My name is Preston. That’s me on top of Aspen Mountain in 1994, my first trip to Aspen. I don’t really remember it, old photos can be funny like that. A decade later I came skiing. I came back every year after that. In 2011, I moved here. The thing about my time in Aspen is I’ve been a visitor, a frequenter, and a resident. I love this photo, because no one can predict where life will take them and what life has in store for them.
I love exploring. Aspen and the areas around this small mountain town became my playground. Further down the Roaring Fork Valley, life beyond the roundabout, became just as special as Aspen to me.
In the Roaring Fork Valley there are 5 towns (Aspen, Snowmass, Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs), 3 counties (Pitkin, Eagle, Garfield), and numerous government agencies (U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Parks & Wildlife). These towns, counties, and government agencies all try to cover their own areas separated by invisible lines.
As I explored, I found it increasingly difficult to find what I was looking for in this area. I got tired of going to a bunch of different websites, with each covering one town, one area, or one sport and it was crazy to me reading in the paper, ‘For more information on this trail, visit a local shop or ask a local.’
In September 2013, I had a plan to make it easy for anyone to find a trail and share their adventure with others. I had all the tools – I hike, bike, run and I’m digitally savvy. After 3 months, the website was up and running. It sounds silly now, but as I built the website I seriously wondered if anyone else was going to use it. I put flyers up around town that summer and tried to spread the word that this new trail resource existed. I wasn’t the only one that used it – over 6,500 people visited the website that first year in 2014.
The resource existed, but it wasn’t great. It didn’t have many trails, it didn’t have many features, but I knew that people were interested. I’ve been adding to and improving this site ever since. Two years later, over 100,000 people have used Aspen Trail Finder. The site’s growth chart is incredible. At the start of 2017, I launched an app and I finally feel this site is the resource I set out to build.
There will always be places to find, trails to add, photos to take, and adventures to share. There’s something inspiring in the realization that this resource will never be complete, my work never finished. One person can’t provide a community of input, I just built the platform. The future of this site is with the users. Anytime someone rates, writes a review, or leaves a comment about a trail, they have the power to share their adventure with others and more importantly help the person that goes after them.
I hope you find a new trail and share that joy of finding new trails with others too.
–Preston Files, Aspen Trail Finder Web/App Developer, Graphic Designer, Photographer, Blogger, Social Media Manager, Founder