The evolution of Summit County dirt biking at Tenderfoot MX track
August 26, 2016
At the foot of Tenderfoot Mountain between Dillon and Keystone sits a seemingly barren field of sage, rock and dirt. It's buttressed by the Dillon Cemetery on one side and the Summit County landfill on the other, with little more than brush between the field and the constant rumble of traffic on U.S. Highway 6.
For Mike Weaver, that sparse field is the next-best thing to home. Hidden behind the sage and a few pieces of machinery is the Tenderfoot moto track, a members-only collection of rollers, berms and jumps on a hand-built course roughly 1.5 miles long. It winds and weaves along the hillside over the bones of illegal social trails, some dating back to the early '90s (and before), when local moto riders simply wanted a place to play in their backyard.
"There was nothing there at all when this first started — just sagebrush," said Weaver, 53, a lifelong dirt bike rider and owner of Mike's Dirtworks in Breckenridge. "It was barren ground, with no track, so we stripped the sagebrush and started going. It's been a work in progress since then."
Origins of a track
In 2007, members of Summit County Off-Road Riders, the local moto advocacy group, started working with Summit County Open Space department to give the illegal track legitimacy. About a year or two later they unveiled a sustainable plan: the Tenderfoot Track Club, a group under the SCORR umbrella made to oversee maintenance, construction and membership at the track. Construction started soon after and the track opened in full by 2009.
Today, the track club is 85 members strong and supported almost solely by season pass sales. The passes range from $50 for a children's pass to $325 for a corporate pass, with options for adults ($125) and families ($250) that are good from the time the track dries out in May to the first big snowstorms in October or November.
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"Track riding is just a little more predictable and consistent (than trail riding)," said Stuart Bower, a track club member of five years who's volunteered upwards of 1,500 hours working on expansions and improvements. "It's also more accessible. In the past four or five years the track has started to definitely feel more available."
It's also completely legitimate. As local trails like the Ophir Mountain system are closed to moto riders, the track gives guys and gals like Bower and Weaver a place to ride all day, any day, come rain or shine.
Earlier this week, Bower said riding was the best of the season thanks to a few days of rain. Water helps prevent dust and ruts on the track, and, when paired with sweeping improvements to features and access in the past few years, the track is beginning to earn a reputation beyond the previously barren field. The track club boasts members from every town in Summit County, along with a few from neighboring counties and the Front Range.
"I personally like seeing something evolve the way this has," Bower said. "In the five years I've been involved it's grown from an infant into a teenager, you know? This track has slowly evolved over the course of five years and continues to grow — continues to progress and get better."
Bring on the rain
Along with Bower, a small corps of riders has volunteered thousands of additional hours to improve the track. They take care of everything from raking rocks to resculpting berms and jumps. On Wednesday of this week alone, a group of four or five riders refaced all 18 jumps on the track, from the 15-foot doubles to a massive 70-foot tabletop. It took about 10 hours total — five the first day, five the second day — with help from a track skid and skid loader.
Bower, who manages investments by day, personally bought the skid loader in the past two years and it's already made a world of difference. In the past, volunteers had to coordinate equipment rentals before working on the track. Now, they can tackle projects like refacing on the fly.
But, that doesn't mean the track club has taken a break. The track is a constant work in progress, Bower said, and next on the list is the biggest project yet: a portable water system to keep the track wet and happy in the hot, dry months of June and July. SCORR and the track club have been working on the logistics for a little less than a year, but there's plenty of work to be done, like buying the equipment and securing water rights in a high-alpine environment where water is at a premium.
"It's a constant out there," Bower said. "You're always thinking ahead to the next project and the next feature. There's one thing after the other after the other, but any time you're not completely satisfied with what you have, it's a good thing. It helps that thing — whatever it is — get better and better."
It's what brings Weaver and his friends back time and again: a track to call home.
"With the Forest Service shutting down more and more off-road trails, this is giving guys a place to go," Weaver said. "We meet up right after work, and, when you show up, there's always somebody to ride with. I'll keep doing that until I'm too old to ride the track."
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