The Ultimate Guide To Local Ride Centers With Gold-Level Status

By Tess Weaver Strokes | October 9, 2020 | Lifestyle

Mountain biking trails in Snowmass, Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley are open for outdoor recreation—and they just earned gold.

19MP3990.jpgRim Trail in Snowmass

Of all the destinations to mountain bike around the planet, the worldwide leader in mountain bike advocacy identifies only seven as Gold-Level Ride Centers. In early 2020, the International Mountain Bicycling Association recognized Snowmass, Aspen, Carbondale and the entire Roaring Fork Valley as the pinnacle of mountain biking communities, giving the area the coveted gold— the first in Colorado. The Roaring Fork Valley earned this designation for its 300 miles of varied singletrack designed for mountain bikers of every skill level, quality of trail experiences, community dedication and local services.

The valley’s offerings satisfy every riding style, from family-friendly flow trails in Glenwood Springs to technical desert slick rock in Carbondale and 4,000-vertical-foot gravity trails in Snowmass to new purpose-built trails with low-grade climbs and professionally sculpted berms a short pedal from Snowmass Village or downtown Aspen. The variety of trail landscapes and their widespread locations—everywhere from 5,000 feet to 11,000 feet in altitude—means mountain bikers can ride according to season and weather. New connectors and extensions bring a once fragmented network of social trails and mining roads into one user-friendly, purpose-built system that elevates the area’s mountain bike reputation to match its winter status.

“Building new trails has made a real difference,” says Mike Pritchard, executive director of Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, an advocacy group working to create and sustain the best possible local mountain bike trail system through collaborative planning with land agency partners, trail stewardship and more. “Many of the trails built in recent years filled in gaps to allow for continuous singletrack rides. That results in a higher-quality riding experience. At the root, it’s all thanks to extraordinary cooperation between local public land stakeholders. Each has studied, approved, built additional mileage and made countless improvements to the valley’s singletrack trail system in recent years.”

19MP9685.jpgHigh school mountain bike racing on Snowmass Mountain

Graduating from a Bronze-Level Ride Center, which the region received in 2014, to a Gold-Level Ride Center this year is a testament to the community’s dedication to mountain biking. With its ethos of trail maintenance and stewardship, Aspen Cycling Club hosts 18 to 20 Wednesday evening races each summer that alternate between road and mountain, welcoming visitors who have never raced before, professional cyclists from the Front Range and even 80-year-old Jacques Houot.

Nonprofit organization Roaring Fork Cycling formed four years ago to provide coaching for the Aspen and Basalt high school teams. Now, the organization empowers youth through cycling via free after-school programs throughout the school year, paid summer camps for first through sixth graders, female-only programming, and a development program for middle schoolers and high schoolers. The Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club, meanwhile, offers free youth introductory programs in Aspen and Carbondale and supports a competitive mountain bike team.

Beyond the trails, Gold-Level Ride Centers need to deliver a high-quality experience pre- and post-ride. The Roaring Fork Valley’s mountain towns differ in aesthetic and ambiance, but all deliver ample lodging for every budget, exceptional dining, professional-level bike shops, world-class cultural events and plenty of nonbiking outdoor fun—from paddleboarding and rafting to rock climbing and hot springing. The itinerary options stretch as long as the list of trails.


Aspen; Boise, Idaho; Duluth, Minn.; Oakridge, Ore.; Park City, Utah; Nelson, New Zealand; Rotorua, New Zealand

Photography by: Matt Power