Mission to Chu Chua: no reservations for reserve trails

by Andru McCracken

On Saturday morning ten local mountain bike riders made a pilgrimage from Valemount to the Simpcw First Nation reserve just north of Barriere. Curtis Pawliuk of the Valemount Area Recreation Development Association (VARDA) successfully led the group there and back.

It’s not a quick drive, but we arrived on reserve and were greeted by Tom Eustache and Patrick Lukas, two men who helped the Simpcw community develop an expansive new biking area.

There were about 30 people scattered around the parking lot. Hands were shaken, photos were taken and then we were off to explore the mountain bike trails of Chu Chua.

I was after some action photographs, so I snagged a spot on the first shuttle, and made a tentative first lap, photographing and then trying to catch up. Fortunately the first group spent some time hitting features, so I was able to get a few photos in.

The part of the black diamond trail Step It Up that got the most acclaim was a natural narrow valley that formed a wall ride. It was an unusually good use of terrain and conservation of energy.

The new network includes eight trails, including three green, four blue and one black diamond.

Band Councillor Tom Eustache, a driving force behind the Simpcw’s mountain bike trail system, said the sport is growing on the reserve. His youth group has 12 young riders between the ages of 7 to 13.

“I have shuttled them up our trail and they just love it,” he told the Goat earlier this month while visiting Valemount.

And it’s part of a larger movement to become a healthier community, so far he’s witnessed the trails help get more people back out on the land.

“Our running group is starting to go out, more people are walking, getting back out on the land exercising,” he said.

Like Valemount they have more trails planned for the future.

Village liaison to the VARDA board, Owen Torgerson said it was an honour to be invited by the Simpcw First Nation.

“It’s a privilege to see what a community can achieve when it comes together,” he said.

“They were here for our trail building opening and we were able to reciprocate.”

Torgerson said his favourite trail was Section Zero.

“My least favourite trail was the climbing trail,” said Torgerson with a laugh.

Back at the parking lot, I took a pass on the next shuttle and explored.

There was a reception area in the elementary school gym; there wasn’t a tonne of people there, maybe 20 in total, but considering the on-reserve population of Chu Chua (approx. 300), not a bad turnout.

Chu Chua has a remarkable feature: its health offices, band council office and school are all located in the same building. So it was nice to see some local kids hanging out.

“I was really proud of the village and VARDA for taking the lead on this and coordinating a great turnout from our community,” said Torgerson.

“It all adds to the growing tourism options in our area.”

Curtis Pawliuk, manager of VARDA, was a key organizer of the trip.

“It was a trail celebration,” explained Pawliuk. He says a few folks from VARDA went down to Chu Chua to help build some trails.

“We wanted to try and stay a part of it and show our support.”

“Everybody felt very welcome. There were good trails, good times and lots of smiles,” said Pawliuk.

A map of the trails can be found on Trail Forks by searching areas for Chu Chua.