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Biking Bliss with 750 Miles of Trails in Crested Butte & the Gunnison Valley, Colorado

Home of mountain biking to launch new mountain biking trails app and website

April 10, 2015

Crested Butte Bike Week racers, courtesy of CBBW/Trent Bona

Crested Butte Bike Week racers, courtesy of CBBW/Trent Bona

The Gunnison-Crested Butte Valley boasts the largest mountain biking trail systems in the United States with more than 750 miles of mostly singletrack trails and a jam-packed calendar of biking events for 2015. For example, the Crested Butte Big Mountain Enduro is the only U.S. stop of the Enduro World Series and will be the country’s biggest mountain biking event in 2015. The biking terrain is so vast that a new trails app and mountain biking website will be launched later this spring.

Since the 1970s, when locals started retrofitting old Schwinn paperboy bikes with multiple gears, Crested Butte has been known as the home of mountain biking. Crested Butte is one of only five communities in Colorado to have the prestigious gold designation from the League of American Bicyclists, and Gunnison is one of only nine towns with silver status.

The first spot in the valley that bikers flock to in spring is the 8,000-acre Hartman Rocks Recreation Area in Gunnison, open now for riding and offering 40 miles of high desert single track and 33 miles of road open to biking once all trails are available. As spring progresses, trails at the north end of the valley begin opening and the chairlifts start running at Crested Butte Mountain from mid-June through the end of September, providing easy access to Evolution Bike Park including several Wednesday and Friday nights.

Original Growler - photo by Matt Burt

Original Growler - photo by Matt Burt

World-Class Mountain Biking Events

Organized by mountain biking legend and Gunnison resident Dave Wiens, The Original Growler always sells out quickly and serves as the official kickoff of the mountain bike race season in the Gunnison-Crested Butte Valley. Held on Memorial Day weekend, the Half-Growler (32 miles) on May 23 and Full-Growler (64 miles) on May 24 start downtown before heading out to Hartman Rocks. New this year is the Growler Forty, a mountain duathlon that includes one lap of the Growler course with a 7-plus mile trail run thrown in the middle. The event is the primary fund-raiser for Gunnison Trails.

Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte are the proud hosts of the world’s oldest mountain bike festival, the 35th Annual Crested Butte Bike Week. Scheduled for June 25 – 28, the festival kicks off with beginner, intermediate, advanced and women’s specific clinics and an amateur film night on Thursday, followed by the Chainless World Championship (a 7-mile ride down Kebler Pass on cruiser bikes without chains) on Friday. The weekend is all about the Fat Tire 40 mountain bike race on Saturday and Crested Butte Mountain’s downhill race on Sunday. For those who like a mellower ride, the Adaptive Sports Center’s annual Bridges of the Butte townie tour is a 24-hour ride for individuals and teams on June 27 – 28. Free shuttle rides to premiere area trails are available throughout Crested Butte Bike Week, and new for this year is a $5,000 cash purse for the Fat Tire 40 as well as for the Growler.

Crested Butte Mountain hosts the free Pinnacle Bike Race Serieson five Wednesday nights from July 1 – 29 in tandem with the free Live! From Mountain Crested Butte concerts held from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the ski area base. The series features cross-country and downhill races for all ages and abilities that start at 5:45 p.m., with kids’ races beginning at 5:15 p.m. Register on-site at the slopeside Butte 66 starting at 4:45 p.m.

The three-day Crested Butte Big Mountain Enduro on July 31 – Aug. 2 is part of the Yeti Cycles Big Mountain Enduro Series and will include a heavy pro field and offer the largest cash payout of any 2015 BME event. During this only U.S. stop of the 2015 Enduro World Series, riders are challenged with three days of racing, with big climbing transitions that take them to the top of the world overlooking majestic peaks with a total elevation gain of more than 21,000 feet and averaging 25 miles per day. This race is a true test of mental strength and fitness.

Youths can train with local biking luminaries at the third annual High School Cross-Country Mountain Bike Racing Camp presented by the Western State Colorado University Mountain Sports Team on August 5 – 9. Campers will ride premiere trails in Gunnison and Crested Butte and receive coaching from WSCU’s Mountain Sports Director Dave Wiens, WSCU’s cycling athletes and guest coaches such as Susan DeMattei, the 1996 Olympic bronze medalist in mountain biking.

Gunnison’s Hartman Rocks is the backdrop for the 13th Annual 24 Hours in the Sage, a 24-hour mountain bike race where individual entrants and teams ride a 13-mile loop continuously from noon Saturday, Aug. 22 to noon Sunday, Aug. 23. The race starts and finishes at the nearby Gunnison KOA Kampground, and the person/team in each category with the most laps wins. The World Townie Championships (same format) and a 12-hour race that starts at noon and finishes at midnight on Aug. 22 are offered as well.

The second annual GORE-TEX Grand Traverse Mountain Run & Bike, Sept. 5 – 6, is the fair-weather version of the legendary Gore-Tex Grand Traverse backcountry ski race from Crested Butte to Aspen. The course is similar to the winter route, approximately 40 miles with similar elevation gain/loss; however, the Sept. 5 trail run starts at 6 a.m. in downtown Crested Butte on Elk Avenue and finishes at Ajax Park in Aspen and the Sept. 6 mountain bike races departs Ajax Park at 8 a.m. and finish at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Outdoor enthusiasts can sign up for one or both of the September races, and those who are truly hard core can shoot for a triple crown win!

The 39th annual Pearl Pass Mountain Bike Tour on Sept. 12 – 13 is the oldest mountain bike event in the world and takes riders from Crested Butte to Aspen via Pearl Pass. In 1976, the first group of 15 or 20 cyclists from Crested Butte rode one-speed town bikes over the 12,705-foot Pearl Pass to Aspen in response to a group of Aspenites riding motorcycles over the same route, parking in downtown Crested Butte and setting out to meet local women. The Crested Butte rowdies pulled up in downtown Aspen in front of the historic Hotel Jerome. By the early 1980s, the expert ride had grown and become a weeklong festival known as Fat Tire Bike Week. Today, Crested Butte Bike Week is held in June and the Pearl Pass Mountain Bike Tour is in September.

Road Biking

Bicyclists on skinny tires also are a common site in the valley. See local racing teams heading out in packs as well as locals and visitors enjoying vista-filled routes. The Gunnison-Crested Butte Valley is a regular stop on long-distance road rides in the state, with Ride the Rockies spending nights in Gunnison on June 16 and Crested Butte on June 17. Bicycle Tour of Colorado rolls into Crested Butte for two nights, June 24 and 25, so riders can enjoy a blissful day off in the mountains.

In tandem with Labor Day weekend, Western State Colorado University’s Mountain Sports Team is sponsoring the fourth annual West Elk Bicycle Classic on Sept. 6. The challenging 134-mile ride (105 miles paved and 29 miles dirt) can be ridden for time or as a tour, but note that the route climbs nearly 9,300 feet from Gunnison to Crested Butte and circumnavigate the West Elk Mountains. From Gunnison, the route proceeds along the north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison to Crawford and Paonia before beginning a 5,000-foot climb up Kebler Pass to Crested Butte.

Townie Events & Casual Cruising

For those who love cruiser bikes, Gunnison Country Mentors’ Townie Takeover on June 7 involves riding a townie on a charted course as many times as possible from noon - 4 p.m. or just casually for a portion of the time. Costumes are encouraged, and families and kids are welcome to participate.

The annual Bridges of the Butte 24-hour townie tour helps wrap up Crested Butte Bike Week in true Crested Butte style with many riders in costume. This one-of-a-kind ride benefitting Adaptive Sports Center starts on the afternoon of June 27 and ends the afternoon of June 28, looping through downtown and meandering across the town’s bridges. Participants can sign up solo or as a team.

It’s also possible to race cruisers during the World Townie Championships at 24 Hours in the Sage on Aug. 22 – 23 at Hartman Rocks in Gunnison.

For those who just want to cruise with absolutely no schedule should consider staying at properties such as The Ruby of Crested Butte, Purple Mountain Bed & Breakfastand Old Town Inn in Crested Butte, which have complimentary townie bikes available for guests. Plus, bike shops in Gunnison and Crested Butte have colorful fleets and rent cruisers by the hour.

Travel Deals

Nordic Inn in Mt. Crested Butte has been totally remodeled and is a bike lover’s dream with close proximity to Trail 401, Snodgrass Trail and Evolution Bike Park. Plus, there is a secure bike storage room, bike cleaning station and plenty of space for bike trailer parking. Before June 10, book a stay during Crested Butte Bike Week online and save 40% . The promotion code is CBBW.

To celebrate Crested Butte Bike Week, Crested Butte Lodging & Property Management is offering 15 percent off all properties the company manages from June 24 – 30, 2015. For example, stay at Three Seasons, a condominium complex in Mt. Crested Butte that features bike washing stations and bike storage or for the most economical option Crested Butte International Lodge & Hostel in Crested Butte.

Plan a summer or early fall vacation at one of Crested Butte Mountain Resort properties by May 25 and save 20% and receive one free chairlift ride ticket per person on the reservation. This deal is good for visits from June 13 – Sept. 7, 2015, and must be reserved through Crested Butte Vacations.

Vacation Packages & Visitor Information

For travel planning, general information and savings on flights, hotel rooms, vacation packages, car rentals and more, go to www.GunnisonCrestedButte.com or call (800) 814-8893. Also, follow GCBTA on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gcbta. Later this spring, bikers can access all sorts of mountain biking information and the new trails app at www.mtbhome.com.

About Gunnison-Crested Butte, Colorado

Nestled in a valley with nearly two million acres of pristine, mountainous wilderness, Gunnison-Crested Butte has a prime location in southwest Colorado. Winter sports enthusiasts know the area for its world-class alpine skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing, ice fishing and more. Fair-weather activities include mountain biking, hiking, wildflower and wildlife viewing, climbing, boating, whitewater rafting, kayaking, fly-fishing, camping and horseback riding. Year-round visitors enjoy distinctive restaurants, locally-owned shops, stimulating cultural opportunities and festivals galore ranging from the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival and Gunnison Cattlemen’s Days to Crested Butte Bike Week and Gunnison Car Show weekend.

Along a 31-mile stretch of wide-open vistas and stunning scenery, visitors can explore Gunnison, Almont, Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte and connect with the quaint and historic burgs of Pitkin, Gothic, Tin Cup, Marble, Powderhorn and Crystal, also located in Gunnison County. Gunnison and Crested Butte, both founded in 1880, are known for their Victorian-era charm, friendly Western hospitality and free-spirited nature. Almont is a fishing, rafting and rock climbing mecca, and the resort village of Mt. Crested Butte is home to renowned Crested Butte Mountain. Visitors also can explore Curecanti National Recreation Area, home to Colorado’s largest body of water, and the nearby Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Gunnison County is part of the West Elk Loop and Silver Thread Scenic & Historic Byways.

Non-stop air service to the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC) is provided year-round by United Airlines with flights from Denver (DIA). United also is offering non-stop service from Houston (HIA) this summer. The Montrose Regional Airport (MTJ) is located just 79 miles from Gunnison, providing additional regional air service to the area.

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