But it’s the trails that keep the riders coming back. Green Eagle’s mellow grade belies what waits beyond. Limestone tech; resort-quality flow; vertigo-inducing ridgelines: all this, on a 2,500-acre piece of BLM land that didn’t have a mile of trail two years ago. During the 2019 season, Montana’s National Interscholastic Cycling Association league held their first event at Copper City. Hundreds of people descended on the trail system, some to ride and some to watch, many to volunteer and even more to cheer on their friends and family. On a spot of arid rangeland formerly covered in shot-up trash and not much else, the bike community grows.
And with it grows the army of volunteers that make the trails possible. While SWMMBA has contracted with professional builders to handle trail construction, nothing gets done without the countless hours of behind-the-scenes sacrifice. Lines in the dirt start as lines on a budget, long before routes are flagged and earth is moved. Parties are thrown in an effort to raise money. In-kind donations are solicited, then granted. Generous business owners add their support, and eager mountain bikers lend a hand when they have an hour or two.
The results are impressive, and nowhere more so than grinding along the Trident trail’s now-infamous shelfie rock. The Limestone grabs your tires, so traction isn’t the issue, but the crumbling seabed gently pokes and prods at your bike, knocking you off balance as you try to power up steep outcroppings, some precariously placed near sheer 40-foot drops. Cleaning the whole trail feels like an accomplishment, but then you reach its southern terminus and a series of hairpin switchbacks drop away to the gulch below. Here, even seasoned riders struggle to stay on their bikes.