Mud, sweat and gears
May 20, 2008
It’s Park City’s seasonal equivalent to "Singin’ in the Rain": Bikin’ in the Mud.
The Snyderville Basin has more than 350 miles of hiking, biking and horseback- riding trails, but late-season flurries have left most of them mired in the elements.
"This is one of the weirdest seasons," said Carol Potter, executive director of the Mountain Trails Foundation, a Park City-based nonprofit that cleans and maintains some recreational non-motor trails in the Basin. "Last year, we were riding all the trails on March 31. This year, a lot is still buried. But it’s changing day by day."
Some trails are clear and ready for riding, Potter said. They include the Glenwild Loop, Round Valley Loop, Rail Trail and Lost Prospector Loop.
Cyclists should avoid higher-elevation trails for the next week or so because of unfavorable conditions. Most trails look like skid row, Potter said, more likely to produce mud monsters than outdoor enthusiasts.
Cycling on trails before they dry is like pressing your hand into wet cement, some say. It causes erosion that must be repaired before the trail is once again usable.
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"I know people are dying to go out, Potter said, "but we have to scold people every season. Bikes put huge indentations into [muddy] trails. It traps water and keeps water from draining."
Potter said one of the Snyderville Basin’s four different trail crews has to smooth out corrupted trails. "At any given time, there are 20 trail workers cutting back vegetation and repairing trails," she said.
The Mountain Trails Foundation, Basin Recreation, Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort and The Canyons have crews to help keep trails clean and clear of logs during the season.
Potter said litter remains a big problem on some of the trails. "We’re doing OK," she said. "Our trails are really, really used by locals and they’re pretty polite with each other." She said trail users could dispose of a small amount of biodegradable refuse, like orange peels, but cigarette boxes and plastic bottle should never be left on the trail. "The first part of a trail is always the worst," she said.
Another one of Potter’s rules: Go before you go. "It’s just one of those hygiene things," she said. The MTF and other recreation organizations have pushed for more mutt mitt stations to make it easier for users to bag dog waste. She said owners can be ticketed for letting their pets off-leash on any trail in the county.
The MTF brings in Boy Scouts to help clean trails. The organization also allows businesses to adopt a trail for $1,000 a year. "They like it because they get their logo on the sign."
One of the unique aspects of Snyderville Basin trails is that they attract a variety of different users. Scott Dudevoir, a cycling enthusiast and a manager at Cole Sport, said bikers need to follow simple etiquette to make trails safer, which starts with following the proper right-of-way. Bikers and hikers should yield to horseback riders. Cyclists should yield to those on foot. Bikers going downhill should let those riding uphill pass.
"You should really get off your bike and walk by a horse," he said. "And the descending rider should yield to the uphill rider."
Bryce Sacks, a mechanic at Park City Rides bike shop, said having the right equipment is key to safe mountain- and cross-country biking. Different cyclists choose a variety of equipment, but recommended apparel includes a full-face helmet, shin, hip, elbow, shoulder pads and eyewear. "Some people like to get geared up," Dudevoir said. "It’s not totally necessary but it’s a good idea."
Dudevoir said No. 1 safety tip is to choose the right trail. "Choose terrain that’s not beyond your ability level," he said.
For beginners, Dudevoir suggests practicing riding and stopping on a soft, grassy area before trying to ride on steep terrain. "You’ll bruise your ego more than your body," he said.
Bike tune-up checklist:
– Clean dirt and grime from frame
– Put air in tires
– Check spoke tension
– Check frame for cracks and dents
– Adjust shifting with barrel adjusters on bike
– Adjust brakes