As lifts stop turning around the state and spring corn gives way to slush and sod, the typical off-season question comes back to the fore: “what now?” An overwhelming number of possibilities sit in front of anyone in the market for some fresh and socially distant air. The high peaks still hold deep alpine snowpacks, the sunny southern-facing crags beg for a new coat of chalk and pools are filling back up with paddlers practicing their rolls. Unfortunately, in the vernacular of the two-wheel trail travelers, spring spells mud season—and mud means mayhem.
Luckily, a spring sanctuary lays just forty minutes down the road in the high desert paradise of Copper City. With 28 miles of trails and 5,600 feet of downhill descent options (plus a healthy dose of climbing to keep the Strava friends happy), Copper City offers great mountain biking for riders ranging from newcomers to experts.
For those looking to go big, Neversweat and Merry Widow are in and ready to rip (so long as they have a day or two to dry after recent weather). Boss Tweed offers more moderate features for those looking to learn the basics, keep all their teeth in their mouth (at least for now) and get used to following the flow. Just make sure not to bite off more than you can chew and wind up off-trail, as damage to the surrounding vegetation threatens access for all riders.
While most of the trails are ready and eager to see new tracks, a handful of north-facing trails (Mother Lode and Destroying Angel) still hold snow and mud. Keep in mind that riding through the mud creates a disaster for other riders once it dries, and destroys the beautifully groomed trails that volunteers work so hard to maintain. The Southwest Montana Mountain Biking Association (SWMMBA) posts trail conditions to their website at southwestmontanamba.org/copper-city.
If you still don’t have anyone to ride with, Thursday, April 8,f at Copper City marks the start of SWMMBA’s seasonal Thursday evening rides. No registration is required—just show up at the Green Eagle trailhead with a bike, water and some “post-ride refreshments” at 6:00 p.m., and meet some new partners to get out and get rippin’ with.
SWMMBA also holds trail maintenance events for anyone looking to volunteer and get in a little cross-training/manual labor. The first event will be on Saturday, April 19, at Lewis and Clark State Park (more information is available at southwestmontanamba.org/trail-maintenance).
While these events help keep the community alive and the trails smooth, the most important action any rider can take is reining in the stoke until the trails are ready. Stay up to date on the trail conditions and walk — don’t ride — through the mud if there’s no other choice. And, keep in mind that it won’t be long ‘til late-day Leverich laps, Triple Tree time trials and Cottonwood creek crossings come back and the warm days of summer stay around for good.