SUMMIT COVE — Eight local Summit County mountain bikers rolled down Cartier Court in Summit Cove Wednesday evening to meet up on a back porch overlooking the Gore Range. It’s here the newly christened Summit County Mountain Bike Alliance — formerly known as the Summit Fat Tire Society — hashed out its recent business, upcoming plans and necessary steps to achieve longer term goals.
It’s from an effective home base here in this Summit Cove backyard where avid local mountain bikers like president Ben Ferrante and board members Robert Klima and Mike Olsen hope to strengthen the nonprofit organization that has a mission statement of building new mountain-bike trails, strengthening existing ones and unifying the Summit County mountain bike community.
“Ideally we want to be the unified voice of Summit County mountain bikers,” said Ferrante, a member of the Summit Fat Tire Society since 2012 and president since the organization’s rebranding last October. “We want all of these groups to come together. We want to be the hub of all things mountain biking in Summit County. That’s our vision … We want a seat at the table when issues come as a voice of the local community of mountain bikers to build it right the first time, sustainably and in a fun way.”
But before the alliance put in the work to see the organization’s membership balloon from 65 this time last year to more than 150 today, they had to address their name.
A 30-year organization with history in the county, the Summit Fat Tire Society was conceived back when “fat tire” meant anything wider than your traditional road-bike wheel. These days, “fat tire” has a much different connotation in the cycling world, as a relatively-new form of biking with massively wide tires, dubbed “fat-tire biking” is increasingly popular in such conditions as winter riding on packed powder atop singletrack trails.
Ferrante made the first moves to evolve the Summit County Mountain Bike Alliance out of the old Fat Tire Society, which he commended for their historical success. Last year a board member came to him and told Ferrante that a local unofficial group of mountain bikers had reached out to the U.S. Forest Service about local trail improvements and the group, which was only connected by and email Listserv, was told to talk to the local nonprofit organization, which led them to the Summit Fat Tire Society.
After sending out a Facebook invitation, Ferrante was happy to see 30 people show up on a cold early-winter night after he posed the questions, “Do you care about your local trails? Do you want to discuss how you can care about your local trails? Do you want to have a voice or an opinion?”
After the questions, Ferrante said he issued an invitation.
“Come out, let sit down and talk about what can be done, what should be done,” Ferrante said.
Not long after, the group had its name change as well as 13 interested locals who now comprise the organization’s new board, who showed up in Klima’s backyard Wednesday night.
Last month, once mountain snowpack receded and trails dried out, the alliance had its first major event since the revamp. It was a trail improvement day out on the 9-mile stretch of the Colorado Trail — from the North Fork of the Swan River to the Golden Horseshoe area. It’s the terrain the local affiliate of the International Mountain Bicycling Association has adopted as its “baby,” as Ferrante put it.
On this iconic, not-for-the-faint-of-heart trail, alliance members worked with experts from McGill Trail Fabrication, diving up into two crews that tackled 10 different spots. They back-sloped, built up berms, cleared drainage ditches and pulled dead trees away from hanging over the trail to improve the intermediate-to-advanced mountain-bike experience on this multi-use trail, which is also popular among hikers.
After about 15 people showed up to that first event, the group is hopeful more locals — whether they are existing members or not — will come out on July 9 for their next Twilight Trail Session. It’ll start out of the Miners Creek parking lot in Frisco at 5:30 p.m. From there, the group will address drainage issues and line of sight and safety problems.
“The biggest thing was the erosion that came from water,” Olsen said.
Another major part of the alliance’s work is putting together an easily digestible database of local trails. Olsen said the group’s newly-improved website, SCOMBA.org/conditions, is particularly useful in early season. A biker can easily access dozens upon dozens of the latest conditions updates from one place via the user-powered Trailforks site.
Looking ahead, Ferrante said the alliance would like to host some group rides and community events, such as movie nights and skill clinics. Perhaps down the line in a perfect world, he said the group could become strong enough to partner with bigger local event directors like county mountain bike legends Jeff Westcott and Mike McCormack and potentially help with races or host events of their own.
For now, the organization is focused on having a seat at the table regarding recreation and public-lands decisions across the county, advocating for the mountain bike community they love.
“Not everyone is aware of what goes into maintaining trails and why we have such amazing trails,” Ferrante said. “It’s a great platform for us to say, ‘hey, if you like that ride, it’d be great if you could come out and help one day and help dig. And if can’t help dig, it’d be great if you could help us afford the tools we need.’”
For more information, visit: SCOMBA.org.