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Best kept secret: the Mt. Sopris Rec. Riders

Locations: News Published

By Lynn Burton
Sopris Sun Staff Writer

Many years ago, chambers of commerce and others often described a local event or attraction as “the best kept secret” in Colorado. The “best kept secret” had nothing to do with conspiracies or attempts by a small group of people to hoard a good thing for itself. It meant the event or attraction warranted more widespread attention than it generally received. Some folks even thought the state of Colorado or trade group gave out BKS (best kept secret awards) based on a research poll or vote of some sort. Locally, Sunlight Mountain Resort – with its good snow, affordable lift-ticket prices, easy proximity to Glenwood Springs, and family focus – often received BKS status in promotional campaigns.
The best kept secret label is not so widespread anymore, but one local nonprofit certainly qualifies – the Mt. Sopris Rec. Riders snowmobile club. Consider, for just a moment, what this club of 40-100 members takes on each year.
• Grooming and maintaining (with the Snow Skippers and Delta SnoKrusers) the 100-mile Sunlight-Powderhorn trail;
• Developing and maintaining the Marion Gulch trailhead between Carbondale and the Spring Gulch Nordic trail system;
• Negotiating the parking and trailhead access at both Marion and Sunlight with private landowners and paying a yearly fee;
• Club members and other volunteers working closely with the Forest Service in the summer to clear the S-P trail for all users, replace trail markers and signs as needed, and repair fencing that might have been run over by snowmobiles in the winter;
• Coordinating with two other snowmobile clubs and three national forests to print a map of the S-P trail system each year (made possible through advertising on the map);
• Planning social events for snowmobilers, regardless of membership (such as a cookout at the Marion trailhead last weekend that was open to members and non-members alike);
• Working with the Colorado Snowmobile Association, White River National Forest Alliance and other clubs, the Mt. Sopris Rec. Riders keep the public informed of its rights and potential threat of public land use being taken away.
Club membership benefits include limited insurance coverage, a subscription to Colorado Snowscoop, training, group rides and more (according to the MSRR website).
The Mt. Sopris Rec. Rider logo includes the motto “Respect, Protect, Enjoy.”
“Four local families founded the club 39 years ago,” said spokeswoman Jo Hunter. The club was a major force in the creation of the Sunlight-Powderhorn Trail, which Colorado Gov. Roy Romer dedicated in 1989. Before then, the swath of public land from Sunlight to Powderhorn (on the Grand Mesa near Grand Junction) was a collection of unplotted trails. If nothing else, the completed S-P trail makes for safer winter-time traveling in the backcountry – for snowmobilers, Nordic skiers and others. “ … So they wouldn’t get lost,” Hunter told The Sopris Sun.
Most users are probably unaware of it, but the MSRR works with private property owners and a cattlemen’s association to keep the Marion Gulch trailhead parking area open year round. “On any given weekend (year ’round), there’ll be cross-country skiers, hikers mushers and others up there,” Hunter continued. “The Rec. Riders does this for everyone.”
The club reached another milestone a couple of years ago, when it had saved enough money to buy a $60,000 “grooming cat” to go along with the two snowmobiles with rollers it already had. Hunter said Carbondale native Stephen Burns of Avalanche Excavating operates the big cat. “He’s the best grooming operator … I’ll put him up against anyone.” Volunteers Mike Goscha and Eric Rudd run the grooming snowmobiles. “Eric isn’t even a snowmobiler but he likes to hike and believes in stewardship of the land.”

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Next steps:
What: Annual fund-raiser;
When: 6 to 10 p.m. on Feb. 11;
Where: The Orchard;
Includes: Dinner, silent auction, music with Twirp Anderson (6 to 7:30 p.m.) and 50/Fifty (8 to 10 p.m.), door prizes, birthday cake for Gene Schilling’s 65th;
How much: $25 for MSRR members, 
$30 for non-members, $10 for those 10-17, free for 9 and under.
RSVP:; Jo Hunter at 379-5643.

Published in The Sopris Sun on Feb. 9 , 2017.