What do you do with a ski hill in the summer? Ditch the skis and boards for wheels.
Winter's end once meant the end of ski season—and a dormant ski hill—forcing recreationists to eagerly await the next dusting of snow. Now, lift-served mountain biking not only means ski areas can fill their off-seasons, but mountain bikers have easy access to more singletrack.
Only a few hours outside of Boise, McCall offers more mountain biking than its famous snow flurries and ski lodges might suggest. Serving the small mountain town is the Central Idaho Mountain Biking Association, CIMBA, which boasts 80 members, according to President Brett Shepherd.
"Overall, the mountain biking scene in McCall is still strong, despite people leaving the area and the economic struggles we've had in this area. And I think it has a lot it can do to bring visitors to the area with the trails that we do have," he said. "We have a strong set of trails up here for people to enjoy."
Founded in 1997, CIMBA offers education for new riders and spearheads trail building across the McCall area. In 2012, CIMBA hosted seven trail days, comprising an estimated 373 volunteer hours.
"We're fortunate with the Forest Service and just the people up here. There are some professional trail builders that kinda guide folks like me—who have never built a trail before—on what to do and how," said Shepherd.
Shepherd also works as IT director at Tamarack Resort—which plans to run its lifts, servicing 30 miles of trails, for special events during this summer's mountain biking season. Nearby, Brundage offers its mountain's 7,640-foot summit as a picturesque starting point for more than 20 miles of singletrack trails, crisscrossing the hillside.
According to resort spokeswoman April Russell, Brundage's easiest downhill track, Elk Trail, offers seven miles from summit to base.
"The trick is, if you've never ridden a bike off a bike path, you probably won't find it to be a beginner trail," said Russell. "But if you ride a bike up in the [Boise] Foothills, do it, for sure."
After reaching bottom, hoist your bike and your duff onto the Blue Bird quad for a speedy trip back to the summit—and the start of round two. What's more, Boise-area mountain bikers can make the quick jog to Valley County, spend the day cruising from hilltop to base, and be back in time for supper.
Fred Maupin, whose many jobs at Brundage include managing mountain bike operations, spends much of his summer doing the same. He said he's often in the bike saddle after the mountain opens for the summer.
"I usually ride every day that we're operating," said Maupin.
This year's season opens Friday, June 28—with free chairlift access offered during opening day celebrations—through Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 2.
"This year we're looking to have the whole mountain open, easily, with the quick snowmelt we've had; unlike two years ago when we opened and it was two weeks before we had trails to ride," said Maupin.
Much like the mountain's ski trails, beginner routes are marked as green on the trail map, more difficult trails as blue and the most advanced trails, with switchbacks and features for advanced riders, stand out as black lines. Maupin describes Hidden Valley and Zorro as downhill race courses, but other trails provide more cross-country riding.
"Grouse Trail, Growler and Black Bear Loop, are all more cross-country-type trails. They reach out a little bit further around the mountain, especially Black Bear Loop. That's probably our most cross-country, loop-focused trail."
Elk Trail is a popular, mature trail, according to Maupin, but features enough turns and change in elevation to keep both hardcore mountain bikers and novices interested. While a pro might traverse the seven-mile stretch in 45 minutes, families tend to take their time.
"I've seen mom and dad come up with [kids] as young as 4 or 5 years old, and spend three hours coming down that trail," he said. "The kids were giggling and happy when they got to the bottom."
Brundage also offers cross-country and downhill bike rentals for men, women and children. Giant Glory, Reign and Kona bikes are offered in the Brundage fleet, available individually as a package for prices ranging from $35-$99. Lift tickets are available based on frequency, with a summer-long lift pass available for $99.