The beauty of Teton Valley is no secret. The area is home to some of the best skiing, hiking, and bike riding in the entire country. But lesser known, at least to non-residents, is the organization that works year-round to ensure locals and visitors can enjoy the natural splendor of the valley through a network of connected trails and paths.
Teton Valley Trails and Pathways, formed in 1998, has labored to create and maintain pedestrian and bicycle paths and trails throughout the valley, providing a reliable source of transportation and recreation. “When the Driggs-to-Victor pathway was acquired and developed in 1998, it was the catalyst for a group of locals to form an organization that would further a pathway system that would connect communities to each other and the trail systems on the public lands,” explains Dan Verbeten, TVTAP’s executive director. “Cross-country ski trails were added to the program two years later as we started grooming in Teton Canyon.”
The nonprofit is funded by local and state grants, as well as contributions from its more than 800 members. Last year, the organization groomed over 7,000 miles, tracked 30,000 visits to the trails, and managed more than $200,000 worth of equipment to run the operation. “It doesn’t happen without people donating,” Verbeten says.
The work of maintaining and grooming trails is also supported by an army of volunteers. According to TVTAP, they rely on the work of more than 140 volunteers in the summer and more than 25 in the winter. “Volunteers are a crucial component in helping us execute our mission,” says Verbeten. “Specifically, they help groom hundreds of hours and thousands of miles of winter trails. They work with us on trail building and maintenance on pathways and Forest Service trails. In several cases, they have served on advisory committees for community work and they help us advocate for continued expansion of a connected trails and pathways network.”
Decisions about trail projects or maintenance prioritization are made with a mix of input from the community and data collection. TVTAP solicits the input of members to understand what projects are most important to the community. But the group also uses trail counting devices that allow it to understand how people are using the trails and, in turn, make sophisticated management decisions to provide the community the best possible experience.
Projects on the horizon include the Teton Creek Corridor Pathway and the Southern Valley Trail, as well as burgeoning ideas that are expected to be developed and carried out over the next five to 20 years.
But TVTAP’s work doesn’t stop on the trail. The organization also curates a website with regular updates on the condition of its pathways. Cross-country skiers should check out the daily grooming reports, which feature trail maps, directions to the trail heads, updates on the grooming status, and even the name of the volunteer who last groomed the trail.
The website also houses a wealth of resources about the other trails and pathways in the area — detailed cycling routes, rail trail information, and town-specific path maps. As an organization with only two full-time employees, it takes a lot of time, money, and effort to handle all this work, which means that donations from valley residents and especially visitors is essential.
Visitors “undoubtedly will have been on some of the year-round trails or pathways we have worked on,” explains Verbeten. “If the experience has contributed to their physical and mental health, which likely it did, we hope they value that enough to want to support us. In our 22-year history, we have brought millions of dollars into this community through collaborative work. As a two-person organization, we are pretty proud of that and there is a good chance it has been a contributing factor in the visitor selecting Teton Valley as their destination.”
TVTAP’s work has helped connect the Teton Valley community, improving everyone’s access to the area’s extraordinary outdoor recreation opportunities and indescribable natural beauty. Whether you are a visitor looking for freshly groomed corduroy or a local looking for an alternative way to get to town or to work, Teton Valley Trails and Pathways will continue to be an invaluable pillar of the valley.
Teton Valley Trails and Pathways relies upon the contributions of valley residents and visitors to continue its valuable mission. Donate to TVTAP via the organization’s website.