[Ed's note: Regular ESPN Freeskiing contributer Seth Morrison typically files dispatches from the frontlines, unless he's been sidetracked by singletrack...]
Now is the time to get those alpine gifts. In doing so, do take care to avoid the afternoon thunderstorms. Get caught in one of those up high or far away and you'll think twice the next go around. Either way, get off your ass and get on your bike.
Mountain biking in Colorado is a great way to see the views and cover heaps of ground. Ever since I was able to ride, biking has been a big part of my summers here; raced mountain bikes 'til college, then skiing became more important and riding was just for fun and training. I even left biking for a few summers. Wish I never did that (see paragraph 1, sentence 4).
So far this summer has been pretty moist around Crested Butte. The snow has taken a while to melt, making creeks and streams rather river-like. In the beginning of the season you find yourself on the valley trails to avoid post-holing through snow on high ridge lines, thick trees, or some north-facing zones. You're also mindful to avoid mudsaves time on the bike clean-up aftermathbut that doesn't matter since you're not really in shape yet for the bigger rides that take you into the alpine areas.
But that time is now. Take the Crest Trail, for example. This ride is typically done in groups. But this strategy can add lots of time toosome may not be in shape for the ride, and then the heightened probability of mechanicals. Over the years, I've had my fair share of mechanicals here. Popular opinion seems to think that it's a downhill ridesince you start at the top of Monarch Pass. Not the casethe ride has a stinger last section that does a lot of climbing in a sagebrush meadow/partial valley-floor forest. So it's usually hot in this section and many people have used most of their energy by that point. (You do descend some nice single track, but the last big elevation drop is on pavement.)
Just recently was the first time I used the shuttle service (at the base of Monarch, in Poncho Springs, called High Valley Bike Shuttle). Doing this eliminates doing the shuttle on your own, which after a five hour ride sort of sucks your motivation to bang out. And not that the ride itself takes five hours; just all the time on trail adds up at the end of the day. I rode it one time by myself in just under three hours, no stops, and this past trip was mechanical-free (a first!?).
Having the Tour de France on to watch surely adds inspiration to a day of ridingnice too, now that we're finally in good form and able to enjoy some of the "classics" that are just becoming snow-free around Crested Butte.