Originally published Friday, April 27, 2018 at 06:04a.m.

PRESCOTT — Epic Rides president Todd Sadow realizes that race promoters who don’t adapt to the evolving landscape in mountain biking are bound to fall off the proverbial map.

Perhaps that’s why he’s taken proactive steps to ensure that the course for the Whiskey Off-Road, now in its 15th year, maintains its freshness for riders so they will continue coming here.

Over the past year, Sadow agreed to help generate money for Prescott Mountain Bike Alliance, or PMBA, to either refurbish or build new trails in an area called Spence Basin, southwest of Iron Springs Road near Emmanuel Pines Camp. The hope is that portions of trails there will be incorporated into the Whiskey’s courses in future years.

Through the Hail the Trail program, now in its second year, Sadow believes this mission can be achieved “for the longevity of the event.” The goal is to raise $10,000 for PMBA in 2018.

“The expectation is, together, we’re going to contribute to building more trail infrastructure in that sort of southwestern quadrant,” Sadow said. “It will help us promote the new trails that are coming online in the area to our audience, which is more national and international.”

Sadow was careful to point out, though, that he wants Epic Rides “to produce a year-round trail legacy” with PMBA and the U.S. Forest Service, “proliferating more trails that the community gets, whether the [Whiskey Off-Road] is there or not.”

Sadow said PMBA received permission from the Forest Service to build trails near Emmanuel Pines. Those trails are in Spence Basin, located south of Iron Springs Road and east of Skyline Road, west of downtown Prescott.

“They thought they needed x-amount of dollars to build out this single-track that they got the permission to build, and then they were really productive on their end this last year,” Sadow said of PMBA. “They got a matching grant. They brought in other funds. They ended up funding a vast majority of that trail project. They’ve just got a small bit left, which will end up through this year’s Hail the Trail program putting the cap on.”

PMBA’s TAKE

PMBA president Brent Roberts, 58, said the multi-use trail work has been ongoing, complete with a Spence Basin Trails Plan. PMBA receives money from donors, grants and in-kind contributions to do much of its work, which includes forging modern trails in the Thumb Butte area and Sierra Prieta.

“Epic Rides could use 10 to 15 miles of trails in Spence Basin [for its races], and avoid the long drop down into Skull Valley,” Roberts said.

PMBA has labored with the Forest Service and basin residents throughout the open, public process, one that includes setting aside parking areas near the trails for easier accessibility.

“It’s a destination location for riders,” Roberts said of Spence Basin. “There’s a variety of opportunities for all skill levels. The basin has easy access being on the border of the city, and there’s historic use of its trails that people enjoy, including hikers and equestrians.”

Spence Basin is one of several phases in a five-year trail planning process. PMBA will likely use the money it receives from Epic Rides to pay a machine operator to excavate portions of the minimally-invasive, sustainable and low-impact trails. Volunteers, including those with the Over the Hill Gang, city crews and the Forest Service, have already been working a couple of days per month, since February, doing trail work.

Remaining PMBA trail-work dates include May 13, June 2, July 15, Aug. 11, Sept. 29, Oct. 21, Nov. 17 and Dec. 9. For more information, visit prescottmtb.com.

“Over 2,000 hours of work has been done since last July, thanks to these volunteers,” Roberts said.

BIKE RAFFLE

Sadow said PMBA reps initially asked him to help them generate money to build Spence Basin trails, which led to the formation of the Hail the Trail program. Epic Rides sponsors four mountain bike races per year, including the Whiskey Off-Road (April 27-29), Grand Junction Off-Road in Colorado (May 18-20), the Carson City Off-Road in Nevada (June 15-17), and the Oz Trails Off-Road (Oct. 5-7) near Bentonville, Arkansas.

“I was thinking about it, and I was like, ‘Alright, we’ll raffle off a bike [to raise money for trail building],’ ” Sadow said. “We’ll get one of our industry partners to give us a bike and we’ll give them sponsorship for it and we’ll give the value of that bike that we raffle off to PMBA. And then I was like, ‘Wait, we can’t just do that for PMBA.’ Grand Junction has trail issues that they want to resolve that need money, and Carson City has them. So we had to create a program for everybody, and it became very complex, very quickly. But it’s working.”

In Hail the Trail’s first year in 2017, Sadow said he and his group raised $8,000 apiece for trail organizations in Prescott, Grand Junction, Carson City and northwest Arkansas. Epic Rides announced the second annual Hail the Trail program in March with the goal of raising $10,000 for each trail organization.

All of the money goes to the trail groups, Sadow said.

Four major mountain bike manufacturers have agreed to sponsor the Hail to Trail program. Each manufacturer donates a bike worth $6,000 or more for a raffle during race weekend in Prescott, Grand Junction, Carson City and Bentonville, Arkansas.

“We just promote the program and raise funds as an agent for the nonprofits – all the money goes into a separate account,” Sadow said. “And, then, once we’re done with the fundraising, we split the total funds into quarters, and then make the donation. Then they manage the funds.”

Raffle tickets cost $5 apiece and may be bought online at epicrides.com/hailthetrail/. The website reported as of April 26 that 30 percent, or about $12,000, of the $40,000 goal had been reached.

“We’ll do a drawing after each event [off-road race] for one of the bikes,” Sadow added.

Doug Cook is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at dcook@prescottaz.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.