A Valemount bike skills park and 40km of groomed multi-use trail is one step closer after getting its professional assessment last week.
Trail specialist Daniel Scott from the Canadian branch of the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) spent 10 days surveying the forest in order to create a draft Master Plan for the proposed bike park at 5-Mile east of Valemount.
He assessed initial work that the Yellowhead Outdoor Recreation Association (YORA) had done as well as explored more opportunities, he says. He found a lot of diversity and opportunity in the terrain.
“I think it’s safe to say at this point that you guys have a diamond in the rough. You have the ability to create some very unique experiences, and to create one more destination in what is becoming a very strong and established tourism model for Northern BC – which is mountain biking.”
Scott designed the Crowsnest Pass Bike Park Master Plan and IMBA helped manage the Burns Lake Bike Park project. Interestingly, his branch of the International Mountain Bike Association is designing the trail network at the town of Mt. Tremblant adjacent the ski resort in Quebec.
Scott will spend another two weeks designing the Master Plan now that he has finished the groundwork. The plan will then go to YORA, the club coordinating the effort, for their approval before being submitted to government.
Project manager Andreas Thoni says the park could see construction as early as next summer or fall. Full build-out would likely take two to three seasons.
Thoni plans to apply for grants to cover the cost of the project, which he says would likely be several hundred thousand dollars.
The proposed site is 500m out of town and a five minute bike ride from the museum. It is located at the first fork on the Swift Mountain Forestry Road (5 mile road) just below the radio towers. The bike park would lead to and from the multipurpose trails that connect to the village.
The benefit to the town, he says, would be substantial.
Skills parks make technically challenging mountain biking more readily available to the public, especially to youth, Thoni says. Riders return to these parks again and again to improve their abilities. He says it will attract riders from all over western Canada.
Jasper is facing pressure from mountain bikers seeking freestyle biking opportunities, as this activity is not permitted in the national parks and thus freestyle biking infrastructure is being built illegally.
Scott says the idea is to create a 2-3 day riding experience for mountain biking enthusiasts, many of whom traverse BC and North America going from one mountain bike to the next.
Often riders will make week-long road trips hitting different riding locations. The Valemount park will also include the option of spending a night at McKirdy cabin and exploring the beautiful McKirdy meadows and other alpine areas.
He says while the trails will not be exclusively for mountain biking, only non-motorized uses will be permitted, things like hiking, biking, backcountry Nordic and snowshoeing.
The park would also aim to be family-friendly by providing spectator areas and parking.
Some of the features that may be included are: dirt jumps, ladder bridges, pump track, teeter-totters and obstacles such as logs and rocks. The park would be built to International Mountain Bicycling Association guidelines and Whistler trail standards.
Battling the rain and mosquitoes in the bush last week, Scott spent a full day mapping just one trail. He says 10-15 trails are possible in the plan. The final detailed design will be determined by contractors who actually construct the trail and features.
One of the more unique features proposed is a cable car across Swift Creek, instead of a bridge. Scott says it is more for the experience than practicality. Users would enter a small basket and be transported across the river with their bike. He compares the cable car to ones along the West Coast trail.
The network of trails will connect with existing trails and pathways from town, including the Big Foot Trail. Currently there is no obvious trailhead for the 2-mile viewpoint, 5-mile road or the Swift Creek Trail, meaning few tourists venture down these routes.
“It’s basically creating a cycling friendly community so I can get from a hotel to a pathway and then to a trail system and not get lost. Not that Valemount is that big, but it would make it easier.”
Some upgrades need to be done to the 5-mile road. Scott recommends re-grading it. The road is currently very bumpy with numerous rocks and rivulets.
Thoni says the centre would help foster mountain culture, promote healthy lifestyles, provide a safe arena for learning skills and testing abilities while discouraging the building of unofficial trails and stunts within town limits, introduce cyclists to skills required for riding trails in remote locations, and be a hub for mountain bikers from the Robson Valley, Jasper, McBride, Clearwater, and Kamloops.
The park could provide local employment during the construction phase if the right equipment and skills exist.
Valemount Community TV’s interview with Daniel Scott: