, despite having hundreds of acres of usable terrain with lift access.

This land on the back side of Purgatory has yet to be mentioned in any planning for potential downhill/freeride trail construction, despite having hundreds of acres of usable terrain with lift access.

Since Horse Gulch Blog’s last story about the Resort’s ambition to build gravity-fed trails on the mountain, support for building their first permanently-sanctioned “flow” trail has gained momentum.

The definition of a “flow” trail can differ significantly from that of an organization like Trails 2000, known for its cross-country trail building experience, to that of a group like Durango Freeride, a group on Facebook that exists to promote the creation of legalized freeride trails.

Either way, the resort’s employees and Executive Team have allegedly turned the corner towards collectively agreeing with the idea of building a “flow” trail that would descend from the top of lift four to PurgatoryVillage. Uplift four currently extends half way up the front-side of the mountain and serves those using the Alpine Slide, along with people taking their bikes up during the summer.

“I can tell you that we’ve come from basically half the people on the mountain saying ‘hey this is something we need to do, but who really has time to do it because we have so many other priorities and things on our plate that we have to address,’ to now everyone’s saying ‘hey let’s figure out a way to make this happen,’” Brunso said.

IMG_0376“We’re now doing the meetings and the studies and looking at maps,” said Brunso. “So yes, it’s come a long, long way over the last 3 or 4 months.”

So far, the planning meetings have not been publicly advertised or all inclusive, although Brunso said that they will be eventually.

Brunso did not mention any long-term plans for utilizing the back side of the mountain’s lift infrastructure, north aspects or terrain features that could simultaneously be included in a request for an Environmental Assessment to the US Forest Service. Much of the land above the base area is in the US Forest Service’s jurisdiction; as such they would have to approve of any proposed plans for trail and terrain park developments.

Starting with a trail that would attract beginner riders, families

Daryl Crites of Trails 2000 worked with the Executive Team to figure out a way to get the new “flow” trail from the top of lift 4 to the bottom, which is the only operational uplift during the summer. Crites said he drew a line on a Google Earth map for its preliminary location.

IMG_0374“There’s some very interesting terrain,” said Crites. “There’s also some pretty big cliffs and stuff that you know I think we can move around, and have the opportunity that you can have an expert line, and then right next to it have a beginner line for a ride around.”

Crites explained the logic of placing a new “flow” trail nearest to the base at Purgatory Village, where families from out of town would most likely be staying during the summer.

“So I think the first step is you create that intermediate flow trail down that’s just like big smiles for the so-so mountain bikers,” said Crites. “Then once you get that in, then I think you can come along and put in a terrain park.”

Comparing the development progression of ski/snowboard runs to those of downhill/freeride trail runs, he said that placing the easier beginner runs at the bottom near the base is crucial for attracting family visitors who will stay at the Resort over the weekend.

IMG_0364“Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m just thinking that if you started out and all you had was this really gnarly rad terrain park,” said Crites. “Well that would be kind of fun, but you wouldn’t fill condos with families unless you had the bunny hill kids to go by it.”

Crites acknowledges that Trails 2000 lacks the experience in building jumps, trestles and other features associated with freeride trails.

“What I hope what happens is we make the first kind of sissy trail, and then we find the line next door to it,” he said. “And once we get to that, then I’m kind of out of the picture because that’s not me. I don’t have that skill level. I don’t have that desire to do those big features.”

“At that stage then, Trails 2000 I don’t think wants to be involved beyond just allowing the downhill community to do that,” said Crites. “Then Colin Shadell, and Walker and all those other guys that are doing that. I think we’d be really happy to turn it over to them and say ‘have at it.’ But what we can’t do is have the very first trail be one of those trails, because DMR won’t go for it.”

“What I don’t want to do is have them (downhill/freeriders) influence me on my trail and I don’t want to influence them on their trail,” he said. “But then again, I think we can get the clearance from Forest Service to be able to have all trails.”

Change in year-round resort operations inevitable

DMR’s fresh enthusiasm for a dry-season “flow” trail follows a grim forecast for winter operations at resorts nation-wide, given the fact that global warming will result in lower annual snowfall totals and warmer temperatures that are expected to perpetually increase every year.

With climate change expected to dramatically shorten the length of Purg’s snow sports seasons, their business plans will need to include bike park trails and infrastructure in order to compete with neighboring resorts who, for the most part, will continue to gain visitors and revenue from the industry.

“Purg has no choice in this matter,” says local freeride advocate Walker Thompson. “They have to compete with these other areas that are within a 3-hour radius. A 3-hour radius around us—everybody has trails—except us.”

Part of a non-system, unsanctioned trestle ledge on a trail that freeriders have used in the past up at Purg.

Part of a non-system, unsanctioned trestle ledge on a trail that freeriders have used in the past up at Purg.

“In addition to that I believe the freeride community won’t give them a choice,” said Thompson. “We’re going to build it anyway, right. It’s just going to happen. People are going to do it. There’s been trails up there for years (non-system trails that are excluded from maps and official acknowledgment).”

“So I think Purg’s approach on this one trail phenomenon that they have needs to be broken. And I think only a coalition of freeriders that are a part of this community—maybe not the 19-year-olds—right, but people like me that have resources, we are older and are demanding this.”

Hoping that Purg will plan and develop at least three new trails up at Purg, Thompson says that trails will be constructed up there regardless of whether the planning phase ever gets bigger than that for one new trail.

IMG_0590“I think I’m done meeting with Trails 2000. I think a lot of us are done meeting. We’re done talking. It’s been meeting, meeting, meeting—that’s all it is,” said Thompson, referring to the palpable tension that he said exists between freeriders and Trails 2000. “And again, maybe these meetings are just part of the process. I have limited time, and I’ve got to take care of my responsibilities, right. And when I know I can impact a trail with a shovel, a pick ax, a bucket and some water—right away. I think that’s what we’re all faced with in that choice.”

Thompson had three main points to make about building bike park infrastructure at Purg.

“One, Purg needs to take a three trail approach, not one trail,” he said. “It’s like a slap in the face.”

“Number two—you have free labor at your disposal—use it,” said Thompson. “If someone said, we’re out there to walk trails, we’ve got shovels, we’ve got funding, we’ve got approval. People will come out there from the freeride community and say, ‘what’s next? Where do we dig next? What do you need from us? How much money do you need? How much time do you need?’ I think you could rally not a ton of money, but I think a good amount for Purg. These Durango Flyer kids, I think they would volunteer, right?”

“Point number three I guess revolves around what I said about about Trails 2000,” said Thompson. “Absolutely they will build a great beginner trail, but again leverage the resources that you have, Purg, and let’s make this happen. If you’re serious, build three trails.”

A steel ledge could be welded along the edge of the stairs at Purgatory Village to facilitate the pushing of bikes from the ticket office area to the top where the lifts are located. This picture shows a similar device on the stairs next to the swinging bridge behind the Discovery Museum in Durango.

A steel ledge could be welded along the edge of the stairs at Purgatory Village to facilitate the pushing of bikes from the ticket office area to the top where the lifts are located. This picture shows a similar device on the stairs next to the swinging bridge behind the Discovery Museum in Durango.

With DMR’s Executive Team only planning one “flow” trail to submit for assessment to the US Forest Service, Thompson thinks that the process could make better use of our government’s time by planning for three trails even if the money, resources and organization needed to build those trails takes an extended time to acquire.

The Log Chutes Downhill Mountain Bike Trail Environmental Assessment, for instance, is still in the process of being assessed by the US Forest Service after it was first pitched to them in 2010.

“You’re going to have the Forest Service spend resources and time approving one trail,” asked Thompson. “The same study costs you another two thousand dollars or whatever it costs, but it’s not going to be an additional ten thousand. You got it right there. They’re in action. They’re attentive. Do it then. Don’t waste your money and your time, and our government’s resources and time on one study.”

Overall, Thompson thinks that new downhill/freeride trail-building on the mountain is a public initiative that should involve the public.

“Trails 2000 does not own that trail. Purg does not own that mountain,” said Thompson. “Those are federal lands that we all have a say in.”

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One Response to “Momentum for freeride trails at DMR grows; public hoping for participatory inclusion”

  1. […] of progressive freeride trails nationwide, this blogger has also raised skepticism towards DMR’s plan to have only one ‘flow’ trail built at Purg. This despite a growing regional demand for a sustainable, multidisciplinary, world-class […]

     

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