By Tyler Allen EBS Managing Editor
BIG SKY – The opportunities for mountain bikers in Big Sky have expanded dramatically over the last few years, and during the last weekend of August the Big Sky Biggie race will celebrate the extensive miles of trails in the area.
Featuring both a 30- and 50-mile race on Saturday, Aug. 25, the event will host up to 300 competitors with registration opening Thursday, Feb. 15, at 10 a.m. The weekend will also feature a Kids Stryder Bike Race and a short-track race, both held in Big Sky Town Center.
Event organizer Natalie Osborne moved here from Alaska in 2015 with her husband Dr. Phil Hess, the medical director of Big Sky Medical Center, and the pair shares a passion for recreating in the mountains. Osborne sees a lot of potential for Big Sky to rival some of North America’s premier mountain biking destinations like Sun Valley, Idaho, Breckenridge, Colorado, and Fernie and Nelson in British Columbia.
“The first summer we were here we were very fortunate to be introduced to people who introduced us to the local trails,” Osborne said. “I really want Big Sky to be a year-round destination. I see a lot of progress here, but we’ve noticed a lot of pockets of great trails [that are] not connected very well. If Big Sky wants to become a mountain biking destination, we need to connect these pockets of trails.”
She and Hess travel the West each summer to a number of 50-mile bike races—and the occasional 100-miler—and Osborne says she pays attention to how the courses are designed, marvels at the community support the races receive and how race directors organize their particular events.
Osborne approached Ciara Wolfe, Big Sky Community Organization’s executive director, and told Wolfe she wanted to host a fundraiser for BSCO and its efforts to increase trail connectivity in the area. “[Wolfe] has been incredible about getting all the landowners on board,” Osborne said.
Those landowners include private residents, as well as Big Sky Resort, Big Sky Town Center, Lone Mountain Land Co., Lone Mountain Ranch and the U.S. Forest Service. Osborne is working with seven different user agreements, whereas most of the races she attends are held entirely on Bureau of Land Management lands, or one piece of private land, like a ski resort.
The Forest Service has been especially supportive, she said, since there are very few mountain bike races held on public land in southwest Montana. The race will use the Ridge Trail near the North Fork drainage, as well as First and Second Yellow Mule trails that connect the Big Sky meadow to the top of Buck Ridge.
“I think the Forest Service was hoping someone would come forward and want to do this,” Osborne said. “It creates a need to maintain the trails that already exist.” She added that the Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association has the authority to host trail-work days on First Yellow Mule—which has drainage issues at the top—but needed a good reason to make them happen. And, she added, “There’s no better way to burn in a new trail than a race.”
Visit bigskybiggie.com to view the racecourse maps, a schedule of events and registration information.