USFS eases up on mountain bikes

Mountain biking is gaining ground in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Forest Service is in the process of taking important steps to differentiate mountain biking from motorized recreation. The changes could open new terrain to fat tires all over the country.

The Forest Service manages more than 130,000 miles of trails nationwide. For years, the International Mountain Bicycling Association has pressed on the agency to take a kinder view of the sport.

“Mountain biking is incredibly popular in national forests, and we believe it’s appropriate to clarify the distinction between mountain biking and motorized use. Better policies will foster improved partnerships and riding experiences,” IMBA Director Mike Van Abel said.

The Forest Service is now doing just that. Revisions to directives include important new language clarifying bicycling as a non-motorized activity. IMBA noted that while most national forests understand bicycling is a quiet, nonmotorized activity, a few have implemented rules likening bicycles to motorized travel. The proposed changes should standardize mountain bike management at the field level.

“We’re extremely pleased the Forest Service is taking these steps to formally recognize bicycling as low-impact and human-powered. Embedding this information in their employee handbooks will promote better understanding and practices in all 175 national forests and grasslands,” Van Abel said.

Among the proposed changes are updated construction standards. Mountain biking would also join hiking as a suitable use on all trail classes, from the most primitive of designated routes to more developed paths. Decisions regarding bicycle access would remain at the local level. However, IMBA noted that this change would further recognize that the environmental impacts of bicycling are similar to hiking and lighter than other uses.

The Forest Service published these interim final directives for the national trails classification system on Oct. 16. The agency will accept public comments on the changes through Dec. 16. They can be submitted at the federal rulemaking portal at:


Local Red Cross faces funding crisis

A local nonprofit dedicated to dealing with disaster is currently facing a crisis of its own.

The Southwest Colorado Chapter of the American Red Cross announced this week that it is facing a severe funding crisis. The shortfall is deep enough that the chapter may be forced to seek temporary loans to continue its operation.

The local Red Cross experienced a $71,000 shortfall last year, due in large part to a significant decline in contributions since 2007, and a 71 percent increase in disaster response. The discrepancy has forced the nonprofit to deplete its funding reserves.

“When residents of Southwest Colorado need help, the Red Cross is always there,” said Executive Director Cindi Shank. “Today, it is the Red Cross itself that needs help.”

The recent economic situation has led to a significant decrease in charitable giving by individuals, according to Shank. While many nonprofits have operating reserves measured in months, the Southwest Chapter has just three days of excess operating revenue. As a result, staff may have to forego their own paychecks until funding returns

The Durango-based office serves La Plata, San Juan, Archuleta, Montezuma and Dolores counties and operates on an annual budget of $183,000. The Red Cross responded to 29 disasters in 2008, three times as many as in 2005. The local chapter does not receive money from the federal government nor the National Red Cross but depends entirely on support from Southwest Colorado.

For more information contact the Red Cross at 259-5383. Tax-deductible contributions can be sent to: P.O. Box 2552, Durango, CO 81302.


Fort Lewis steps up cycling support

Fort Lewis College Cycling picked up momentum this week. As part of the ongoing restructuring of the team, the program will move to the FLC Athletic Department in the new year.

The cycling team has been operating a club sport under the direction of the FLC Cycling Advisory Board. However, given the cycling team’s tremendous national success and the extensive commitment Fort Lewis College has made to the team, the decision was reached that it was more appropriate that the Athletic Department oversee the program. The major responsibilities of the Athletic Department will be to oversee cycling’s budget and administration.

Club sports at Fort Lewis receive annual funding from student fees. Cycling receives that funding, as well as additional funding from the Fort Lewis’ general fund and other sources. This additional funding comes in recognition of FLC Cycling’s place as one of the best programs in collegiate cycling, a program that draws the finest collegiate riders from across the world to Durango.

Earlier this year, FLC Cycling underwent a major administrative change when the decision was made to create a team director position. That search is slated to begin after Jan. 1. FLC Cycling has won 11 national championships in the past decade and is the reigning USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Champion. This weekend, Skyhawk riders will be gunning for a cyclocross national championship in Kansas City. The races run from Dec. 11-14 with the collegiate racers hitting the start line on Dec. 14. Last year, Fort Lewis riders finished in second just behind rival, Lees-McRae College. Durangoans can follow the action at


Condé Nast smiles on Purgatory

Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort is starting the winter season on a high note. Condé Nast Traveler, the world’s premier travel magazine has again ranked Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort as one of the top 20 resorts in North America. The rankings were published in the magazine’s December issue.

The list was selected by readers who were invited to evaluate 104 North American ski resorts that they had visited in the past three years and rank the resorts on terrain and conditions, lifts and lines, town ambience, dining, and après ski/activities. Only resorts that received a required minimum number of responses were eligible for inclusion in the rankings.

Purgatory received the 20th spot on the list, earning high marks for “terrain and conditions” as well as “lifts and lines.” A strong “town ambiance” score rounded out Purgatory’s point total and helped clinch the honor. Though the local resort has been on the list before, Purgatory earned higher marks in each category this year.

– Will Sands

In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows