Road ride on Cottonwood to support Gunnison Nordic

“I hope there’s walls of snow to ride through”

[ by Than Acuff ]

Upon hearing of the paving of Cottonwood Pass, wheels started spinning about a way to ride the pass prior to its opening to vehicles. Some back and forth ensued, ideas were tossed around and eventually Joellen Fonken, chair for Gunnison Nordic, came up with a win-win situation, a road ride fundraiser for Gunnison Nordic dubbed the Cottonwood Classic.

Thanks to the support of the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) and Marlene Crosby and the Gunnison County Public Works crew, Gunnison Nordic is hosting the inaugural Cottonwood Classic on Thursday, May 27 just hours before they open the pass to vehicles.

“I thought it would be really cool to do,” says Fonken. “An open road but closed to vehicles.”

While the idea had been percolating for a while, Fonken did not get the green light officially from the BOCC until the May 4 meeting and things took off from there.

“I went home and just started jamming, I think we have all of our i’s dotted,” says Fonken.

The course starts more or less at the junction of the Taylor River Road and the Cottonwood Pass Road, aka County Road 209, and is 25 miles long with 2,760 vertical feet of climbing from the start to the top of Cottonwood Pass and back down the Gunnison County side.

“I hope there’s walls of snow to ride through,” says Fonken.

The ride starts at 8:30 a.m. but people can start whenever they want and the road needs to be completely clear of riders by 1:30 p.m. Parking is limited to the sides of the road and parking instructions will be emailed to participants to keep everything on the up and up.

While there is no specific race element to the inaugural ride, Fonken is aware that several participants will be on Strava as well and will be recognized for their efforts accordingly.

“We won’t have any prizes but we will identify the Strava winners,” says Fonken.

Ultimately, Fonken hopes to grow the event to include a race portion, much like the Ride for the Pass event on Independence Pass, as well as a citizen’s ride and have more people able to participate. But it all depends on how this first one goes and Fonken would like to point out that the road is currently closed to all users to allow the county to do their work.

“If it goes well and everyone behaves and has fun we’d like to do it annually,” says Fonken. “Depending on snowfall.”
For more information contact Gunnison Nordic at

Check Also

Grin & Bear It race this Saturday

French Toast and beer [ by Than Acuff ] The Grin & Bear It was …