Since 2012, Rushmore Bikes has had a fun time laying out, maintaining and operating 14 miles of what have become the Big Hill multi use Snow/Fat Bike Trails.
Initially the trails were started to see just how far we could take it, since no one this side of the country had done anything like it on undulating terrain. We realized how great snow riding was and wanted the sport to grow, so we cleaned out the area to operate a solid trail system in a non-motorized area close to town. It was important this was to be a professional undertaking since the Forest Service was only giving this a one year trial run to see how it went. It was also necessary to keep the trails separate from XC ski trails due to physics (not going to get into details on technicalities of any sort in this post, but I would be glad to address any questions any one may have). We also found out that the groomed trails were a great place to hike, snowshoe and bring your dog due to their extra firmness.
The trails themselves and the quality of of the trails are testament to what can be done by individuals and local business when they care about their community and apply themselves to make it a better place to live and ride (Spearfish is full of these people, if you want proof, show up to Spearfish Parks and Rec Board and City Council meetings).
Also, grooming snow seems to have become a competitive sport in itself, and that’s a good thing! Even though it got a bit ridiculous for a while.
There are more groomed winter trails in the Northern Black Hills at times than dirt trails!
It is really neat to see how this has taken off! That, in itself, is proof how much the Black Hills Community is growing in our healthy, outdoor, winter activities.
? If there are so many groomed trails now, the job is done, right?
Our idea of a good trail system is one that can be utilized regularly by the average rider yet challenging enough for an avid rider. What if you went up to your local ski area and the lifts were closed for a week or two after most snow falls? Most people would stop skiing. What if the local ski hill opened up 2 or 3 weeks a year, weather depending? It takes not only the right location along with snowfall and temps, but it also takes a lot of traction, horsepower and man hours in the middle of the night to make the trails usable. Traction, horsepower, and man hours come at a cost.
Moving forward and looking ahead
Rushmore Bikes will no longer be providing the community service and liability of grooming the Big Hill Fat Bike multi-use trails. Yes, time for us to quit hogging the fun! We will maintain the Big Hill trail system through February 2019. After that? I have some ideas and 5 year projections, who is interested? Or we just step back and see what happens.
At Rushmore Bikes, we have a handful of things we are good at. Making trails, playing in the snow, running a bicycle shop, helping to grow the cycling community from the ground up and giving away money are things we are good at as history shows. Fundraising is not.
Cost of grooming Big Hill Fat Bike Trails:
Snowmobile – 2017 Ski Doo Skandic 900 Super Wide Track $13,749.00 + 4.5% state tax = $14,367
Winch, mounts and hitches for sled, not including installation=$829
YTS 30″ compaction drag$2250 + shipping = $2500
$17,696 is the purchase amount for the proper equipment to do the job. Many of the other things needed we already had, such as wider groomers, trailers, storage and other miscellaneous tools for the job.
Over 2 seasons of using new equipment has averaged a skosh over $150 a week in maintenance/parts-costs and fuel. We do all of the labor/ maintenance to keep costs low. $2000 annually give or take. If you get new equipment every 7 years, the snowmobiles still have decent resale value and can upgraded to new, better, dependable sleds while keeping maintenance costs to a minimum.
Over the last 3 years we have received a skosh under $9000 – fees =$8200-ish in donations, mostly from trail users, the rest came from some very cool people who just supported the idea. So for the last 4 years the trails have been made and maintained at a cost to the people who donated for $2050 a year totaling $8200 over 4 years (year #1 we bought an old Skandic 550 and YTS groomer. We sold it to a local enthusiast, therefore is not included in any costs).
Last year we had 16 weeks of groomed riding. Some days were lost to new snow, but we had over 100 days of riding groomed snow trails in a year where spring came early!
From my experience, it would take approximately $6200 annually just to break even grooming trails if you sold and replaced the snowmobiles every 7 years The grooming has been done for a duration of 16 weeks a year by volunteers, including snowmobile and groomer payments. The cost could go down by almost $2k if volunteers did 100% of the mechanic work and no accidents or bad luck on a dry snow year. Expenses could easily go up $2k if everything was sent to service shops and or we had a heavy snow year.
A few groups and entities that are directly tied to our vibrant, growing, outdoor minded community, who have the opportunity to grow local outdoor winter sports:
Hotels, realtors, venture capitalists, Visit Spearfish, Spearfish Chamber, hospitals, USDA, South Dakota GF&P, grants from Spearfish city of, L-D city of, Lawrence County, and state house in Pierre would be excellent partners to team up with to maintain and improve Winter Recreation here in the Northern Black Hills. Rushmore Bikes and or the Black Hills Nordic Ski Club (we are not speaking on behalf of Ski Club, but we have the same equipment needs and utilize adjacent trails, so equipment could be mutually utilized under the right situation and agreements improving trails for all). Basically Rushmore bikes is offering to broker and facilitate groomed trails and everything involved at Big Hill, with a community partner funding it. Or just step back and organically see what happens next? Let us know if you have any new functional ideas??
Feb 28th, last day of self committed grooming by Rushmore Bikes.
?? What will the guys and gal at Rushmore Bikes do all winter after 28 Feb 2019!!??
For starters, unless a partner is found right away, our new found free time will be spent introducing new riders to the healthy lifestyle of Fat/Snow Biking. We’ll also be offering clinics and group rides for Snow Bike curious people. And yes, sometimes even grooming some trail for special rides and helping others groom after abnormally large snowfalls.
Our First annual Big Hill to Beulah group ride event will be Saturday March 2nd BIG HILL, SD to Beualah, WY, Snow/Fat Bike 21 mile ride 3 pm Departing Big Hill Parking lot. Will arrange for cars to be dropped off in Beulah Saturday morning.
Dinner in Beulah, bring cash.
Ride is mostly gradual downhill and a very moderate ride.
*”Rain date” March 3rd 9am same place. Groomed of course! Happy Trails!
505 N main St