By ROGER PHILLIPS
MCCALL, Idaho (AP) _ It’s called mountain biking for a reason. Careening down a mountain singletrack and zig-zagging through pines and aspens is the epitome of the sport. Take your eyes off the trail and there’s postcard scenery everywhere, and there are hundreds of miles of lightly used trails in the McCall area.
For the casual cyclist, there’s also a steep entrance fee to get up those mountains. Riding up them can leave you rubber-legged and lung seared, but Brundage Mountain, Jug Mountain Ranch and Tamarack offer fun and exciting trails and something better than a stiff tailwind.
All three will shuttle or let you ride lifts to gain elevation so you and gravity can decide how you get down the mountains.
Each area offers a different experience that complements the others.
Brundage is known for its long, cross-country style trails, with some modern flow elements and downhill-oriented trails thrown into the mix.
Jug Mountain has a condensed trail system with less mileage than Brundage and trails oriented toward flow-style trails with lots of bermed corners and jumps, but most of which are still beginner friendly. If you want a longer ride, link various trails together and you can still get a fun cruise through the forest and see some great scenery.
Tamarack is sort of a cross between the two.
Jug Mountain got a head start on the McCall area when it opened its shuttle-served mountain biking operations in May. It has a collection of relatively short trail sections up to about 2 miles long that make an entertaining and eclectic network. Think Eagle Bike Park built in the mountains rather than in the Foothills.
Jug Mountain runs shuttles on weekends with Idaho’s coolest shuttle rig, a giant military truck with bench seats and a bike rack.
In early June, Jug Mountain unveiled its newest trail, “Berm and Ernie,” which is a grin-inducing, mile-long downhill trail with so many banked corners it feels like you’re riding your bike down a bobsled run.
It’s well designed, so less experienced riders can “roll” the jumps and keep their tires in the dirt, while skilled riders can launch off them.
Berm and Ernie is an intermediate run, but suitable for most riders if they’re willing to walk down a few steep pitches that are hardened with rocks to prevent erosion.
Most of Jug Mountain’s trails are still beginner friendly and accessible from “Mainline,” which is a dirt road that gradually climbs up the mountain, then you break off and ride various singletrack sections downhill. Uphill riding is allowed on most trails.
Jug Mountain also has some of the most challenging free-ride/jump lines in Central Idaho. If you see a black diamond (or double-black diamond in the case of Exfoliator), don’t underestimate them, even if you’re a skilled rider. They live up to the billing, and you can expect big jumps and tricky technical sections best handled on a long-travel, full-suspension bike.
The trails are open daily, and there is no trail fee. Jug Mountain also offers bike rentals, and the Clubhouse, which features a bar, restaurant and bike rentals, is open every day except Tuesday.
And don’t worry, the Clubhouse caters to mountain bikers (even dusty ones) and golfers, and it has one of the nicest decks in Valley County. You can enjoy a meal and/or drinks and see a panoramic view of the golf course and the valley. It’s also a great place for non-riders to hang out while others are riding the trails.
For more information see Jug Mountain’s website: http://www.jugmountainranch.com/ or call 208-634-5072.
Brundage is starting its lift-served mountain biking and sightseeing June 20 _ two weeks earlier than usual _ and also adding Thursdays. Lift-served biking will run Thursdays through Sundays through Labor Day weekend.
The lifts are never close to capacity, so you don’t have to worry about reservations. Brundage also offers bike rentals and special introductory deals where you can rent an adult bike and lift ticket for as little as $50, less for kids.
Brundage will operate Smoky’s Bar and Grill during summer at the same times and dates as lift-served mountain biking, so you can enjoy a burger, beer and more on the patio at the renovated lodge, which will be the headquarters for biking this summer.
Brundage has been improving its trails in recent years by rerouting eroded or problem sections and replacing them with buff singletrack and flowy sections.
There’s a sublime 2-mile section of trail on Growler that used to be a rutted, moon-dust mess that’s now a smooth, flowing singletrack that beginners and experts will enjoy.
Crews have built a beginner-friendly section of trail near the base of the Bluebird Express chairlift. The trail has banked corners and rollers that are designed so younger or less experienced riders can practice and get a feel for what the trails on the upper mountain will be like.
In 2013, Brundage’s trail crew resurrected a half-mile stretch of the Lower Hidden Valley Trail and built wood, rock and dirt jumps, and added log rides to create action-packed flow sections. Upper Hidden Valley has always been a top-level ride with its steep rock gardens and drops. Now, the entire trail will hold the interest of expert riders.
For more information see Brundage’s website: http://brundage.com/ or call 208-634-4151
Tamarack is resuming its mountain biking program starting on the Fourth of July, with van shuttle service up the mountain that will run on weekends throughout the summer. The resort will run its lifts three times this summer during special events. It also has bike rentals that will be available when the resort opens July 4.
Tamarack’s trails are open now for riders with no trail fees. The resort has an extensive trail system that includes long, expert-level downhill runs and more cross country-oriented trails near the golf course.
The lower trails around the golf course and meadows are available now and provide lots of cross-country singletrack riding with modest elevation gain so they’re suitable for all levels of riders.
The shuttles will access about 1,700 vertical feet of the trails on the mid-mountain, which will include lots of advanced/expert terrain. Tamarack officials are advising riders to avoid those trails until they’ve been cleared and maintained for the season.
For more information see Tamarack’s website: http://tamarackidaho.com/ . Or call 208-325-1030