Colorado Springs has its first trail designated for downhill mountain bikes only. And the early reviews suggest the Chutes is indeed back and better than ever.
Last week, it was worthy of the banner photo on local enthusiasts’ Facebook meeting place. It was the first sight on the Colorado Springs Mountain Biking page: the exit for the plunging path beside the “DO NOT ENTER” post planted by the city parks department. The buzz spread up and down the page, as it did on Strava.
Cory Sutela, the Springs’ top cycling advocate with the nonprofit Medicine Wheel, had nothing but praise for the multiuse proud municipality.
“The city really went all-out on a fantastic project,” he said.
Park officials have long grappled with a rising number of riders carving erosion-prone singletrack to their pleasure. With investment and creativity, they can still get their way in parks and open spaces, Sutela said. “Sustainable doesn’t have to mean less technical, and I think this is a good example of that.”
He added: “We think the Chutes is a good example of the city moving in the right direction.”
Medicine Wheel contributed $5,000 to the $45,000 project and had a voice in the design alongside highly regarded contractor FlowRide Concepts. The result is 1,500 feet of new trail, beefed up and black-rated for skilled riders.
The new Chutes is being described in two parts: the upper section sharply descending 0.3 miles from Gold Camp Road, and the lower section continuing for nearly a mile.
The upper part is complete with armored berms and a rock garden that Sutela considers unlike anything in the Pikes Peak region. He compares it to chunky sections braved at Keystone Resort’s downhill course.
With the realigned, multi-use and two-way Ladders Trail tying in with the upper Chutes, riders can lap the section as much as they want. From the Chamberlain Trail in Stratton Open Space, intermediate types can travel up the Ladders and catch the lower, blue-rated section.
It, too, has been optimized, maintaining its signature flow while adding a B-line and rollers.
Some cyclists have looked away from the Chutes over the years, amid the fear of crashing into an uphill traveler. Access to the area remains with the Ladders and the adjacent, hiking-only Gold Camp Path, but it was time for a change on the Chutes, said David Deitemeyer, city parks’ senior landscape architect.
“It was a pretty strategic opportunity to deescalate user conflicts over the past number of years, probably since the ‘80s when mountain biking got going,” he said. “It helps to isolate that mountain bike use and really reduce that conflict.”
He said it would be “a fine balance” keeping riders and nonriders happy in coming projects. While riders considered the redone Chutes a win in the North Cheyenne Cañon master plan approved last year, they saw a loss in Daniels Pass, the steep shot set for a sustainable reroute.
Earlier in October, they celebrated the opening of a downhill course at Ute Valley Park. And in ongoing master planning for Austin Bluffs Open Space, the city is asking for feedback on three short trails that could be optimized for bikes.