New trail to open between downtown Silverthorne and Wildernest, but with a catch |

New trail to open between downtown Silverthorne and Wildernest, but with a catch

A map of the new trail, which will open between downtown Silverthorne and the Mesa Cortina and Wildernest trail network. While opening for this weekend, the trail will close again on Monday for fuels-reduction work.
Courtesy of Summit County Open Space & Trails

SILVERTHORNE — Summit County’s Open Space and Trails department has been busy this summer, opening and maintaining new trails while clearing existing ones of tons of debris leftover from this winter’s unprecedented flurry of avalanches.

This week, the county will complete work on a new natural-surface trail from downtown Silverthorne to the Mesa Cortina and Wildernest trail system. The trail will be the first direct natural-surface and mountain biking connection between Silverthorne’s downtown and the trailheads up near Buffalo Mountain.

The new trail will start from a portal at the west end of Third street, run through county and town open space, and bisect Buffalo Mountain Drive before veering southwest and linking to the Salt Lick Trail system on U.S. Forest Service land.

The trail is 1.5 miles long, with 700 feet of elevation gain, providing ideal downhill mountain biking travel from the hilltop neighborhoods north to downtown Silverthorne or a steep ascent heading up from town. Open Space and Trails director Brian Lorch was quoted earlier in the season saying it was meant to be a climbing trail, not a flat one.

While residents and visitors might be stoked to use the trail when it opens this weekend, enthusiasm could be dampened by the fact the trail will be open for only a short time before closing again Monday, July 22, for another open space project in the area.

Open Space and Trails resource specialist Michael Wurzel said Thursday that the county will start fuel-reduction work on several tree stands in the area, including a green pocket between the Mesa Cortina and Wildernest neighborhoods.

That sliver of forest land caused grave concern last year when the Buffalo Mountain Fire nearly set it alight. Had the fire reached the green space, it would have created a tactical nightmare for firefighters and could have caused catastrophic property damage.

Wurzel said hand-cutting crews will be working to thin that space and two other tree stands for several weeks, cutting down dead, dying and sick trees while also reducing undergrowth to get rid of “ladder fuels” that provide a path for ground fires to reach the tree canopy, causing a considerably more dangerous crown fire.

The thinning project is being funded by Ballot Initiative 1A, also known as the Strong Future initiative, which allocated $1 million a year for 10 years toward wildfire mitigation. The Wildernest and Mesa Cortina open space project had been a top priority for the money.

Wurzel said the project is expected to wrap up by early September, giving people an opportunity to use the new trail for at least a few weeks before the season ends.

For more information about these projects, call Wurzel at 970-668-4065.

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