Sports

A Legacy of Big Air

Legacy Bike Park sold out each day of opening weekend as riders flocked to the Northwest’s newest downhill destination

By Micah Drew
A biker sails through a turn at Legacy Bike Park on July 16, 2021. JP Edge | Flathead Beacon

Last year, Marty Beale, an avid mountain biker and partner at Mindful Designs, approached his business partners with a crazy idea he had concocted while driving back from a mountain biking trip at Whistler Resort. 

“I kept thinking about what it would be like if there was a similar gravity park in the U.S.,” he said. “Some amazing trails in the woods with good people … what about something like that in Montana?”

For the whole drive back from British Columbia to Whitefish, Beale continued thinking about what it would take for a similar destination bike park to exist in the Flathead Valley, but never really thought about doing it himself until it was already happening. 

“I put together a spreadsheet, I found a piece of property that had a lot of checkmarks, and they encouraged me to pursue it,” Beale said. 

The property he found is 500 acres southwest of Lakeside, accessible by a two-mile dirt road that meanders up into the mountains. 

The first thing Beale did when he got started was call up Pete Costain, a riding buddy and the owner of trail building company Terraflow. 

“We started walking the land together and he got as excited as I was,” Beale said. “It added legitimacy in my mind and that started the partnership.”

Eventually Pete, his wife Linda, Beale and his partners at Mindful Designs went all in on creating the Legacy Bike Park. 

“We’re just a group of overexcited overachievers,” Beale said. “We love to be outside and we love to share the stoke.” 

Mountain bikers at Legacy Bike Park. JP Edge | Flathead Beacon

Less than a year after the land was purchased, the Legacy Bike Park opened to the public on July 15 and was sold out throughout the weekend. 

The park currently consists of 13 trails, a mixture of flow trails and jump lines ranging from a half mile to two miles long, with one climbing trail. The park operates primarily as a gravity park and riders are shuttled, 20 at a time, from the parking lot to the top of the trail system.  

“This is just something very unique, but it’s obviously something that area’s been wanting,” bike park manager Sarah Maloney said on the second day of operations. “We’re getting people from all walks of life — we had a 5-year-old kid ride yesterday and people are coming from all over to ride.”

 On July 16, among the 80 riders the bike park accommodated were several groups from Bozeman, riders from Washington and Las Vegas and a horde of locals. 

“We camped up here last night, and the overall idea is so cool,” said Mike Antonczyk of Bozeman. “This is a flowy, jumpy bike park. It’s really just a big modern bike park.”

“It’s a true Montana experience, right?” Antonczyk continued. “You drive down a dirt road, you think you’re going to get murdered in the middle of nowhere and then there’s world-class recreation.”

The park has 34 camping sites available, allowing riders to wake up with the sun and start riding. Currently, the park’s trails only cover a fraction of the overall property, offering ample room to expand in the future, albeit at a slower rate than the initial construction. 

“It was an insane amount of work,” Costain said. “I think people would look at [what we built] and think of it as a one- to two-year buildout. Our flagship jump line would be a one-year build on its own and we did it in a month.”

Costain and his company Terraflow started work on the trail system last fall, but quickly ran into bad weather and bedrock, and paused until this spring. The time off the ground gave Costain extra time to design the best possible layout for the park. 

“I can visualize the lines in the forest,” said Costain, who has built trails on Big Mountain and at Big Sky Resort. “You need to lay out the trail for all the different abilities, use the natural features to your advantage.”

A biker takes a jump at Legacy Bike Park’s soft opening on July 15, 2021. JP Edge | Flathead Beacon

As it’s currently built, the 13 trails cover a full spectrum of difficulty levels from easy flow trails to double black big air jump lines. 

“We’ve made it clear that even just experienced cross country riders will find a lot that they can ride up here — you don’t have to be comfortable hucking yourself off a jump,” Maloney said. “As a whole, the trail system covers all abilities, and any gaps there are will be filled in next season.”

The initial plan was not to open the bike park this year, but the combination of overstoked overachievers kept the work going at a feverish pace. 

Just after midnight on July 15, Costain and one of his crewmembers were still on machines tying together sections of the easiest trail, Bottoms Up. They were back at it at 6 a.m. on opening day, and the trail was officially ridable by noon. 

“Honestly, being on the machine that first day and watching people whoop and holler coming out the bottom of the trails was amazing,” Costain said. 

Beale says the park has already surpassed any dreams he had when he was driving back from Whistler. 

“We managed to get something out to the local community, and anyone who wants to come and enjoy it can do that,” Beale said. “I know I’ll be camping here riding every free moment I get.”

Legacy Bike Park is open Friday through Monday and plans to operate until Oct. 17, weather permitting. For tickets or to learn more visit www.legacybikepark.com.

A biker flies through a jump at Legacy Bike Park on July 16, 2021. JP Edge | Flathead Beacon

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.