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College looks into training the next generation of mountain bike trail builders

Photo of Hugo Benitez trail building

Hugo Benitez of Timberline Landscaping in Colorado Springs was one of six students who took a pilot class in trail building this summer at Colorado Mountain College Leadville. Here, he practices his new bench-cutting skills in a Sutter 300 Mini Trail Dozer.

Colorado Mountain College Leadville recently partnered with Tony Boone Trails, LLC of Salida to pilot a class in mechanical trail construction. Using two state-of-the-art trail dozers, six students practiced sculpting contoured trails, berms and grade reversals on the campus’s trail system.

The four-day course was a trial run to see if further curriculum development between the college’s ski area operations and outdoor recreation leadership programs could help provide work-ready graduates for the rapidly growing bike park industry in Colorado and across the nation. College administrators and faculty are looking at what worked well in the summer course, what might be improved and whether there is demand for future coursework.

By offering aspiring trail dozer operators a chance to dig in the dirt with a SWECO 480 Trail Dozer and a Sutter 300 Mini Trail Dozer, Boone and CMC outdoor recreation leadership faculty member Cooper Mallozzi were able to gauge interest and refine a potential course curriculum in this emerging job market.

Trail dozers have revolutionized the trail-building industry in North America, allowing builders to create sustainable, fun trails in a fraction of the time required to hand-build trails. These kinesthetically diverse, “dozer-flow” trails are highly sought after by mountain bikers and runners of all ages and abilities.

During fall 2014, Boone nearly singlehandedly created the beginner loop trail behind CMC Leadville’s residence hall in just three days on his Sutter 300 mini dozer. He and Mallozzi believe Colorado Mountain College can be a leader in the instruction and training of professional trail builders.

Photo of Cooper Mallozzi trail building

Cooper Mallozzi, an outdoor recreation leadership faculty member at Colorado Mountain College Leadville, drives the SWECO 480 Trail Dozer on campus. The college is looking into developing a trail-building curriculum to support infrastructure for the increasingly popular sport of mountain biking in the state and across the country.

Mallozzi has been consulting with CMC ski area operations faculty Paul Rauschke and Jason Gusaas to explore an interdisciplinary summer operations curriculum, given the interest students in both programs have shown in the mountain biking industry.

“Summer activities at ski areas are increasing, and clearly alternative trail construction techniques need to be looked at – particularly with lower-impact activities such as mountain biking,” said Rauschke. “We were happy to host the class this summer, and thanks go to Cooper for spearheading it.”

According to Colorado Parks & Wildlife’s 2014 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, outdoor recreation contributes over $34.5 billion in annual economic activity and creates 313,000 jobs. “Our hope is for CMC graduates to learn the fundamental skills to assume some of those jobs, specifically in the up-and-coming bike park industry,” said Mallozzi.

For more information about trail building contact Boone at 719-221-3421.