The Crested Butte Land Trust rallies for access and recreation on Snodgrass Mountain.
Northwest of the Crested Butte ski area, Snodgrass Mountain’s gentle flanks rise to an 11,145-foot summit. On a July weekend, I left the Gothic Road trailhead on my mountain bike to ride the Snodgrass Trail. Shimmering aspen groves swallowed me whole. In vibrant meadows, giant mounds of purple lupines whizzed past in a Technicolor blur. The singletrack contours for 3.5 miles along Snodgrass’s lower flank, a stunning taste of Crested Butte’s singletrack network. Easy access from town and expansive views also draws hikers, trail runners, and backcountry and cross-country skiers. Flanked by town, subdivisions, and the resort, Snodgrass is the closest thing to civic wilderness you can find in the East River Valley. And to the area’s residents and guests that’s exactly why it’s far more vital than another city park with a softball field. But because the Snodgrass trail flows through a patchwork of privately owned land, future access remains uncertain.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort currently owns a few of the land parcels, but after the U.S. Forest Service scuttled resort plans to expand onto Snodgrass in 2010, they decided to sell. Last year, a real estate developer looked at buying a large swath of land between Mt. Crested Butte and Snodgrass, with plans to build 30 homes that would forever sever trail access. Crested Butte denizens faced the loss of their favorite dawn patrol or post-work loop, and a convenient link to longer rides and ski tours. So when the proposed development tanked in January 2014, the Crested Butte Land Trust brokered a deal to buy 108 acres. The ski resort knocked $625,000 off the sticker price, offering a $2.8 million sale. If the land trust can raise that sum by January 15, 2015, they can protect the land from development and ensure access.
Executive Director Ann Johnston says they’ve already secured $2,550,000, with contributions from the towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte, the Gunnison Valley Land Preservation Fund, a Great Outdoors Colorado grant, and $462,000 in private money. “It was a no-brainer to make a donation,” says Ali Fuchs, owner of Big Al’s Bicycle Heaven in Crested Butte. “Snodgrass is one of the top three trails you can access out the front door.” Johnston wants to maintain recreation opportunities and green space even as population grows in the East River Valley. “People are moving here so they can spend a lot of time outside,” she says. “Now is the time to make sure we still have all the trails that bring them here.”
What can you do? Skip Black Friday and Cyber Monday; instead, embrace #GivingTuesday on December 2. The United Nations started the initiative in 2012 to encourage giving back. Not coincidentally, the Crested Butte Land Trust found a 50 percent matching donor up to $100,000. With just over a month left before the sale, they just need to raise $250,000 to protect trail access forever. Visit cblandtrust.org to help the Snodgrass project.
No connection to Crested Butte? Consider one of the worthy mountain nonprofits below.
No Barriers Soldiers helps disabled veterans rebuild their lives through outdoor expeditions. All donations made through December 31 will be matched dollar for dollar. nobarrierssoldiers.org
The Continental Divide Trail Coalition nonprofit works to complete and protect the 3,100-mile trail from Mexico to Canada. continentaldividetrail.org
Protect Our Winters mobilizes the snow sports community to curb climate change. protectourwinters.org —Avery Stonich