By Mario Carr EBS CONTRIBUTOR
This Saturday, 720 riders will take on the Big Sky Biggie, with at least 300 of them being first timers. The previous record total was 408 riders. The event includes 15-, 30- and 60-mile courses.
“The challenge is what I think attracts people, and it’s a part of the culture of this race,” Natalie Osborne, race director for the Big Sky Biggie, told EBS.
Osborne and her core crew of just three other people have been meeting all year and working every day this week preparing for the big event. Part of that preparation includes getting out there to set the 60-mile course, a task that they will tackle on Thursday and Friday. The course has changed slightly every year, and this year the largest change has been the switching of First and Second Yellow Mule for their 60-mile course. Competitors will now be climbing First Yellow Mule rather than descending, a switch that Osborne said was quite fortuitous.
“There’s a huge trench in the upper meadow of First Yellow Mule. It’s a section of trail that doesn’t get a lot of love or maintenance from the forest service… So it’s gonna be kind of a mandatory hike-a-bike, but it’s better that they’re gonna be climbing up it… I think the fact that we reversed it this year is a really good thing, unbeknownst to us when we decided that,” Osborne said.
Osborne is also very pleased with the condition of Second Yellow Mule for the descent, and is grateful for the community members that have volunteered to maintain that section.
The Yellow Mules are a large part of this course but this is called the Biggie for a reason. There’s still about 40 miles of trail to tackle before competitors even reach that point, and Osborne encourages riders to remember that they will still have “a good grunty section on Ralph’s before they’re done.”
Those competing in the 60-mile event will work their way from Town Center to what Osborne calls the “Moonlight Loop” and then down the new “Mountain to Meadow” trail that just opened up this summer, and cut through some of the exciting single track trails in the Spanish Peaks Mountain Club area, all before tackling the Mules.
Since 2018 when this event started, Osborne has worked hard to formulate the best course year after year. While she was training for the “Breck Epic” race, she was searching for 50-60 mile routes here in Big Sky, and the Biggie was born.
“I think to do well on any of our courses, whether it’s 60 [miles], 30, or 15, you obviously have to be able to climb at elevation, but you have to have strong descending skills,” Osborne explained when asked how the long descents factor into the challenge of this race.
After the race, Aspen Leaf Drive will be closed down for a party in Town Center. As the race has grown Osborne says that it has been a challenge to grow the after party.
“It’s a little tough because we don’t allow overnight parking and overnight camping in Town Center, and there’s not a lot of options for people to RV camp except for in the canyon… That’s probably one of the biggest challenges we have with getting people to come and stay in Big Sky,” Osborne said.
But this year Osborne says that there will be even more vendors and encourages the community to come out and celebrate with the competitors.
Osborne also hopes that people will be reminded that this is a community event and that riders of all skill levels will be competing. At the time of writing, there’s still a few spots left for the 15- and 30-mile courses. Aside from competing, community members are encouraged to get out and cheer for the riders as they tackle this challenge.
“We have people of all skill levels and ages riding… The majority of our participants aren’t trying to win or even place,” Osborne said. “They are taking it on as a challenge. Something to train for all summer, something to look forward to, and something to conquer… And it really is meant to be a very inclusive, family-friendly event.”