Surveying for Mtn. Bike Gold in Southern Alberta

Years ago, most surveyors that visited Crowsnest Pass, Alberta did so in order to discover coal. This past month, however, Daniel Scott was in search of something else entirely… mint mountain bike trail terrain.

Crowsnest Pass Community Futures, a non-profit organization that works to aid local business & communities, worked tirelessly over the winter in applying for grant money from Alberta’s Rural Diversification Initiative in order to develop a mountain bike tourism cluster in the area. Carrie Morency of CPCF along with various members from UROC (United Riders of Crowsnest) and the community at large, submitted a monstrous proposal outlining why their community would be an ideal location to develop a mountain biking mecca. Come early spring, word arrived that their proposal had been accepted, money was enroute and work could commence. Cue IMBA Canada trail specialist and masterplan development project.

The scope of this project is as immense as the landscape surrounding “The Pass”. Approximately 100 kilometers of mountain bike specific singletrack trail is slated to be designed in the area, along with a mountain bike skills park. In order to accomplish this task IMBA Canada has been contracted to develop a masterplan which outlines this task.

The past month has seen Daniel, along with his two trusted local guides Dave & Wade, cover hundreds of square kilometers of terrain in search of prime riding terrain. The Pass is blessed with a variety of different landscape types which lends the area to some wonderful opportunities for varied riding experiences. Between the alpine, sub-alpine, meadows, pine / fir forest, aspen groves, & grasslands, Crowsnest Pass really can offer a lot. Add four distinct rocks types, a plethora of wildlife and as much elevation as any hammerhead could ever want and you’ve got the makings of a world class mountain bike destination!

Now if that wasn’t enough, Crowsnest Pass is not without it’s own cultural heritage which adds another element of wonder and discovery to the already rich tapestry. Various turn of the century mine workings are strewn about, everything from coal cars to abandoned mining settlements.Crowsnest Pass is also home to the Frank Slide, a tragic accident some hundred years ago where a portion of Turtle Mountain gave way, swallowing the town of Frank. Today, the massive limestone boulder field that was left by the avalanche is accessible by the Frank Slide Interpretive Center and is one area which IMBA Canada resident trail specialist is keen to get permission to build a mountain bike trail…

Along with assessing the landscape, Daniel worked with Dave Whitten, a local rider and employee of Community Futures, on designing some trails at the local ski hill. Three keen summer students have been hired through a grant program to assist Dave in the first construction phase of this project on the hill and already they are making some great headway. An initial technical XC trail is being built at the moment which will stand as a model for the trail construction techniques to follow for the remainder of the project.

Work continues with ensuring that all the proposed trails have MOUs in place with their respective land managers and measures are being taken to limit the impact that the trail system will have on the various ecosystems found throughout Crowsnest Pass. The purpose of all this fieldwork is to compile a myriad of different data sets with which to distill a plan which will ultimately produce a sustainable mountain bike trail network which benefits the local community, the local riders, and riders at large.

CFCP, IMBA Canada & UROC are working hard to move this project forward with the masterplan being completed before year’s end, the skills park ready to go and some new sweet singletrack on the ground, ready to ride.

Should anyone be passing through Crowsnest and are looking for places to ride, head on over to the Stone’s Throw Cafe and ask the owner, Steve, about any of the following existing local trails: Good Riddance, School of Rock / Whistling Post, Dos Hombres and/or Secret Trail.

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