Steamboat Springs, Colorado, already a silver-level bicycle-friendly community, is aiming even higher:
Facing a lengthy economic recession and lingering questions about the sustainability of summer tourism, and sitting atop what they swear are some of the nation’s best natural resources — summer or winter — leaders in Steamboat, or Ski Town USA, are seeking to add a second nickname: Bike Town USA.
“It’s not like we’d have to go out there and build some mountains and some trails,” said Robin Craigen, president of Routt County Riders, the area’s hard-working bicycle club. “We need to start identifying the assets we already have.”
The quest for the label Bike Town USA is multi-pronged and seeks to pull together Steamboat’s already considerable resources in terms of biking while also adding a wealth of new ones.
The goal is nothing short of making Steamboat Springs one of the nation’s top biking destinations.
An extensive collection of cross-country mountain bike trails already exists in Steamboat. A complete network of routes crisscross Emerald Mountain, the long but stubby peak that rises right out of downtown. Mount Werner, home to Steamboat Ski Area, also transforms into a network of cross-country mountain biking trails once the weather warms.
“And another neat thing about riding Mount Werner, the views are incredible. They are tremendous because the surrounding mountains are lower and the valley is flatter, so you get great expansive views.”
That valley, relatively flat with rolling hills, also offers the chance for long road rides that many other mountain towns, hemmed in by their geography, simply can’t offer.
Steamboat is already a town that loves its bicycles. Routt County Riders, for example, boasts more than 500 members. The city, with just about 10,000 residents, features no fewer than four bike shops.
Combine all that with the town’s tourist-centric focus — plenty of available condos, hotels and restaurants — and many think the infrastructure is there for a much greater cycling focus.
“We see mountain biking as no different than skiing, just 40 years behind,” said Aryeh Copa, a longtime local cyclist. “Mountain biking is a huge revenue source for other resorts that have embraced it and put in many different styles and types of trails for varying ability levels. People come out, just like skiing.”
Read more from Steamboat Today: Beginnings of a bike town
Steamboat Springs sees that cycling can offer a huge economic benefit for the community — one that is busy and prosperous during the winter ski season, but lackluster during much of the rest of the year.
Leaders there are smart to be pursuing this. With most of the infrastructure — shops, dining, and lodging, not to mention the mountains themselves — it seems like a no-brainer.
Good luck, Steamboat Springs!