36 Hours in Kitsbow: Aspen to Crested Butte
by Mary Bardell
Aspen’s reputation for the past 80 years has been centered around skiing, partying and a little bit of culture. The mountain biking scene has been lurking in the shadows for quite some time and is finally bubbling up to the surface. Aspen has had the pleasure of hosting two Enduro World Series in the past few years which has elevated the riding as well as given the local population an appetite for tough and technical riding. It’s not just what we have here in Aspen that makes it such a great place for a mountain biker, it’s what we have close to here. “The Crested Butte” is a mere 36 miles of Big Mountain Enduro and Enduro World Series tested singletrack away.
The singletrack route is lightly trafficked with most mountain bikers opting for one or the other - a weekend in Aspen or a weekend in Crested Butte. Those that do frequent this route typically turn it into a bikepacking affair - lugging sleeping bags and tents with the goal of camping on either end… that wasn’t going to work for us. The trail was too good to weigh us down and keep us from doing anything but descending as fast as we possibly could. In typical fashion, we made it happen with nothing but a few extra layers, some tools, snacks and a reservation at a hotel in Crested Butte.
The route starts high and ends high with most of the riding above treeline. The climbing was at times gruesome, commanding upper body strength to push our bikes up steep and loose scree fields, but never daunting enough to create any doubt as we knew what lay on the other side of our climbs. Star Pass (Crested Butte Enduro World Series race stage from 2015) on the way there and Aspen Mountain (Aspen Enduro World Series race stage in 2016 & 2017) on the way back.
On the way there, mechanical’s were kept at bay. A few broken chains, derailleur hangars and an a costly e-bike battery depletion a mere 10 miles into our 35 mile day. We were wise enough to use “eco-mode” on the way back... The route doesn’t pass through any towns on the way there which required all of us to be on our best behavior as a fatal mechanical could have yielded a very sad 10+ mile hike home.
We were quite cooked when we got to Crested Butte. Due to our limited space for food and water we ate ourselves into a food coma immediately upon arrival. Following treatment of our caloric deficit, we stumbled to our hotel and cleaned up in preparation for the return voyage. Yes, we could have camped somewhere in Crested Butte and told our friends of our 36 hours in the wilderness but let's be honest - a 10 lb pack with nothing strapped to our bikes, a cheap bill from a relatively nice hotel, and a mattress were all reasons why the trip turned out to be such a success.
The return voyage was the exact same perfect experience we had on the way there with the exception of impressively tired legs and a few flat tires.
Our one regret was bringing too much water!
Route details are below:
Ashcroft to Crested Butte
Crested Butte to Aspen