By Bay Stephens
EBS Staff Writer
BIG SKY – The area’s trails will connect as never before during the Big Sky Biggie 50- and 30-mile mountain bike races Saturday, Aug. 25, followed by a spectator-friendly short-track race on Sunday to round out the weekend’s competition.
Beginning and ending in Town Center, the 30- and 50-mile races will hit local favorites such as the Ridge Trail above the North Fork drainage, the classic Mountain to Meadow trail that flows from Big Sky Resort to Town Center, and on newer trails including Ralph’s Pass. The 50-miler will also include the First and Second Yellow Mule trails leading to the top of Buck Ridge and a total course elevation gain of 9,000 feet.
Event organizer Natalie Osborne was inspired to put the event on as a fundraiser for the Big Sky Community Organization, which is responsible for building and maintaining many of the local trails. An avid bike racer, Osborne was surprised a mountain bike race of this caliber didn’t exist in southwest Montana when she moved here from Alaska in 2015.
“It’s a lot of work to be able to have a course of this length, simply because we have so much private land,” she said. “I understand why it hasn’t been done before, but I just don’t think that’s a reason not to do it.”
To make the race a reality, Osborne and Ciara Wolfe, BSCO executive director, navigated nine different user agreements with private property owners, associations and businesses that manage tracts of land that the course traverses.
Wolfe said in an email that it was like a giant puzzle. “Fortunately, we have strong relationships with all of the major land managers in the area and we hold mutual respect for the goals of the community, the land owners themselves and the various recreation users,” she said. “Working through the routes took a lot of listening and adjusting to ensure we were respecting the land owners’ desires while also providing a high quality trail experience for the athletes.”
Wolfe hopes the races will foster a positive image of the Big Sky mountain biking community, allow the trail system more exposure to new and visiting individuals, and provide an annual revenue stream to aid BSCO in building additional trails in alignment with its Master Trails Plan.
Osborne plans to upload full course map files a day or two before the event so athletes don’t pre-ride sections on private land that won’t open until race day. Maps for pre-riding the public segments of trail are available on the website now.
After the big races on Saturday, Osborne hopes riders will stick around for the short-track race on Sunday, which she said will be an exciting and easy-to-watch race in which bikers do as many laps as possible on the 1-mile single- and double-track loop in 20 minutes, before a “bell lap” sprint to the finish line.
Osborne and Wolfe are both anticipating the inaugural event, and Wolfe said she’s especially grateful for Osborne’s hard work: “She came up with this dream and has dedicated hundreds of volunteer hours to make it happen, all for the benefit for Big Sky’s trail system.”
With up to 300 riders, the Biggie is poised to burn in Big Sky’s trails and make way for future trails.
Visit bigskybiggie.com to view the racecourse maps, a schedule of events and registration information.