The Steamboat Stinger: A Punishing Ride Through YVLT Conservation on Emerald Mountain

Emerald Mountain – much of which is under conservation easement with YVLT – provides a massive community venue for hosting a wide range of summer events and activities in Steamboat Springs.


A stone’s throw from downtown Steamboat Springs, Emerald Mountain is the crown jewel of the local community and the launching pad for countless summertime happenings in Northwest Colorado (and year-round, for that matter!).  Returning this August 13th and 14th, the annual Steamboat Stinger is among the most celebrated and also perhaps the most challenging of these events – a 50-mile mountain bike race that has quickly gained notoriety among endurance athletes in the Intermountain West for its extreme difficulty.

The grueling but visually stunning course begins at Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs and showcases some of Colorado’s premier recreational trails, weaving through dense aspen groves, rolling open meadows, sagebrush stands, rock gardens, and conifer-speckled hillsides on Emerald Mountain.  Riders may not realize it while pedaling on local favorites like Blair Witch, MGM, and the Orton Trail (to name a few), but many of the amazing singletrack trails featured in the Steamboat Stinger are on YVLT-conserved lands open to the public!

Race director Sara Tlamka recently praised the Emerald Mountain trail system in the Steamboat Pilot & Today.  “I think the success of this race is a tribute to Emerald Mountain and what a fun venue it is, not only for mountain biking, but for running as well,” Tlamka said.

Hosted by Honey Stinger, a locally-based sports nutrition company, the Steamboat Stinger has quickly elevated itself to “legendary” status among endurance mountain bike races in the Intermountain West.  The annual event in August is open to 500 mountain bikers and 400 runners, with most slots filled just hours after registration begins.

For those brave, masochistic souls who dare, participants have the option to compete in both the 50-mile bike race and a marathon trail run – which take place on back-to-back days – to vie for the prestigious crowns of “King Sting” and “Queen Bee.”  Roughly 90 percent of the Steamboat Stinger takes place on world-class singletrack trails, consisting of two 25-mile laps around Emerald Mountain and featuring more than 6,600 feet of vertical climb.

Fortunately, for mere mortals like the rest of us, there are many shorter loops on Emerald Mountain that allow us to experience this amazing public resource without risking a heart attack!

Land conservation quietly contributes to virtually all of the signature Northwest Colorado events in many tangible and intangible ways. 

YVLT worked with community leaders to expand access to 4,000 acres on the backside of Emerald Mountain (BLM-owned) as well as nearly 600 acres owned by the City of Steamboat Springs and conserved by YVLT – the dedicated public access that makes events like this weekend’s Steamboat Stinger possible!  Read more about YVLT conservation on Emerald Mountain here.

Emerald Mountain and its miles of winding multi-use trails showcase just a fraction of the innumerable and lasting benefits that land conservation can bring to this awe-inspiring corner of Colorado.

On a larger scale, Northwest Colorado is a renowned “destination venue” because of its stunning landscapes, abundance of wildlife and vibrant outdoor culture, which are often featured prominently in marketing tools for community events.  Would these beloved events still thrive if our region’s natural and scenic qualities were degraded or lost over time?

Donate today and we will continue to preserve the very best of our spectacular region – for today and for the future.

Steamboat Marathon: A Run Through Conservation in the Elk River Valley

 moon valley.fallriver_horizontalA pristine stretch of the Elk River on YVLT-conserved Moon Valley Ranch, just west of the marathon course.

On June 5th, around 1,000 runners from across the nation will converge on Routt County to participate in the Steamboat Marathon, renowned as one of the most beautiful road races in the United States and ranked by Runner’s World as a “Top 10 Destination Marathon” (in addition to previously making the publication’s list for “10 Most Scenic Marathons of the Year”).

Now entering its 35th year, the celebrated event begins at Hahn’s Peak Village near the base of the iconic dormant volcano – one of North Routt County’s most recognizable natural features.  From there, the course meanders through the majestic Elk River Valley along the ranch-lined County Road 129 and culminates at the historic courthouse in downtown Steamboat Springs.

The marathon is extremely popular in part because of its beautiful scenery, which inspire a long list of superlatives and add to its allure.  For instance, the Steamboat Chamber of Commerce highlights the event’s idyllic setting in its marketing tools: “Run alongside the roaring Elk River through the emerald green pastures on Country Road 129 with the snow-capped Rocky Mountains of Colorado all around and find out why the Steamboat Marathon was ranked as one of the “Top 10 Destination Marathons in North America.”

warren barn 2It will be difficult for runners to miss the big red barn at YVLT-conserved Warren Ranch!

Land conservation is among the key reasons why the Elk River Valley remains pristine with a wealth of natural areas despite its close proximity to Steamboat Springs.  YVLT has preserved thousands of acres in this area, protecting the river valley’s visual and ecological integrity and allowing race participants to enjoy miles of “emerald green pastures,” rolling forested hills and long stretches of undeveloped river corridor.  With your support we have made significant strides in conserving this magical area, but there is still much work to be done.

If you love the Yampa Valley and Northwest Colorado, please donate today – your support will enable YVLT to preserve more irreplaceable places in this incredible region!

Higby haymeadowThe hay meadow at YVLT-conserved Higby Ranch, looking towards the marathon course on RCR-129.