This article first appeared in the 2022 It Takes A Valley Campaign Impact Report.
Soul Dirt: Elevating Our Community With The Power of Trails
It truly takes a valley to uplift our community, and the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance is doing its part by connecting our community to the outdoors. With the power to improve both our mental and physical well-being, access to trails is more important than ever.
Trails connect us to the land and to each other. They provide us with space to move, have fun, push our limits, and find our strength. And yet a significant portion of our valley’s population faces social and economic barriers limiting their ability to get outdoors. “We believe that everyone should have access to the transformative power of our trails,” says Ernest Saeger, VVMTA Executive Director, “and so we created Soul Dirt in partnership with Vail Health’s Eagle Valley Behavioral Health.”
Trails For a Healthy Community
Soul Dirt provides free VVMTA Ambassador-led group hikes and mountain bike rides for people of all ages and abilities on soft surface trails across Eagle County. Participants in a Soul Dirt ride can borrow mountain bikes for use during the program – free of charge. And the community is already experiencing the impact in so many different ways.
While being treated for cancer at Vail Health Shaw Cancer Center, Ben Sokolski, a local bike racer, found it harder to keep up on the trail, which left him feeling lonely and looking for connection. He attended a Soul Dirt event and says of that experience, “It’s important to surround yourself with others who will lift you up. It’s good to know there’s a group that I can connect with.” Juan Carlos discovered his own trail to health and happiness as one of Soul Dirt’s first participants. “I love mountain biking; it’s my passion,” he says. Now a near daily rider, Juan Carlos is reaping the benefits. “I feel quicker, stronger, and ten times better.”
Getting Involved is Easy
As Soul Dirt events continue, barriers are gradually dissolving. Soul Dirt has connected more than 700 individuals to the trails, many for the first time. “Our events have facilitated numerous connections, leading many to join us on trail work days or other volunteer activities,” Ernest explains. “This is the snowball effect that we hope will build a stronger, healthier community.”