Singletrack Trails has been working on a new type of project lately, clearing cat track and glading ski runs for private individual who is setting up a small backcountry style skiing and mountain biking retreat in the Front Range on a “friends and family” basis. The area has a very distinctive microclimate of steep, rocky north facing slopes thick with spruce and pine. Decacying trees and lush carpets of moss fill the voids between lichen-covered boulders. Fall weather systems having been moving in; a low fog that hangs over the valley below, moving up during the day to cover the trees in hoarfrost and move with misty tendrils in the upslope drafts. It makes one undeniably conscious that winter is moving in and fuels the sense of urgency to get some routes open before the snow sets in.
Aside from the enchanting setting, the project is exciting to work on for it forecasts a new possible direction in outdoor recreation. As ski resorts turn into mall-like corporations, and public “open spaces” come under more oversight and regulation, a niche is growing of experienced outdoor recreation users who desire the freedom of a backcountry experience while enjoying civilized pleasures like hot running water, cold beer, boot dryers and wi fi for the latest weather updates. Grocery shopping and hardware stores, the two essentials of trail building life, are just a little over fifteen minutes away but the dense trees and rugged topography give a pleasant sensation of isolation.
As aspens blaze in the dying light of fall and icy fog rolls up the slopes, the end of trailbuilding season comes into sight and plans begin to formulate for the coming winter; ski bums who grin a little bigger with each snowflake and begin to speak more in the future tense, desert rats longing to return to the meditative stillness of open spaces, and we all look forward to setting down the tools a bit.