Ultimate Adventures: Free Wheeling

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The Adventure › A 10-day mountain-biking journey in Colorado and Utah.

The Outfitter › Eleven Experience’s guides pride themselves on pushing their guests to the brink. “The first thing we like to do is get a feeling for the abilities and skill levels of our clients,” says Steve Banks, a guide for the Crested Butte, Colo.–based adventure company. “Then we make sure to challenge them right up to that point.” Launched in 2011, Eleven Experience operates exclusive lodges and chalets in locations such as the French Alps and the Rocky Mountains, where outdoor activities might include fly-fishing, heli-skiing, river rafting, and mountain biking.

The Itinerary › “Crested Butte has a reputation as the birthplace of mountain biking,” Banks says. “We have an amazing network of trails in the mountains and low-lying areas, and some of the best technical, downhill, and cross-country trails you can find.” Not surprisingly, Banks’s ultimate mountain-biking itinerary takes place in Eleven Experience’s backyard, based at the outfitter’s Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte and its soon-to-open Taylor River Lodge set along the nearby Taylor River.

Banks suggests a progressive itinerary, starting with a range of intermediate trails that give riders a taste of the local terrain’s steep climbs, fast descents, and high altitudes. Once acclimated, the group moves on to more technical rides marked by jumps and burns, or banked corners. “These burns give us the opportunity to lean into a turn at a really fast pace, like a racecar on a racetrack,” Banks explains. The itinerary includes several of Banks’s personal favorites, including Dyke Trail, a 28-mile course that combines fast-flowing downhill rides in and out of trees, and the expert-ranked 401 Trail, which scales some of the region’s highest peaks.

For the true adventurer, Banks also suggests a helicopter trip to Utah’s Moab Slickrock Trail, an 11-mile route that runs entirely on sandstone rock. “The sandstone is almost like riding on sandpaper, so you get a lot of friction and grip that makes for a different riding style,” Banks says. “You can go anywhere you want on the rocks, taking big drop-offs, and making it as technically challenging as you can handle.”

The Extreme › Crested Butte’s 19-mile Doctor Park loop is a local favorite, featuring 10,800 feet of vertical descent and requiring expert navigation through downhill switchbacks. “It is very fast and steep, and very rocky,” Banks says. “We don’t take just anybody out there, but it is a trail that about 75 percent of mountain bikers can handle.”

The Price › $15,000 per person for a party of four.

Eleven Experience, 970.349.7761, www.elevenexperience.com

Photograph by Terry O'Neill
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