Neil Beltchenko is our first Instagram Takeover of Summer 2016. We’re looking forward to seeing his photos of Growler Weekend, one of his favorite Gunnison Valley events. Neil is a graduate of Western Colorado State University and has lived in the valley since 2008. On top of that Neil is an expert on bikepacking.
His passion for that niche was founded in a thru-bike of the Colorado Trail and has taken him to a record breaking 1st place finish of the Arizona Trail 750 this past April.
Check out Neil’s answers to our questions about why he loves the Gunnison Valley and make sure to follow mtbhome on Instagram to check out Neil’s shots from the Original Growler weekend.
Why do you live here/ Why do you visit?
After Graduating from Western State College in 2010, I moved up to Crested Butte and never looked back. I grew up in the Chicagoland area, I love the city, but for every day living a small community was perfect for me. Looking out my window towards Paradise Divide when I wake up reminds me of why I live here. The access, the beauty, the people, together make one special place that I am lucky to call home.
In the summer I love to mountain bike. In fact it’s hard to convince me to do any other activity. I love exploring unknown trails and making long backcountry loops. I also just enjoy short rides out my door. In the winter, I have skied a lot in the past, and continue to, but I truly found a love of riding bikes on snow. The fat biking has actually been top notch the past few years, with average snowpacks. Besides that I enjoying going out to eat at the variety of delicious restaurants in Crested Butte.
What’s your favorite photo op?
It’s hard not to take a photo of Paradise Divide, especially in the winter. The landscapes in this valley make me look like a great photographer, but really I just think the landscape does the work for me. I love taking shots on Elk Ave too, with Mt. CB in the background. Downtown is so colorful, and with a snowy or blue sky backdrop, it makes it look even better.
What’s your favorite trail to hike/bike?
For out of the house quick trails, I would say Upper/Upper Upper/Whetstone Vista, they are close, technical, and super fun. I really love the Strand Hill trail system if I want to go a bit further. You have a ton of options, with Ferris, 402, and the Point Lookout trail, which has recently been high on the list since it was finished a few years back. If I want to have a bigger day, I would say Dyke and Reno-Flag-Bear-Deadmans. 401 is awesome too, but it gets busy.
What’s your favorite apres spot/beverage?
I’m a big IPA guy, but I also enjoy the delicious handcrafted cocktails at Montanyas. So you will find me there or the Brick after a ride. That being said, chilling with Lindsay and our dog and drinking a beer in the middle of summer at home is hard to beat.
What kind of camera do you use?
I ride with my Sony a6000 mirrorless camera. It’s a fantastic small camera that takes some pretty amazing shots. Typically when I ride I use the kit lens, but on the occasion I will bring my prime or zoom lens.
What’s your favorite piece of gear?
Other than my camera and bike, I would say my favor piece of gear would be my bikepacking bags. I tend to ride with them almost all the time. They store my emergency gear, Adidas Outdoor layers, and my camera safely.
Favorite adventure partner/photography subject?
Lindsay Arne, my fiancé and best friend.
Sunrises or Sunsets?
Sunrises – they are not seen by as many people which makes them seem more special.
Really love Indian Paintbrush, but its hard to beat those tall Sunflower like flowers – especially biking past them at 20 miles an hour. Oh, and Lupine, so amazing.
Favorite Gunnison Valley event?
Wow, that’s a tough one. Growler weekend has always held a special place in my heart, same with Vinotok. One of these years, I’ll be able to make it to CB Bike Week, but I always find myself out of town during that time.