Most of the country has been suffering from a horrible snow year, but for many people this just means that the mountain biking season hasn’t come to an end yet! When I went home to visit family up in Wisconsin, I packed my skis because I was so stoked to hit the slopes during my annual winter trip. And there was snow on the slopes… but that was the only place that had snow, thanks to an artificial snow-making system.
I had several friends head out to Levis Mounds to mountain bike that week, and they reported back that the trails were almost completely bone-dry, save for a few small snowy patches in the shade. They’ve even posted a few videos to Youtube from their recent trail escapades:
Now I really wish that I had brought my mountain bike, too!
Many other areas of the country are having a similar winter. BendBulletin.com recently published an article about the best places to ride your mountain and/or road bike in Bend, Oregon during this incredibly dry year. According to the article, several trail systems including the Peterson Ridge Trail System and Maston Trail System are 100% free of snow and are in great riding condition!
The Boise Weekly out of Idaho recently published a short article in their recreation section entitled “Still No Snow… F*** it, Go Mountain Biking.” Apparently the trails in Boise are also in great shape, varying from frozen to tacky depending on the sunlight-to-shade ratio throughout the day.
Mountain bikers in the Northeast have been out on the trails too, according to an article on Boston.com entitled “Hey la Nina, where’d you go with our snow?” The article also cites abysmal snow conditions in the Lake Tahoe and Mammoth areas of California, Utah, and Colorado. According to the article, the only places in the country that truly have snow are Wyoming and Alaska.
And Alaska has truly been pounded! Just check out this photo from Cordova, Alaska that I saw on AK_Dan’s Facebook Profile, originally taken by Rob Campbell:
In case you’re having a hard time understanding what you’re seeing, those are the cables for a chairlift, and the metal piece sticking out of the snow is the top of the chairlift pole!
I’m sure those hardy Alaskans with their snow bikes are pushing the pedals anyway, though!
In the southern US, from the East Coast all the way to the West, we generally enjoy a 12-month riding season, so our tires have been rolling along like normal, although with slightly higher-than-average temperatures.
Since there is not snow on the ground to deter riders in many areas, trail advocacy groups all over the country are kindly asking that, while there are great opportunities to ride singletrack this winter, please exercise common sense and don’t ride wet trails. Please only ride trails when they are either dry or fully frozen! Riding soggy, wet trails can cause incredible trail damage, and this time of year the ruts you can make will freeze in place and will remain for many weeks (and even months) to come.
As one of the articles linked above mentions, riding through wet areas causes ruts, and riding around them widens the beautifully-narrow singletrack trail. If you encounter mud, please turn around.
If the trails are wet, it is the perfect time to go out and explore your local back roads! Many areas are blessed with extensive networks of unpaved forest roads that wind all through the mountains. While somewhat monotonous by mountain biking standards, riding dirt/gravel roads is much more fun than freezing through the high speeds of road riding. If you’re lucky, some of your local back roads may be passable only by 4×4′s… and mountain bikes! If you’ve got technical back roads, winter is the perfect time to go out and explore them! When dry trails return this spring and summer, you can jump back on the singletrack in earnest. But for now, if the trails are wet, please exercise restraint!
But hey, if conditions are dry, get out there and shred some mid-winter singletrack!
Your turn: Are you still pushing the pedals in your neck of the woods?