Terraflow Trail Systems builds Big Sky’s biking future

By Doug Hare EBS Staff

 BIG SKY – Pete Costain looks at dirt differently than other people. Within a few minutes of meeting him at the top of Big Sky Resort’s Swift Current chairlift, he’s pointing out gradations in the soil content, talking about trail-finding techniques, explaining the topology of building intermediate berms that will also be fun for experts.

Then he climbed aboard a Bobcat excavator, ready to show off his craft in action. “As far as trail building at the resort, I’m a firm believer in building trails that riders will only get to experience in a resort environment,” Costain said. “Why build trails that mimic what riders can find in their backyard? Whether quality of jumps and berms, creativity of line, or epic views, resort riding should leave an impression.”

According to the Terraflow Trail Systems website, Costain has been riding mountain bikes “since before the invention of the mountain bike.” He began racing competitively, both cross-country and downhill, in the late ‘80s and has been freeriding for almost two decades. Despite working seven days a week during the summer months, he still manages to fit some rides in during his workdays.

In 2000, while he was the events and recreation manager of Whitefish Mountain Resort in northwest Montana, Costain oversaw the construction of several lower mountain cross-country and downhill bike trails. He earned a reputation for building multi-use trails that harmonize with natural surroundings and are tailored to the needs of those who recreate on them.


Birken Schimpff kicks up dust at Big Sky Resort on the new Ninja Marmot jump line. PHOTO BY LIAM KESHISHIAN

Costain, along with his wife Linda, founded Terraflow Trail Systems in 2009 with the intention of creating multi-use community trails, private hiking systems and dedicated mountain bike freeride trails at locations in the Northern Rockies. Terraflow currently has 12 employees, six based out of Whitefish and six based in Big Sky, including the couple’s sons Parkin and Ladd.

Although still based out of Whitefish, Costain and Terraflow have completed numerous projects around the Big Sky area since first building a hiking trail in Moonlight Basin in 2012. In 2014, Spanish Peaks Mountain Club contracted Terraflow to build more than 9 miles of cross-country flow trail linking large tracks of green space to the South Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River and the greater Big Sky trail network.

Given the quality of his trails and versatility of his team’s abilities, Lone Mountain Land Company, Big Sky Resort, and the Big Sky Community Organization have employed Terraflow to build a trail network around the area to make the community a destination for trail-users and mountain bikers of all abilities.

“We have made a concerted effort to responsibly grow our mountain biking program and trail system the last several years,” said Chelsi Moy, public relations manager of Big Sky Resort. “I think we’ve made leaps and bounds—especially in developing our beginner and intermediate trails. … People are really starting to take notice of Big Sky as a mountain biking destination, and we could not be more pleased.”

In 2015, Terraflow completed the Mountain to Meadow trail, an iconic 6-mile roller coaster that starts at the Big Sky Resort base area and ends in Big Sky Town Center. That same year, Terraflow built two fishing access trails and completed 3 miles of trails that comprise the Ulery’s Lake and Jack Creek Nordic trails, which double as hiking and beginner biking trails in the warmer months.

In summer 2016, Terraflow finished one of the resort’s most popular lift-access trails, called Snake Charmer. Dropping eastwards off of Andesite Mountain, the first true flow trail at the resort boasts smooth berms that cascade through lodgepole pines and, according to Costain, has helped boost lift tickets sales for the resort.

Ralph’s Pass, which opened June 15, was also the work of Costain and his staff. This 2.7-mile cross-country trail—that the Big Sky Community Organization secured easements from 10 different landowners to build—provides a crucial function of connecting the Uplands trail to the Ousel Falls trailhead, linking Town Center to the First Yellow Mule Forest Service trail and the popular Ousel Falls.

After Terraflow wrapped up the Ralph’s Pass project, they built the Ninja Marmot jump line at the resort, and now they’re working on the Blue Flow trail in conjunction with Big Sky Resort’s trail crew.

“Even though the Ninja Marmot may be intimidating to many riders, in my opinion, it will be an achievable goal to many downhill riders that are mastering the jumps on Snake Charmer,” Costain said.

“The future of riding is bright in Big Sky,” he added. “All development parties seem to be in agreement that mountain biking is a key component of Big Sky’s future. We are definitely in the running with Targhee and Jackson, as evidenced by the amount of Wyoming plates in town with bikes!”