Marquette among best biking towns

Amanda Monthei

The Marquette silent sports community has been recognized by two separate national organizations over the past few weeks, most recently with a position in the top eight mountain biking communities nationwide in an article done by but featured by USA Today on the afternoon of Tuesday, Oct. 8.

Ellen Holmes, top, a senior marketing major, and Andi Shepard, an environmental studies senior, enjoy the intersection of two trails in Marquette. (Amanda Monthei NW)
Ellen Holmes, top, a senior marketing major, and Andi Shepard, an environmental studies senior, enjoy the intersection of two trails in Marquette. (Amanda Monthei NW) did a top-10 list of mountain biking communities, which included Bend, Ore., Louisville, Ky. and Harrisburg, Va., while USA Today reduced the list to the top-eight communities.

In description of the Marquette biking community, the area was referred to as a “mini mountain biking Mecca,” and was also given the distinction of being the “[British Columbia] of the Midwest,” due to the rugged terrain and old-growth forest present in Upper Peninsula wilderness.

According to the director of the Noquemenon Trail Network (NTN) Nicole Dewald, the terrain and accessibility of NTN and other Marquette trail systems is what makes them distinct from other trails systems in the Midwest and nation.

“What makes the Marquette trails unique is the fact that you can ride out of a hotel or your backdoor and within 15 minutes, you can be on the South or North Trails, enjoying the woods and trees,” Dewald said. “Again, our community really embraces this, a lot of our bike paths have been designed to actually reach these destinations — you can take a bike path to the single tracks.

“The other thing that makes us really unique is the type of terrain that we have here. There are good descents and hill climbs here, and I think the topography of the rock makes the trails very unique.”

NMU liberal studies senior Lucas Murray, who has been riding in Marquette since he began attending NMU in 2009, said he thinks the amount of events and the dedication of the mountain biking community in Marquette also helps make the mountain biking scene unique and noteworthy.

“I think it’s good that Marquette is getting recognized after all the hard work of NTN and the freeride guys,” Murray said. “It takes a serious amount of time and dedication to do what they do — the trails are well-maintained, NTN and those guys do a good job of keeping those trails well maintained, and there’s a wide variety of different riding you can do here. People do cross-country, downhill, hit jumps, you can do whatever kind of mountain biking you want to do in Marquette.”

Murray, also a member of the NMU organization Northern Spokes, will be traveling this weekend with the club to enjoy another widely-acclaimed U.P. mountain biking destination — Copper Harbor.

“There’s world-class mountain biking in the Midwest,” he said. “People that know about mountain biking usually think of big places like Whistler (British Columbia, Can.), Moab (Utah), places like that, when there’s like really good riding here.”

According to Dewald, the the NTN has put a lot of resources toward expanding the trail systems and bettering current trails.

“We’ve probably doubled our number of trails that are available, we have also spent a significant amount of money on signing the trails and in maintenance and upkeep due to erosion,” she said. “What we do is follow all International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) standards, so I think that has helped with our recognition. I also think that the support of the community has helped with recognition of local events.”

Marquette was also recently recognized in the Top-15 best ski towns in the “Big East” in Powder Magazine’s annual Ski Town Throwdown. The ranking came as part of a bracket competition to find the best ski towns in the country (simliar to March Madness bracketing) in four main regions — The Great White North (Canadian and Alaskan resorts), the Far West (West coast and Pacific Northwest resorts), Rock Mountain West and The Big East.

Mount Bohemia, in the Keweenaw Peninsula south of Copper Harbor, received the top position in the Big East bracket, with Smuggler’s Notch, Vt.. taking second.