Spring on the Mountain

Spring on the Mountain

A low-snow winter has meant that mountain bikers, not skiers, have been getting all the downhill action.

"The snow level is higher this year," says Sue Roussel, co-owner of Ashland Mountain Adventures. "I pretty much have not missed one day of riding."

Other than a brief snowstorm in December that snarled traffic on the valley floor, bicyclists have had their pick of mountain trails much of the time, including the high-elevation, adrenaline-soaked Time Warp Trail that drops from the slopes of Mount Ashland.

"It's been a great year, a great winter for riding, which means the competition for the Spring Thaw (race) will really be amazing," Roussel theorizes. "Because I'm sure people will have been training all winter long."

The 23rd annual Spring Thaw — directed by Sue and Bill Roussel — will be held on May 17-18. In the past, they've had to plow parts of the course for downhill riders. This year, by contrast, they are negotiating with the U.S. Forest Service to add the little-used, higher-elevation Eastview Trail to the course, one that is currently snow-free.

Ashland Mountain Adventures will soon begin its shuttle service — from Ashland to the Mt. Ashland Ski Area parking lot — for riders eager to prepare for the Spring Thaw.

Lack of snow also means less mud. Trails will be less slick early in the year, which is good news for riders hoping to attend a women's mountain bike clinic to be taught Saturday, April 12, by Andrea Napoli, a pro cyclist who recently moved to Ashland.

Napoli, the 2011 National Downhill Collegiate Women's Champion, will teach downhill riding skills at the intermediate level.

"Sometimes a lot of women think — especially for the descending part — that you have to be really aggressive, it's dangerous ... that's not necessarily the case," Napoli explains. "I think that's what's really great about taking a clinic — it gives you the skills to be confident and relaxed. Those are the best things you can have when you're riding and mountain biking."

The clinic will begin above Ashland at the White Rabbit Trailhead and cover such skills as cornering, body positioning and where to look as you're descending. Drops and jumps may also be covered.

If your goal is to race, from a Category 5 to a pro like Napoli, the first thing you'll need to do is join the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association, OBRA.

"You cannot race — at least around here — without an OBRA license," says Jana Jensen, owner of Cycle Analysis in Jacksonville. "You enter as a beginner or novice. "¦ When you show consistent improvement and wins, then they move you up in the rankings."

Jensen sees a lot of bike racers at her store. Cycle Analysis is the meeting place for the longest-standing weekly group ride in the Rogue Valley. Every Wednesday — year round — at 6 p.m., mountain bikers leave from Cycle Analysis for a two-hour ride in the Jacksonville Woodlands or farther up in the John's Peak area.

Although these weekly rides have cut through plenty of snow in years past, the challenge this year has been limited to the cold.

"They've come back with their water frozen in their water bottles," says Jensen. "They're pretty hardy souls."

The rides, Jensen says, appeal to riders of all skill levels. The more skilled riders will wait at trail intersections to make sure nobody gets lost or left behind.

For beginner riders, Jensen recommends the loop trail around Applegate Lake, an 18-mile jaunt with modest hills.

Even closer to Jacksonville is the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail, which — with the exception of two challenging hills — is flat.

A new trail is soon to be constructed above Jacksonville on land owned by the Oregon Motorcycle Riders Association, says Lewis Hollingworth, president of the Rogue Valley Mountain Biking Association — RVMBA — and owner of Unreal Cycles in Central Point.

RVMBA members will provide the labor for the new trail.

"It's a multi-use trail but will be built with a certain grade that appeals to mountain bikers," Hollingworth explains. "It comes out on the Boundary Trail."

RVMBA has capitalized on the relatively dry trail conditions this winter to get an early start on trail maintenance, from a January work day in Jacksonville to a March 15 event where 35 people turned out to get the Catwalk Trail above Ashland ready for the Spring Thaw race.

For more information on the Rogue Valley Mountain Biking Association, see

Daniel Newberry is a freelance writer living in the Applegate Valley. Email him at

Note: The original version of this story mentioned that some mountain bikers have been riding the Wagner Butte trail because of the low-snow year. The Forest Service trail is for hiking only and is closed to bicycles.

Share This Story