Snow packed trails are as close as Colorado gets to real dirt


The Colorado winter has stamped its authority on most of the state this year in dramatic effect: record snow totals and unending storm cycles seems to be keeping the chairlifts full and the backcountry waist deep in our famed airy snow. The weekends have been filled with some awesome adventures in the snow, but with avalanche conditions expectedly sketchy, there has been plenty of time for riding bikes too. 

Colorado always gets a mix of warm and cold days in the winter. Storm fronts battle over the mountains, buffeting the Front Range by warm chinook winds that pour off the high peaks. These conditions are a dream for mountain bikers. The winds dry out our trails in record time, even in winter, and raise the temperature from close to freezing to the mid teens celsius. 

The trails around our new house in Lyons are already pretty known to me. Even the ones not on the maps. Although most of the south-facing trails have been dry for a few weeks, I’ve been encountering packed snow on the northerly stuff. As long as you avoid the midday sun, it’s been nice to ride on the frozen bed of the trail without getting muddy at all. Colorado is known for its rocky, sandy trails and lack of loamy dirt to slide around on, so the snow is a welcome change in conditions under the treads.

While Picture Rock has been closed a lot due to “muddy” conditions, Hall Ranch has been open, and I’ve ridden it a lot. The trail has been dry down low, but tacky higher up. The top of Hall Ranch has been snow packed for a while now, creating the best conditions I’ve ever experiences there. All the rocks are buried, meaning I’ve dropped the tire pressure to compensate. The sunbaked sections have got icy, too, creating traction similar to slippery roots. All in all, it’s been an eye opener to see how well a conventional trail bike can cope with the snow.


Christa and I are now on our way to Sedona for a few days of real mountain biking on real dirt. It’s a long drive, but I’ve wanted to get there for a few years ago, and this seems like the perfect opportunity. Bring on the winter sunshine.