Big Sky Life

How The Mountain To Meadow Trail Became Legendary

When the original Mountain to Meadow trail opened in 2015, it was deemed pretty darn great. It turned out that connecting the ski area to Town Center via mildly bermed singletrack was a good idea. In short order, what was conceived as a multi-use trail was quickly adopted by mountain bikers—and pretty much only mountain bikers. “It didn’t take long for people to realize it was an incredible bike trail,” says Pete Costain, who designed M2M and oversaw construction on behalf of Lone Mountain Land Company through the business he founded—Terraflow Trails. “Mountain bikers made it their own. It was a fun ride.”

The Mountain to Meadow story could have ended there, if not for happenstance. A new development was going in between town and the ski hill, and about 80 percent of M2M was going to be erased. The Lone Mountain Land Company, in partnership with the Big Sky Community Organization which oversees the trail network, saw this not as a problem but as an opportunity, and was promptly back on the phone with Costain and Terraflow. “Pete, we need a reroute,” was what they said. “Oh, and we’re creating a permanent easement on some Spanish Peaks land to make it happen.”

For trail builders, reroutes are improvements. Knowing that the original M2M had been embraced by mountain bikers, Pete was free to design version two as a purist’s, purpose-built, directional mountain bike trail. The new M2M would be even more accessible to less skilled riders, but it would also feature what Pete calls “sniper lines,” little spurs with kickers and drops to satisfy experts. Because it was a directional trail—no uphill traffic on the obvious descent—it could be ridden at a range of speeds. On the roller coaster flats you could pump yourself back up to top speed.

“If you’re trying to create a destination worthy trail, it should really stand out. It shouldn’t be just more legacy-style singletrack.”

Pete Costain, Owner of Terraflow Trails
Parkin Costain buffing some beautiful dirt.
Parkin Costain buffing some beautiful dirt. Photograph by Pete Costain

All this is in keeping with the types of trails Terraflow builds around Montana and Washington State. Some people describe them as “backcountry flow” trails. By design they incorporate natural trail elements like rocks and roots, but in other sections the trails also include the type of machine-built berms you might find at a ski area bike park. You can roll the jumps if you like, or send them. It’s a rollicking mashup of old-school and new.

“If you’re trying to create a destination worthy trail, it should really stand out,” says Pete. “It shouldn’t be just more legacy-style singletrack. Mountain bikers want to feel as though they’re being catered to. I’m a huge fan of directional trails like Mountain to Meadow. The negative is that a community like Big Sky has to raise more funds to also build trails for hikers and walkers. But new bike technology and the popularity of mountain biking mean that most people are riding really fast now. You want the confidence to know that you aren’t going to come upon a hiker or a horseback rider on their way up.”

Trailwork equals long days. Photograph by Pete Costain
Stacking rock outside of a berm. Photograph by Pete Costain

“We thankfully manage a lot of the land so we can give the easements, and we work with the other property owners.”

Bayard Dominick, Lone Mountain Land Company’s Vice President of Planning & Development
Destination riders expect bermed turns. Photograph by Pete Costain
“Teamwork makes the dream work.”—Pete Costain. Photograph by Pete Costain
The jumps are there if you want them. Or just roll. Photograph by Pete Costain

On public lands, this type of new trail construction takes years. Bayard Dominick, Lone Mountain Land Company’s Vice President of Planning and Development says, “We thankfully manage a lot of the land so we can give the easements, and we work with other property owners. We’ve been really successful gaining access and moving quickly with trails.”

And they aren’t done yet. Pete’s crew just roughed in a new section to Uplands that will be perfect in the spring after the winter snow compacts it. “The more trails and public open space that we can fit in the better,” he says. “With a little bit of pedaling you can now ride from Moonlight to Mountain to Meadow and continue on all the way down to the high school.”

Which gets us back to why the new Mountain to Meadow trail is earning legendary status in Montana and beyond. Pete built the trail in sections (old and new) with natural stopping points that make you gather with friends and scream, “That was sick!” But ultimately, it’s the connection itself that is seeing mountain bikers from around the region seek out this standout trail.

“They rip the trail and then they catch live music. It’s what a mountain community is all about.”

Pete Costain, Owner of Terraflow Trails
Photograph by Jonathan Finch

“On Thursday evenings in summer,” says Pete, “you see people up from Bozeman, or from town riding or shuttling to the start of Mountain to Meadow. Riders rip the trail to catch live music in Town Center. It’s what a mountain community is all about. Just watching people having this much fun is rewarding. It’s the reason why the Lone Mountain Land Company is commissioning this work.”

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