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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!

Other Regions

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!

Common Sense

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?

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# Comments

  • trek7k

    Yeah, the mountain biking has been great all year, except for the rain which seems to come only on Tuesday nights during my regular night ride. 🙂

    I’m heading to Utah for Outdoor Retailer and some skiing later this month but perhaps I should be looking into renting a mountain bike as well… Hey SLC peeps, are there any decent trails that are dry right now I should check out?

  • Danno#1

    So true! I had a chance to ride with friends at Levis Mounds the last couple of weekends. It’s a little over 1.5 hr drive from where I’m at but it’s so worth it to get on the trails again. I posted up a video edit as well showing the conditions. Levis also has a great indoor shelter at its main trailhead that makes life easier.

  • fleetwood

    Yup, still riding in the RVA. Got a little wet patch right now, but should be dried up by the weekend.

  • ricknorman

    As of a week ago I was still riding and it was completely dry. I actually have a post from the day after Christmas and the day after New Years on my blog (rockymountainbiking.blogspot.com), but it has since snowed here in Utah. I believe it will be ridable this Saturday when I get a chance as long as it doesn’t snow too much more, but it will be on frozen trail and hard packed snow patches. I would expect we will get more snow over the next couple weeks though.

  • arizonaglider

    In southern Arizona I’ve able to ride most days this winter unless it’s really windy and those days have been pretty rare so far.

  • BalticSkier

    I think is great (Massachusetts) skiing on machine made snow one day and riding my favorite local MTB trails the next in January. The temperature swings are crazy, but the roads are clear, no salt to damage my ski box on the roof and bike rack on the back. I can now ride thru frozen muddy trails that were off-limits before.

  • Thornburger

    @mtbgreg1, up here in New England we normally only have the option of mud or frozen mud, I prefer the non-frozen but we take what we can get up here. This is also why are singletrack trails aren’t great.

    I’ve been riding up until the other day when my SS chain snapped and now I’m doing some indoor rock climbing and skiing while I wait for my chains to come in.

  • stumpyfsr

    Completely agree with You, mtbgreg1, frozen trails give way more traction then muddy and less after-ride cleaning 🙂
    I rode frozen Levis Mounds too a few weeks ago and was impressed how different those trails feel.

  • skibum

    Colorado Springs is in the worst of both worlds–no snow in the mountains=lousy skiing and just enough snow down here in town to really screw up the trails. Mud everywhere, hidden patches of completely frictionless ice around most corners or on unexposed (wooded and/or north-facing) trails make for really dicey riding. I refuse to ride on muddy trails and really don’t like ice (snowpack is okay).

    Not complaining, though, we had the best of both worlds last year with record snowfalls in the mountains, fresh powder every day and warm dry temps at the lower elevations for pretty much nonstop excellent riding conditions throughout.

    It all goes in cycles. I’m using the current bad cycle to learn guitar.

  • Trailbird

    What a difference a year makes! Last year we were up to our junk in snow. This year? Dry and mild. Unfortunately, my season ended last weekend when I lost it on a patch of ice and split my knee open like an orange thrown against the wall. At least the bones held together.

  • mtbgreg1

    @trek7k, I hope you have fun in Utah!!

    @Stumpyfsr, yeah, they’re really something special. It took me moving to 3 other states to realize how good I had it back at home! I’m not really complaining, just an observation about HOW GREAT those trails are for being located in central wisconsin!

    @skibum, ah that does sound rough! I hope things turn around for you this winter.

    @trailbird, I know what you mean!! Craziness.

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