Ski towns historically empty when the lifts stop turning for the season. Crowds leave, hotels go vacant—local restaurants and bars even close their doors in the off-season. But that trend is changing. High country communities like Steamboat, Colorado are welcoming cyclists and a bustling summer season with open arms. It makes sense. Mountain towns stay cool during the summer months, a perfect retreat when temperatures soar. Then there are the numbers to consider: According to the National Ski Areas Association, there are roughly 10 million skiers and snowboarders. The League of American Bicyclists reports over 57 millions cyclists that ride at least once a year.
Steamboat hosted its second annual Bike Summit this past weekend against a backdrop of fall’s finest colors. The four-day event celebrated initiatives to create a better destination for cyclists of all persuasions. It’s paying off—the League of American Cyclists awarded Steamboat gold level status as a Bicycle Friendly Community during the summit, a distinction received by just 14 communities nationwide. The summit went beyond just biking within the community; speakers and citizens gathered for a conference on Friday addressing road riding, XC mountain biking. Steamboat’s total embrace of cycling culture is completed with the resort’s investment in the creation of a bike park. Gravity Logic, the creators of the Whistler bike park that draws over 100,000 visitors a year, is designing the Steamboat park.
It’s not just Steamboat. “I’m not actually sure if Salida, Colorado is a ski town or a bike town,” says Greg Ralph, marketing manager at nearby Monarch Mountain. “The overlap is strong.” Salida’s residents access nearly 30 feet of snow on Monarch annually, but the town sees nearly year around biking. “Most of the locals mountain bike when the weather permits, and ski when the snow is fresh,” claims Ralph.
The Steamboat summit culminated with a low-key downhill race on Sunday morning—the sort of casual event that weaves biking into the community fabric. It works. Whistler’s cyclists thrive in a relaxed environment and share stories after the BC resort’s weekly informal races at the bike park. The races are part of the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association’s “Toonie” summer races. (The nickname comes from the or $2 two dollars to enter summer racesentry fee). Steamboat already runs a weekly XC format called the Town Challenge that’s similar to Whistler’s weekly XC events as well.
It’s time to start thinking of your favorite slopes as a year-round destination. That après sun deck is even better under summer skies. Those bare trees you love to ski through are just as fun with green leaves on two wheels. And thanks to trail and road networks that expand for miles off the hill, you’ll get to see more of your favorite mountain town than ever. —Gavin Gibson
For more information about biking initiatives in Steamboat, visit steamboatbiketown.com.