Cruising a mountain biker's high-tech heaven

Crested Butte designs first-ever integrated mapping system for singletrack

Grease up your bike chain. The Crested Butte-Gunnison valley boasts more than 750 miles of singletrack for mountain biking. To help wheelers navigate, a Web-based mobile app launched in November 2014 with 29 topographic maps that riders can download to their phones and take into the backcountry.

If there’s no cell service, the phone uses GPS to link up the map. Currently in development, 3-foot by 4-foot trailhead maps will match the app’s map designs, as well as smaller inset maps for trail junctions. In partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, the Gunnison and Crested Butte Tourism Association jumped on board with two advocacy groups – the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association and Gunnison Trails – to develop the valley’s integrated mapping system for singletrack, which will be the first-ever digital-physical approach of its kind to be established for mountain biking in the entire U.S., said Laurel Runcie, interactive marketing manager for the Gunnison and Crested Butte Tourism Association.

The maps will help ensure that riders stay on mountain bike-accessible trails without straying onto private property, and will also help deter community discord caused by ranchers’ cattle escaping through unclosed gates. In the last five years, locals have hand-built seven miles of new bike trails, with more than 200 volunteers helping on a trail-work day, said Dave Ochs, executive director of the Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce.

More recent expansions have added trails that are closer to town at lower elevations, so with an earlier snowmelt, recreational capacity has increased. “Our trails have no doubt increased, but the iconic ones have been here for 25 years, built by locals. The trails started out of the local fever and love of mountain biking.”

Up ahead: One of the largest trail initiatives for the valley is to build a north-south trail to link the towns. “Connecting Crested Butte and Gunnison via singletrack could have a huge economic impact, and it would be a driver for tourists,” Ochs said. “People would come here to connect between the communities and connect to a mountain bike destination. It would be huge.”

Categories: Magazine Articles, Tech