With nearly 500 miles of trail ranging from buffed-out, buttery single-track to root-and-rock staircases and butt-puckering cliff drops, locals know that the Flathead Valley is home to some of the best mountain biking in the country.
But do they know why?
It’s easy to take an extensive network of high-quality trails and top-notch design for granted, as well as the regular maintenance and easy access, especially in the midst of an adrenaline-soaked rip through the woods. But the dedication of local groups and volunteers committed to creating, preserving and increasing the amount of trails available to riders in the regions deserves recognition.
Chief among the groups leading the charge of local trail development and maintenance is the Flathead Area Mountain Bikers, a nonprofit group dedicated to trail work, advocacy, education, and riding bikes. One prominent aspect of the group’s mission has been the network of technical trails webbing Spencer Mountain west of Whitefish.
For nearly two decades, the best freeride mountain biking in the valley took place on an illicit network of trails and technical features, all of which were subject to removal as the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation moved forward with a pair of timber sales.
Five years ago, Flathead Area Mountain Bikers (FAMB), in conjunction with the city of Whitefish and Whitefish Legacy Partners, helped legitimize the Spencer Mountain area to ensure the trails not only remained open, but they received a significant makeover.
The Whitefish City Council sanctioned Spencer Mountain by issuing a 10-year recreational use license, legitimizing 15 miles of trail and monetizing the land by allowing the DNRC to generate revenues for State School Trust Lands through the timber sales, while the nonprofit group Whitefish Legacy Partners raise the money to pay the annual recreation use fees.
Although the city took ownership of the trails under the arrangement, FAMB serves as the responsible maintenance entity. The group’s members were responsible for rebuilding most of the existing trails, like Spooky Pete’s, Otter Pop, Malice in Plunderland, Maple Syrup, and Flowfactory.
The recreational use license added seven miles of freeride trails and eight miles of natural surface trails to the 2,500-acre Spencer Mountain area.
Three years ago, FAMB received a $25,000 grant from the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ Recreational Trails Program, providing the funding to accomplish the necessary initial trail work, install new signage, and improve the parking lot.
While Spencer continues to be a work in progress as FAMB members gather at the Twin Bridges Trailhead every Thursday evening to perform trail maintenance, the organization has expanded its reach by spearheading a suite of new projects.
One new project nearing completion is construction of the Armory Park Pump Track, which is similar to a scaled-down BMX track. The Armory Park Pump Track will feature rollers, small jumps and banked turns, allowing riders to carry speed through the looped course without pedaling, propelling themselves by shifting their body weight, or “pumping” through the track’s contours.
FAMB members have also coordinated to host a variety of clinics aimed at bike advocacy and improving skills. Throughout the spring and summer FAMB has arranged a series of women’s clinics and kids’ clinics, as well as work evenings, group rides and fundraisers. For a complete schedule, visit the organization’s website at flatheadamb.org.
The group has also completed extensive work on the trails at Whitefish Mountain Resort, including buffing out the vaunted top-to-bottom freeride trail Runaway Train, and rebuilding the Summit Trail.
FAMB is also working with the Flathead National Forest to organize trail days in the Tally Lake area, including brushing back trails and fixing eroded sections of the scenic trail system.
With mountain biking season well underway, Flathead Fat Tires will be holding fundraising events and looking for volunteers to help improve trails. Anyone interested in making a donation or volunteering should contact the group on its website at flatheadamb.org.
2018 FAMB Events and Clinics
May 24: Trail Work at Spencer Freeride, Twin Bridges Trailhead, 6 p.m.
May 30: FAMB Women’s Clinic on Switchbacks, 6 p.m., Whitefish Bike Retreat
June 5: FAMB Women’s Clinic on Technical Terrain, 6 p.m., Spencer Freeride
June 7: Whitefish Mountain Resort Trail Work, 6 p.m., Whitefish Mountain Resort
June 10: FAMB Kids Skills Clinic, 10 a.m., Herron Park
June 19: Glacier Cyclery FAMB Courtyard Party, 6 p.m., Glacier Cyclery and Nordic
July 15: FAMB Kids Skills Clinic, 10 a.m., Whitefish Bike Retreat
Aug. 12: FAMB Kids Skills Clinic, 10 a.m., Herron Park
Sept. 16: Kids Skills Clinic, 10 a.m., Armory Park
Oct. 7: FAMB Kids Skills Clinic, 10 a.m., Herron Park