Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance

The Trails That Lead Us Home

A driving factor in why so many of us love to live in these mountains are the trails that intertwine our community. These trails are our gyms, our old friends, our peace of mind, our meeting places and are also home to a vast wildlife population. Whether you originate in the Vail Valley or its beauty drew you here, it is undeniable that this fresh mountain air and the world-renowned views bring us moments of reprieve during the chaos that can inhabit our everyday.

Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance

Photos courtesy of Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance

The Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance (VVMTA) was founded on the mission to maintain, educate, advocate for and build sustainable trails for the benefit of our community. Ernest Sager, executive director and first official VVMTA employee back in 2017, is clearly all-in on this mission and full of passion from the get-go.

“We need to take care of what we use, what we know and what we love, and our community needs to drive that conversation,” Sager says. “That’s what VVMTA was founded on, and that’s still how we operate today.”

Sager and a growing team of employees are not in it just for increased recreation. They care about the wildlife, the impact we have on the environment around us, getting people out on these trails that never have been before and sharing these trails with generations to come. They are here to create trail infrastructure that is proactive in preventing stressors on our natural world.

Stemming from their Adopt A Trail program in 2016, VVMTA created the Wildlife Trail Ambassador program. This program places trained volunteers by active trail closures to not only enforce these crucial closures but to also educate users about the reasons behind them.

“The education runs deep. It’s not just me interacting with a hiker or a mountain biker at the trailhead. Our trainings are extensive,” shares Ellen Miller, VVMTA Wildlife Trail Ambassador and longtime Vail Valley local.

In collaboration with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service, VVMTA brings in wildlife biologists to properly educate ambassadors on the reproduction cycles of the ungulates and other animals that inhabit these trails, as well as the ecosystems that support them.

Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance

The VVMTA has compiled a list of informational maps articulating what trails are open, conditions and proper etiquette to ensure our community has access to the information at all times — all available on their website. In the coming year, Sager is working with Eagle Valley Land Trust, Community Wildlife Round Table and Eagle Valley Outdoors Stewardship Coalition to create a GIS mapping system for the areas that need to be protected among our trails. By creating programs like this, VVMTA is proactively dealing with future problems and can determine where the best place to develop future trails would be, all while making a minimal impact on the ecosystem.

VVMTA has a vast web of initiatives that focus on the needs of ourcommunity. The Vail Valley brings such a variety of people together that inclusivity should always be at the forefront of our focus. Through the Soul Dirt program, launched in 2022 in partnership with Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, VVMTA has facilitated, supported and encouraged 400 people to get out on a trail or bike for the first time. Soul Dirt taps into the mind-body connection that we get from physical activity and breaks down the barriers to entry of a new sport, in a new space. VVMTA mixes trail stewardship in with these experiences to teach new users that we must care for the things we love for them to be able to serve us.

“I think after you’ve been out working on trails — helping to build them, helping to maintain them and cleaning them up — you view them through a different lens. You view them through the lens of wanting to care for them,” explains Miller.

“I tell a lot of our participants within the Soul Dirt process that I’m inviting you out to something I love and cherish tremendously, and I’m also going to show you how to take care of something I love and cherish tremendously,” adds program director Erinn Hoban.

Through sharing the activities that are most important to us with members of our community who may not be so familiar, we are creating new bonds and a sense of belonging for everyone around us — including ourselves.

“Getting outside, socializing, nature, volunteering: research study after research study comes back and says these are the things that improve your mental health,” shares Sager. “We’re not mental health professionals, but we’re going to create that connection to get people outside.”

Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance

With the support from Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, VVMTA is able to work alongside mental health professionals to develop programing that touches on these impactful initiatives and provides support for the community.

In 2023, VVMTA is excited to expand the trail infrastructure in the area by breaking ground on the Eagle Bike park as well as about 60 trail-focused events. The development and success of the Soul Dirt program is ongoing, and through collaborations with other local non-profits in the works, we know the impact has just begun.

No matter where you are, the natural world and all it provides is available to you. Sometimes, you just need guidance down the right trail to bring you home.

If you would like to get involved with the VVMTA, visit