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BC MTB Tourism Symposium AKA The State of MTB in BC

Posted June 1, 2013 by Lorraine Blancher . Filed under Events, Media, Cool Happenings
The State of Mountain Biking in BC - Snap Shot - Spring 2013

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in the British Columbia Mountain Bike Tourism Symposium.  Honored.  

Many innovative and global mountain bike industry leaders call BC home and the Provincial MTB Tourism Symposium brought a lot of them together.  The crew behind the legendary Crankworx to the current team running the renowned Whistler Bike Park were in attendance. Even Gravity Logic, the original Whistler Trail Crew and creators of the infamous Aline were there.  I was stoked.  

The talks were started with an inspirational address from Red Bull Canada.  Scott Jewette informed on the lasting benefits of sponsoring trail initiatives like the Full Nelson in Squamish, BC and explained how being apart of a unique trail that's open to the public for an entire riding season gives value to the community (and trail sponsor) that can potentially last longer and go further than exposure created on a weekend event...   

Scott Jewett - Red Bull CanadaScott Jewett - Red Bull Canada

I was brought there to be on a panel of 4 to talk about Women in Mountain Biking.  Myself, Kelli Sherbinin (creator and owner of Endless Biking), Danielle Baker (professional photographer and writer) and Deanne Lazaruk were in the hot seat. Tough questions were put forth including how we see our role, how to grow our role and where do we want it to go next. More about that in a bit as you need to understand the big picture... 

Quality discussion with some phenomenal ladies in the SportQuality discussion with some phenomenal ladies in the sport of mountain biking.

As you can imagine, the gathering was full of informative and inspiring conversations - formal and non.  The bike industry has come long way from the early Klunkers in the 70s making their way down Mount Tam and the Oak Bay Crew fabricating their creations on BC's North Shore

Some of my highlights...

The Canadian National Park System informed that they've recently changed their 'no bike' policy and have granted each National Park the ability to allow mountain biking in their specific park IF it makes sense.  (There's a lot of reasons to consider before Park moves forward.  Some of these trails have been in our Countries inventory for over a hundred years and we want to maintain a pristine standard - not just for bikes...)  I'm personally excited about this.  I just hope we move methodically yet forward, and keep these areas pristine and 'different' to what we build in our commercial Bike Parks and Crown Land.  Certain landscape makes sense, other's don't.  I know this from years of accessing remote terrain with a helicopter for commercial hiking (and personal biking).  It's just exciting to know our National Park system is open to allowing two wheels into unbelievable areas and definitely a huge step for our mode of transport.  Jasper National Park, although in Alberta, is probably one of the more known National Parks to have already taken advantage of this change.  

I learned that BC Parks and Recreation Sites and Trails BC (RSTBC) have recently worked together to adapt the same partnership insurance program on Provincial Crown Land.  This enables a consistent approach to partnership agreements, volunteerism as well as facilitates the consistent management of trails including, signage, trail ratings and Technical Terrain Features (TTF) on all crown land.  (The trails and any TTFs need to be built to Municipality of Whistler and IMBA Standard.  It was also interesting to learn of mountain bike friendly initiatives, like creating pumptacks and skill building areas at some of their high use BC Parks camp grounds - Alice Lake in Squamish.  

One of the more progressive things and what I'm really excited about is the Provincial Governments recent amendments to the Commercial Tenure on Crown Land.  The new amendment makes it possible for companies, currently holding tenure, to operate around the province for a limited number of days under their current tenure.  This opened up the discussion on making a provincial wide permit / standard system for its coaches and guides.  As the sport grows, trips are created visiting the various mtb destinations and multiple permits and various liability is needed.  And then we have the increasing access to vast ridges and remote peaks....(Emerging and existing commercial float plane trips in the Chilcotins and remote helicopter drops with Retallack Lodge and new remote front country alpine access with the Gondola on the Squamish Chief.) 

The larger cities and smaller townships told stories, with pride about their innovative community Bike Parks and increasing inventory of quality trails.  They glowed as they informed on how they worked with grant initiatives and various agencies to develop, maintain and promote their communities trails. 

Kamloops Bike Ranch - Progressive and AMAZiNG.  Check this for more picsKamloops Bike Ranch - Progressive and AMAZiNG. Check this for more pics

City Bike Parks are being added to City Liability policies like Swimming Pools and Swing SetsCity Bike Parks are being added to City Liability policies like Swimming Pools and Swing Sets

Easy climbing trails like the new Legacy trail in Squamish or the 50 Shades of Green in Alice Lake Provincial Park have raised the bar for design and construction.  Descending flow trails like Half Nelson in Squamish have been a benchmark for other communities around the province. 

Cities have added more active transport routes to their Transportation Master Plans (bike paths / routes). Parks and Recreations are adding Community Bike Park to their Parks Plans. They realize and see the active health and economical benefits in creating and maintaining these additions. 

With all the new policy changes, trail building initiatives, community bike parks, and tourism focus, the province of BC is really one big bike playground! We continue to innovate.

(PIC and Link Bike Mag Burns Lake Story)

The Women in Mountain Biking talk went beyond the Province.  It was definitely a place to ask tough questions on how we see ourselves in the media to are we ready to have our own 'freestyle' events at Crankworx, etc.  

We know women's specific bike products, camps and events (XC to Freestyle) are popping up everywhere.  Women in the sport are empowered and the numbers are growing.

Women's Specific Camp at the Kamloops City Bike Park. This City Amenity is AMAZING!!Women's Specific Camp at the Kamloops City Bike Park. This City Amenity is AMAZING!!

I say, continue.  

Continue the above momentum with the Bike Industries new friendly 'wheel' size, all these growing bike parks, paths, easy flow trails, etc and use the female to really get mountain biking in the 'mainstream’.  

The sport is ready - BC is ready.  

We know how to design and ride amazing quality bikes. We know how to dress (with the exception to half lid to goggle combo – big smile).  We have amazing community bike parks, trails, etc.  Mountain biking has grown from the days when the attracting attention to our sport was to place a mountain bike (with forks on backwards) in Seinfeld living room.

BC has always been an innovator, now lets merge all the community trails, bike parks and new easy rolling wheel size and get mountain biking a normal part of everyday life.

Start simple.  Educate the head of the family clan to ditch her SUV (more often) with her trail ready, easy rolling 29r, attach the Chariot or 3rd wheel and ride with children to school, market or Community Bike Park for an afternoon of play.

These Moms, now feeling fit and looking again sexy their pre baby jeans can`t help but love their bike.  They want to ride further.  They take more quality coaching, (great article by Seb Kemp on get out on the gentle flow trails (like the bench mark Half Nelson in the forward thinking Community of Squamish) and go further into the growing Provincial trail inventory. Family vacations are then planned linking together the places they want and have to go with the provincial trail systems.

The active Mom meet and join other active Moms and Single women doing the same. These rad ladies then become natural, inspiring, bike loving leaders, educate and in turn inspire other women...wanting the same healthy glow.  The loop continues, her family grows up (are SHREDDERS) and there's a quality, trail-ready-bike, per person, per home equal to the occupant of the household and in turn - making mountain biking and cycling to work, a healthy normal part of everyday life.

I say use the media to get that messaging....

The Media is the place to educate and inspire the message we want. Right now I'm told, women’s specific content is equal to that of its numbers. (25% Bike Park users, 10-15% Race Registrants.) IF we increase that number (with the projected growth we want) with QUALITY content and images... I bet the number of female riders would increase as we grow awareness, educate and inspire other to participate.

Put some images like this in the MTB Magazines. Bet it will inspire ladies and men to purchase a type of bike, suspension, shoe, etc...Put some images like this in MTB Magazines. Bet it will inspire ladies and men to purchase a type of bike, suspension, shoe, etc...

To really grow mountain biking we have to stop selling to ourselves.  

We need to go outside mountain bike publications and inspire new comers with stories, trips and ideas created specifically for them.  (Women's Health and Fitness Magazines or Travel Publications).  

International destination tourism in the Province is down.  Since the Olympics, we went from being 7th in the world to 18th behind countries like the Ukraine and Saudi Arabia.  To again increase our international appeal, why not combine our other stunning provincial assets, (my favorite being our internationally acclaimed wineries) with mountain bike specific trips.  Put a stunning landscape shot of a rider flowing down some some beautiful Okanagan singletrack on the way to a BC winery in an international travel publication and you’ll attract and inspire new riders to our province and create an interesting international appeal.  There are a lot of international skiers and high end hockey players who visit our province, want to maintain winter fitness...and are now tapping into our sport.

Easy flow trails perfect for all...!Easy flow trails perfect for all!

And my personal favorite questions.

Where are we going?  Not just with women, but BC...

With quality BC based companies, like Gravity Logic building and creating Aline’s around the planet and spreading our trail building standard, riders around the planet have access to amazing trails in their own zones.  (I LOVE these guys are providing a world standard and making quality around the globe!  Build it right the first time, hire true professionals and learn.)

How do we top this?  How do we go beyond the products that we're internationally known for?  (Crankworx, Aline, etc) 

Simple, go after and capitalize on what other don't have.  Our empty, stunning, high alpine ridges and remote peaks that BEG to be ridden.  The governing bodies are open to exploring this with recent changes.  The bike Industry has created the perfect product. (29r and 650B)  

I know were I'm going - big smile.  I'm off to the Yukon for my first commercial Heli Bike trip... vast ridges and remote peaks - yes please!!!


 ps - A Summer 2014 Update will be happening soon ... It will include the innovative Youth Bike Skills Development Project with Parks Canada, my recent Association of Canadian Mountain Guides meeting on behalf of the Mountain Bike Tourism Association and a consultation / brainstorm with motivated Thompson River University faculty member ... and then there's my favorite personal project I've been working on for the last few years ...  The future of biking, especially for the Tourism Sector and providing opportunities to expand the sport beyond the current consumer, is very much alive and continues to lead in BC - stoked.  As mentioned, our bikes are ready, we know how to dress, we have tons of community trails (for the beginner to the highly advanced) and more and more key people in higher roles of government and business sectors have found the passion of 2 wheels. Non endemic media - especially in the all encompassing women's heath and fitness sector - wants our trips ... I could go on but I'll save it for the 2014 snap shot. Till then, ride on - lb