Clothing mandatory, no booze or weed allowed
Hundreds of bikers with their chains disabled flying the eight miles from the top of Kebler Pass to Elk Avenue—while many of the riders are somewhat disabled themselves by alcohol or drugs—has never been described as a safe situation. But the Chainless Race has always been a spectator favorite. Costumes, carnage and fun have always been a draw. This year the goal of the organizers is to have a safer event, and that means fewer riders, more helmets and less PBR and marijuana.
“It was a pretty informal event the last few years and it became dangerous last year,” Crested Butte-Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce events coordinator Adam Stichter told the Crested Butte Town Council Monday. “We are focused on changing the culture of the event and making it safer this year.”
Stichter said that given its history, the event is essentially on probation from local safety officials. If things don’t change, the event could be prohibited.
The Chamber of Commerce has taken over the organization of the Chainless, and Stichter hopes to gather at least 20 volunteers to help oversee the event on June 22 as part of Crested Butte Bike Week.
Buck Mountain Security will attempt to control the chaos. Three Mountain Express buses will transport participants who have signed up for the event to the top of Kebler Pass. That will limit the number of riders to a maximum of 200, down from the more than 350 who rode last year.
A memo from the Chamber to the Crested Butte Town Council detailed that before riders board the buses, security will pat them down to make sure they have a helmet that buckles and do not have drugs or alcohol. Security personnel will monitor the buses to make sure alcohol isn’t passed through bus windows from friends. Clothing will be mandatory, the memo states.
The least amount of time to linger and party at the top of Kebler will be enforced, as riders won’t disembark from the buses until the vehicles have been turned around at the top. Police presence at the bus loading area and at the top of Kebler is being requested. Twice as many hay bales (100) will be placed in town to help soften crashes as riders fly onto Elk Avenue.
The Mt. Crested Butte Police Department has jurisdiction over the start of the race. Chief Hank Smith said things got dicey last year. “There were three serious injuries last year in a very short time period,” he explained. “All three ambulances we have up here were sent down to Gunnison. So if something else had happened, say a tourist having a heart attack, we wouldn’t have been able to respond. It’s frightening to emergency service people to not have the necessary equipment available to do their jobs.
“The bottom line is we told the organizers they needed to put a brake on the booze,” Smith continued. “People are choosing to do the race under the influence and it has impacts on the rest of the community. No one appreciates that.”
“Going from 350 to 200 participants could lead to a mob problem,” suggested Councilperson Jim Schmidt at the council meeting. “You could easily have 150 very unhappy people. I can’t imagine the consequences.”
“We don’t want to advertise the Chainless as much this year and that should cut down on people,” said Stichter. “Instead of running two bus trips that take 90 minutes total, we’ll make one trip with the three buses. We don’t want too much idle time at the top of Kebler for a big party. The marshals and other safety officials really appreciated the cap.”
Local biker John Chandler is helping organize the event. “We don’t want the event to die. It’s a cool event. Riders can sign up early and those that do will be able to get on the bus,” he explained to the council. “You won’t be able to sign up at 3 and take the 3:30 bus. We are trying to make this fun event happen. We want to keep the race the race.”
“The marshals, EMTs and fire officials all had very distinct safety concerns with the race, especially after last year,” said Town Manager Susan Parker. “It’s not too much to say they all wanted to not hold the event.”
“We will work to get the word out about the changes so people will know what to expect,” said Stichter. “We are trying to change the culture of the event.”
“We need to abide by the safety recommendations and if we don’t follow those safety recommendations, the chainless probably won’t happen the following year,” said Parker.
“We’re trying to satisfy the concerns and keep the event going,” added Chandler.
“Thanks for taking it on,” said Mayor Aaron Huckstep. “It’s not easy and frankly you all have to clean up after some of your predecessors.”
The councilmembers all voted to support the Chainless Race as presented. The council wished Stichter and Chandler a hearty “good luck” with the event.