By Laura Keil
It’s been a slow start to the mountain bike season, and the snow can’t melt fast enough for Valemount Bike Park fans, says Curtis Pawliuk, GM of the Valemount Area Recreation Development Association (VARDA).
Pawliuk says he’s been inundated with emails and calls from people looking to ride in Valemount—but Mother Nature has not cooperated just yet.
“It’s definitely a few weeks behind last year due to cold weather and wetness,” he said. “We have our maintenance crew out working on the trails; we’re working the best we can. Any volunteers who want to help open contact us here at the office.”
The snowline and wet surfaces has kept many trails closed thus far. Only a handful of trails are open for riding—areas like the Tech Zone, Ale Trail and some trails on the north side of Swift Creek. Pawliuk hopes to announce the opening of The Green Mile and the Lower Blue South trail soon.
No downhill trails are open yet in the park, as of presstime May 9th, 2022.
Pawliuk said the best way to keep updated on trail openings is through your bike park membership or Trailforks.com, though the membership updates are usually faster.
One thing he definitely cautions against is “poaching” trails, ie) riding trails that are not dry enough to ride.
“It’s horrible,” he said, of the damage from riding wet trails. “Early season riding causes significant damage to the trails, significant resources invested into the repair and also slows the opening of the trail.”
He said the trail crew re-shapes trails so they can properly drain, but when bikes zip down trails too early in the season when the ground is still moist, it can create ruts that attract water to flow down the centre of the trail.
“It basically creates its own river down the trail.”
VARDA is bringing back Bike Fest in June, which will occur the weekend of June 18th. Pawliuk said the focus will be fun, not competition.
“We’re hoping to bring back the original Bike Fest, so simply a trail celebration, a fun day on bikes—no competitive aspect whatsoever. Hopefully as many shuttle units as we can shuttling people up the mountain for very low cost, a barbecue lunch on site, and we hope to hold an evening social.”
He said more information will come as the date approaches.
Also this summer, VARDA plans to begin the 3.5km extension of Munday Grind from Tin Foil Hat to the top of Turducken, a project funded by the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association which kicked in $105,000 and Columbia Basin Trust which kicked in $15,000.
The excitement for mountain biking comes after a low turn-out year for sledders. Pawliuk said trail passes were down this year compared to last, especially in January when they dropped 70 per cent. He said it was largely due to the shortage of hotel accommodations available for visitors. But he has high hopes for summer visitors.
“We’re getting a ton of emails, a ton of interest. We started getting emails about Bike Fest two months ago. Daily we’re getting emails about trail openings. Everyone’s very eager to get to Valemount.”