We stood in the parking lot of the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, watching heavy clouds drift over the top half of the mountain — where I’d soon be riding. Joey Klein pointed to a spot on Pali where you could see the outline of the new Beavers Loop bike trail he designed and built, cutting across a run I’d skied a thousand times.
“That, to me, is sacred ground. So we did that [section] all by hand,” he said, adding, “It takes years to build [those kinds of trails]. Especially across a 60% grade.”
Klein explained that his team did what’s called a “full clean” on that section of the Beavers Loop singletrack trail. As they dug it out, they took all of the organic spoils and the uprooted plants and grasses, and relocated them to other barren areas on the mountain. It was hard work. But the end product is something he’s very proud of.
“On the bike, you’re constantly just traversing the mountainside and you have this high mountain view. And that freaking thing,” Klein pointed toward the iconic Black Mountain. “That is the showcase the whole time.”
Building the Beavers Loop, A Basin’s Latest Trail
Klein has built a lot of trails in his day; he’s been doing this since 1994. He’s worked on singletrack trails in 14 countries and in every state in the U.S. Just between Aspen and Gunnison, Colo., he’s designed 120 miles of singletrack.
But the Beavers Loop at A Basin, which he completed at the tail end of last season, is particularly special to him. He’s been skiing the mountain for decades and has worked with A Basin’s CEO, Alan Henceroth, for over 30 years. A Basin is special to him — this is the area he calls home. And the Beavers Loop has taken him 3 years to complete. (The team finished it during Arapahoe Basin’s 75th year.)
“We built it from the bottom up,” he explained. In 2019, they started with the bottom mile, but for the next year COVID paused the project. In 2021, they did the middle section and just last summer they completed the final third: the top.
Klein and the A Basin trail team had their “Golden Spike Day” (as Klein called it) the day before I went to ride Beavers Loop. I was one of the first people to ride the trail in full, top to bottom.
And Klein was clearly excited to share his creation. “What I like about it is it’s not the same character. Every thousand feet, it changes,” he said. “Different builders, different artists, different terrain, different environments.”
And it’s just for bikers who want to ride alpine downhill, he noted. No hikers will be allowed to use Beavers Loop, and no uphill bikers.
The Ride Up
I was psyched for the ride. Not just because it starts at 12,400 feet. And not just because it was a brand-spanking-new trail. But because it was mid-September and the clouds above weren’t bringing late-season showers — they were dropping early season snow. It’s not often I ride downhill while snowflakes are falling.
Still, I felt lucky I had a ride up. I would have otherwise had to pedal the 1,610 vertical feet to the top along the access road. David Singleton, who helped build the trail, had been planning on doing that climb. An A Basin ski instructor and bike trail volunteer, Singleton arrived a bit earlier to ride the trail he’d helped build on its first officially open day.
Klein suggested he would be the perfect guide for me. And Singleton agreed — gratefully accepting the truck ride that would take us to the top.
We hopped in and took off. In about 20 minutes we were at the top. I stepped out into the swirling white snow and unloaded my bike from the back. Singleton did the same. We said goodbye to our ride, straddled our saddles, and I followed as he ripped off down the trail: east.
The Ride Down
Beavers Loop starts nearly at the top of the Lenawee Express lift. It descends down the Pali Cornice toward the top of Pallavicini Lift. This top section had some great rock features and likely offers incredible 360-views of the surrounding mountains (although I couldn’t see any of them up in that snow cloud).
I pedaled, pushing myself to keep Singleton’s blue windbreaker in sight. But as we descended out of the clouds and the autumn mountains came into view, I had to stop pedaling — and start taking pictures. It was truly incredible. I’d been up there many times, but only ever skiing in the wintertime. In the summer, on the back of the bike, it was a totally different experience.
“I took a few friends down this last summer who’ve skied here for 30 years and they welled up with tears,” Klein said in the parking lot at the bottom. “Every corner reminded them of a ski day or a powder day, or some experience with their friends.”
Crossing Sacred Ground
As we turned a corner, Singleton pointed to the spot where they’d had their Golden Spike moment — where the middle section and the upper section had connected the day prior.
We were now below the tree line, cutting across Pali and under the lift, through some pines, and back into meadows. The trail became swoopy and we zapped around big, banked turns that were clearly freshly built.
Then Singleton noted the last break point, the one connecting the middle section to the lower one. We were in heavier woods now. I maneuvered my wheels over big rocks, roots, and hopped off of lips and kickers.
This was clearly the most well-worn part of the trail.
Toward the bottom, Singleton stopped in front of a small excavator machine. He explained, that’s what they’d used to dig out the entire trail — top to bottom — with the exception of the one sacred section of Pali that Klein said they’d dug out by hand. I was blown away. The scoop on the machine looked too small to accomplish such a big task.
Then Singleton took off again, and I pedaled after him.
Beavers Loop: Open to Ride, Summer 2023
At the bottom, when we came skidding into the parking lot, 1,600 feet below where we started, we were both grinning like kids. I thanked him for helping build that badass trail. It was too bad the weather was turning, I told him; I wanted to bring my friends back and show them the Beavers Loop.
He smiled. “There’s always next season.”
He was right. Now, here we are, staring down the barrel of another spring and summer in Colorado. The snow is melting, the ski areas are setting their closing dates, and soon the Beavers Loop will be open for business — to everyone.
But we’ll all have to wait until the Basin’s slopes close for skiing (usually in May/June) and open for mountain biking (usually in July). Check Arapahoe Basin’s website for more up to date and accurate info on closure/opening dates.