Devil’s Thumb Ranch is full of pleasant surprises
TABERNASH» I’m straddling my mountain bike on a dirt road along with 10 other women, all of our eyes pinned on Sarka Ruzickova, our compact and energetic instructor. In her commanding Czech accent, Ruzickova exhorts us to “stack our elbows” underneath our shoulders, spread our legs, lean the bike and look ahead. Do these things, she promises, and nimble speed on singletrack is ours.
“Do not milk your bikes!” she commands. It makes sense, even though her metaphor is beyond mixed. She’s telling us to avoid pinching our knees together and stiffening our arms. Loosen up, and we give our bikes room to move underneath us.
My small group is part of a larger one, of some 50 women, at Devil’s Thumb Ranch for “Women, Wheels and Wine,” a day-long mountain biking clinic, in early July. Also on the day’s agenda: gourmet lunch, pool time, yoga and optional spa treatments. The clinic has attracted riders of all abilities, from self-proclaimed experts to newbies who say they’ve always been curious but intimidated to try mountain biking.
So far, no one here claims to aspire to the podium, but we do want to improve, especially me. A lifelong mountain biker, I’ve missed a few seasons, and wanted to get some confidence back for zooming downhill. I’d been to Devil’s Thumb for summer for weddings — spectacular events with jaw-dropping views of the Indian Peaks and delectable food, catered on-site, to match — and I’ve busted my lungs Nordic skiing here in the winter. But I’d never thought of Devil’s Thumb Ranch as a mountain biking destination, despite it’s proximity to the mountain biking playground of Winter Park.
After a few hours sessioning switchbacks with Ruzickova and practicing riding up and over narrow beams, I was beginning to change my mind. The ranch has a small pump track (a rolling, curving track where the goal is to create enough momentum on your bike using gravity and body positioning so you don’t need to pedal) and a skills park with bridges and progressive challenges. And then there are the miles and miles of trails. Most are shared with the horses — summer trail rides are a hit among guests — but that doesn’t diminish them for biking.
During our morning session, we climb to the Marker Hill, one of the property’s high points. Then Ruzickova leads us down a flowing, occasionally technical trail that delivers some of everything: swerving through aspen groves, spooning a creek, hopping logs and crossing bridges. Throughout the ride we’re rewarded with views of Byers Peak
A mountain biker rolls down a trail at Devil's Thumb Ranch, near Tabernash. In addition to miles of singletrack, the ranch has a pump track and a skills park.