New Trails App Gamifies Biking in Gunnison Valley

A new app is helping the county's tourism association track and log trails

Crested Butte is well-known as the figurative, if not literal, birthplace of mountain biking. But the outdoor sport is just the lynchpin in something far more lucrative for tourism: a jaw-dropping 750 miles (and counting) of unique single-track trails.

“As far as we’re aware, we were the first destination to begin marketing how many trails we have,” says Andrew Sandstrom, communications director of the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association, which markets Gunnison County’s 2 million acres of public land.

To confirm the mileage and double down on the natural attraction, the association invested in an interactive, open-source trail-tracking mobile application. Four years and $500,000 later, the CBGTrails app has taken on a life of its own. And the technology is helping to put these mountain towns on the map.

A team of six Colorado-based employees, including a local Western State graduate, developed the app, which works off of user-generated data. Locals and visitors alike can instantly log new and unknown trail segments, even without a cell signal, to help distinguish boundaries between public and private lands, as well as record real-time maintenance issues, such as downed trees.

A trail-running group recently tested the app in Crested Butte. In a lighthearted race format, they were encouraged to see how many “unique” miles they could log on foot in two days.

Such “gamification” is another first for the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association. Through a mobile game coined TrailQuest, anyone with the free CBGTrails app can log in and track their miles to win prizes during seasonal contests or just local bragging rights.

But the fun has a wider impact. “As far as we’re aware, nobody else is using this ‘gamification’ to spread the impacts of users to less-used trails,” Sandstrom says. “At the same time, the user-generated tracks recorded in CBGTrails continue to improve the accuracy of the maps that are available for anyone to pull information from.”

The model can be replicated. In fact, the app, which is undergoing a significant update, could be sold elsewhere, and CBGTrails could self-sustain as its own business.

“We now arguably have the most accurately mapped trail system of anyone,” Sandstrom says. “This helps the Forest Service in their planning, local trails organizations in their stewardship work, and our marketing messaging to be more robust, all while we’re supporting a local company and creating jobs.” 

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