One stop of a special, invite-only downhill series was hosted at the Sun Peaks Bike Park last season by Kootenay Adaptive Sport Association (KASA), highlighting just how special the area could be for adaptive mountain biking.
One goal of the series was to test out different resorts to see how feasible adaptive mountain biking programming could be.
“[We] invited a few riders out and basically tested the mountains,” explained Mike Riediger, executive director of KASA. “We worked with the resort staff for loading, unloading procedures by trying to make it as quick as possible, but we also were seeing what it’s like to guide a group of people at the resort, especially beginner adaptive mountain bikers.”
Riediger said Sun Peaks has great potential.
“From our experience [at Sun Peaks] last year, I think they’re set up really well to have something that’s more equitable than the standard that’s been out there for years.”
He said the strategic function of the village and the valley trail network added to its potential, and allowed first timers to come and start a logical progression toward mountain biking.
Landon McGauley, a Kamloops mountain biker who suffered a spinal cord injury while racing in Sun Peaks in 2010, agreed. He said he’s interested in coaching fellow athletes and the diversity of the Sun Peaks Bike Park is great for adaptive mountain biking.
“It’s nice for an adaptive bike because most of the trails are a bit wider, the berms are stacked high and it’s a lot of fun because there’s lots of tech stuff,” said McGauley. “Having this program will be huge, it’ll open up doors for a lot of people to try it out and get people on the mountain who wouldn’t have had a chance otherwise.”
KASA, who is a provincial leader in the sport, is spearheading the instructor training after acknowledging a gap in Western Canada.
Riediger and his team are working toward a standard of mountain bike programming that will have coaching, clinics focusing on specific skills, instructor training and guides.
“There’s nothing like it right now,” said Riediger.
KASA also currently rents out bikes, hosts free events and demo days.
“Our standard will be having instructors who can actually ride an adaptive mountain bike at least at a blue level on multiple different kinds [of bikes]. That way they have a better understanding and can teach it in a more productive way. We’re testing that out this year and are hoping to have it dialed for next year,” added Riediger.
Nicolas Riopel, general manager of Adaptive Sports Sun Peaks (ASSP), explained the local program was given the green light for next year by Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR) earlier this spring.
“It’s a logical step for us because mountain biking is getting bigger and bigger, not just in Sun Peaks but around B.C., so it just makes a lot of sense to follow that path and having the support of the resort; that’s encouraging.”
While programs like this are a good step forward, McGauley explained a significant barrier to adaptive mountain biking is the cost of the equipment..
“I was fortunate to get a bike and try it early on. I’d love to pay it forward to get other people stoked on biking.”
ASSP said they are hoping to raise money to cover the $20,000 cost of the bike before the program begins.
“The next thing we need to make this happen is the bike, which has to be figured out, whether we do an equipment grant or a fundraiser or a mix of both,” said Riopel.