Six months ago, my old college roommate Steve gave me a call and asked if I would consider going to the Yeti Tribe Gathering. With two Yetis in the garage, the idea had crossed my mind and I answered with an emphatic yes.
The Gathering is an owner’s event always held in Colorado. It spans a whole weekend and is Yeti’s way of saying thank you. It is family friendly with organized rides, meals and plenty of entertainment to keep folks engaged. There are opportunities to connect with other riders as well as Yeti employees who make themselves available to answer any and all questions.
This year’s gathering was held at the Durango Mountain Resort just outside of Durango, the original home base of Yeti. The resort had been the home of the 1990 UCI mountain bike world championships. A couple of riders by the names of Ned Overend and Julie Furtado won the cross country events.
About a week before the event, I received an email outlining the rides for the weekend. The more I read, the more I got excited. Two rides were planned. A short 18 mile ride leaving from the resort with a shuttle back up the hill. The longer ride, 30 miles with 4,000 feet of climbing, had me vibrating. Steve and I put our names in for the second ride without hesitation. It would turn out to be the best ride either of us had ever done.
Steve arrived in Denver Tuesday evening and we were headed south to Durango Thursday morning. We took a meandering route to Durango, passing through my most favorite sections in the state: Salida, Monarch Pass, Curecanti National Recreation Area, Ouray and Silverton.
We arrived at the resort late in the afternoon but were among the first to set up camp as most people would not be arriving until Friday. We set up camp, checked in for the weekend and met a few of the other early arrivees. A few hours later, we headed down the hill a ways for dinner at the Olde Schoolhouse Cafe. The Schoolhouse has a ton of character and was filled with locals. The beer was cold and the food was excellent. If you’re passing through, it is a great place to stop for a snack or a full meal.
Friday morning we headed back down the hill into Durango. Both Steve and I needed some extra tubes for the big ride coming up on Saturday. We arrived in town rather early and decided to grab some breakfast. The Durango Diner just happened to be next door to Mountain Bike Specialists. The Diner proved to be another gem and a definite locals spot with waitresses full of good humor.
Mountain Bike Specialists is part bike shop and part racing museum. Hanging from the walls were the world championship winning bikes of Ned Overend, Julie Furtado, Greg Herbold and others. Comparing Herbold’s “downhill” bike to my Yeti 303RDH hanging on the back of the truck felt like comparing a Ford Model A to a Porsche 911. The evolution of mountain bikes over the past 24 years is nothing short of amazing.
Back at the resort, inspired by the racing history at MBS, Steve and I decided to ride the world championship course with an added loop that would take us to the top of the mountain, elevation 10,800 feet.
Starting out on the course, it became quickly apparent that this was a cross country course of yesteryear. Steep, rocky and roots. It would have been brutal to race on. Slowly, we criss crossed our way up the mountain through the trees and under the lifts. About halfway up, we got off the course and onto Paul’s Park trail so we could reach the summit. Four miles later, we were taking in the view of Engineer Mountain.
The route down proved to be worth all the pain in climbing up. As they say, you need to earn your turns. It was steep and fast. The type of terrain that my SB66c was built to ride. We jumped off Paul’s Park and back onto the World’s course to ride the downhill section. This was full off drops, tight switchbacks and narrow off-camber sections through aspen groves.
We laid low that evening enjoying dinner catered by the resort while chatting with fellow riders and Yeti employees. Yeti had brought several of their new SB5c bikes and made themselves readily available for any questions. They shaved a full pound off the frame weight and the Infinity Switch is beautiful in its simplicity.
Saturday morning started early with the shuttles leaving before 8am to take us up to Molas Pass, elevation 10,900 feet. This is where the ride started. We would be following the Colorado Trail west, passing under the Twin Sisters, over Rolling Pass (12,531 feet) and then descending Cascade Creek to meet up with highway 550 for the last 2 miles to the resort. 30 miles with 4,000 feet of climbing all above 10,000 feet. It was going to be a long day.
There were a 110 people signed up for the ride. Unfortunately, many of them were not prepared for the advanced nature of the trail. It was not just the elevation that made it difficult. Almost all of the trail is above tree line while also being very narrow and technical. A small miscalculation could send you tumbling a very long way.
Steve and I made our way out of the trailhead parking lot easing through the slower riders. Within a few miles, we had the trail mostly to ourselves while trying to catch a group of Yeti employees. Among them was Chris Conroy, one of the owner’s of Yeti, absolutely flying up the trail. Watching the CEO of a company ride like that was inspiring.
The trail snaked its way up, down and around the contours of the mountains. Every bend opened up the most amazing view which made concentrating on the trail ahead rather difficult. The wild flowers were in full bloom radiating color in the thin air. High alpine riding is absolutely the bees knees.
Just below the top of Rolling Pass, Steve and I decided to make the descent down Engineer Mountain to Engineer Creek. The Forest Service employee on the ride had told us it was a fun technical trail and we have always been ones to take the path less traveled. Just off the top, flying around a corner, I smashed myself in a mud bog and went flying. Covered in mud but otherwise unscathed I noticed that somehow the crash managed to sheer off the front brake hose at the lever. The rest of the descent just became a little more difficult.
Within a couple of miles, we had dropped over 1,000 feet in elevation and were back under the trees. We took a right onto Engineer Creek continuing the highly technical descent alongside a massive waterfall.
Steve was launched as he got hung up in some tree roots. He went down the trail while the bike went left, over the edge, to be saved by the only tree standing for a 100 yards on that side of the trail. Had the tree not been there, his lovely SB95c would have taken a 50′ express elevator into the creek below.
We looked back up the mountain realizing that coming down through the woods was definitely the way to go as the thunderheads had started forming up top.
At the bottom of Engineer Creek, we dumped into the Cascade Creek trail. This was a total blast as it ran alongside the creek. Ups and downs, tight switch backs and fast meadows.
We got caught up with a couple of groups of hikers. We slowed to a crawl, put on our best polite face but still managed to get stink eye daggers thrown our way. The trail opened up to the forest service road and we put the hammer down to the highway as a couple of Yeti employees were trying to catch up. Couldn’t let that happen. Once on the highway, it was full on roadie TT mode to blast back to the resort.
5 hours of total trail time. Roughly 4000′ of climbing. One of the best days of riding ever. If you haven’t been there, put it on your list. It’s a trail definitely worth doing.
Back at the tent, feet up, cold beer in hand, we watched everyone slowly make their way back. Masks of dirt, pain and stoke. Stories started flowing which I’m pretty sure resulted in only 2 people wanting to make that ride Sunday morning.
Saturday evening, dinner was catered by Big Delicious out of Vail. They have been the caterers for the past few Tribe events. Given their good humor and excellent food, I am fairly certain they will be catering for a long time to come. Two kinds of lasagna (sausage and butternut squash), free range chicken, ratatouille, garlic bread and banana pudding with Nilla wafers. Yes, Nilla wafers. After a long day in the saddle, it was absolutely perfect.
After dinner, things started to get wild. It started off with 12” bike races for the kids in attendance. Yeti and Fox employees, as well as other riders, gradually got in on the action. Barrel races followed then the foot down contest which was basically everyone riding in a circle trying to push each other off their bikes. I felt sure the trials guy was going to win until someone slashed his rear tire.
Finally, there was the spud gun. Nothing quite brings out the little boy trapped inside grown men like a spud gun.
Sunday morning came much too soon but it was time to break camp and make the drive back to Denver. New friends had been made. Contact info had been shared. Now, it is time to ride and look forward to next year.
I am still awestruck by not only the quality of the event but the quality of the people that came. Of the 250 or so people attending, there was not a single bad seed. Everyone there was just stoked to own a Yeti and ride. The employees of Yeti were just as amazing. They have built something that is more than a company. It is a family. These days, that is a difficult thing to find. For me, I am now hooked for life.
If you want to find out more about Yeti Cycles and mountain biking in Durango, visit the links below.
Yeti Cycles – http://www.yeticycles.com
Durango Mountain Resort – http://www.durangomountainresort.com
Mountain Bike Specialists – http://www.mountainbikespecialists.com
Durango Diner – http://www.durangodiner.com
Big Delicious Catering – http://bigdeliciouscatering.com