The community of Invermere, located in the Columbia Valley of British Columbia is home to some incredible mountain biking. The area surrounding Invermere has a dry and sunny climate, and is fortunate to have the longest riding season of any place in the Kootenays.
If you have ever sampled some of the sweet riding available in the Columbia Valley, than you may like to learn a bit about the people who have taken up the responsibility of maintaining and ensuring the long term availability of the region’s trails.
I recently had a chance to connect with Adrian Bergles, President of the Columbia Valley Cycling Society. The C.V.C.S. is the dedicated group of volunteers who are working hard to improve and grow the sport of Mountain Biking in the Columbia Valley. I asked Adrian if he would mind taking part in an interview with BikeFAT.com to share with our readers some of the history of the C.V.C.S. and tell us a little about what they are up to. We hope the following will help other bike club volunteers understand their role in promoting Mountain Biking, and help riders in areas that have yet to create a club work towards organizing and assisting in the preservation of their own important trail resources.
What was the motivation behind starting the CVCS? Did it begin as a social club that eventually ended up in trail advocacy? Or was it created initially to tackle a specific challenge that arose in the your area?
The club started in 2006. At the time we saw what other communities were doing — particularly the club in Rossland with their Seven Summits Trail — and we wanted to do something similar here with trail development. We knew that to work with land managers and access grant dollars we would have to come together as a society. Funders and government basically will not work with individuals, you have to be organized into a group.
The original group was a dedicated group of volunteers. Of the seven-member board of directors, three are still original members and most of those who left the board are still key volunteers.
What specific challenges do the trails in the Columbia Valley face? Are there some challenges that you believe are unique to your area?
Mountain bikers are coming late to the party. There are some people that would prefer mountain bike trails didn’t exist at all. Some of these people are very outspoken. We were not well organized with governments and land managers until recently. It is always an uphill battle.
How do you get people motivated to join the club and help out on the trails?
Getting people to join is relatively easy. Our memberships are $20 so they are pretty cheap and many people feel good about paying that and supporting us. Getting people to help on the trails is a little more difficult. This is probably no different than all bike clubs, but it is usually the same people that come out to all the trail days.
This year we will try to organize our volunteers into committees. We really feel that the board needs to do less and we need to engage the members to do more. This will help get a lot more work done and, we hope, give a sense of ownership to club members. Only one of these committees is trail building. Others include the development of a trail map guide, helping organize our endurance race, the Kootenay Krusher, and helping organize other specific events. Although trail work is a huge part, there is a lot more that goes into running a bike club than just that.
How has the sport of Mountain Biking been growing in your community? And what is the feedback you get from the other user groups in the valley? (e.g. Hikers, hunters, motor bikes, ATVs)
Mountain biking is extremely popular here. We want to give locals and out-of-towners a legit, maintained, and signed trail system that they can use with a high degree of confidence and pride. We believe that riding opportunities like these will foster more riders, more bike tourism visits, and eventually more trails.
In the past we have had minor issues with some of the groups you mentioned, but those have been with individuals and not with another representative group. Recently, in the Columbia Valley, a committee working toward a backcountry management plan has been struck. We hope that this will eventually guide Mountain Biking’s growth in the valley and enable everyone to have their spot. This is the kind of thing you can work for when you’re organized in a group.
Where would you like to see the Columbia Valley’s Mountain Bike community in the years ahead? And what role do you see the CVCS playing in it?
Last fall a local cyclist (and a pretty smart guy) did an independent survey of cyclists, bike shop owners, government, and the like. He did something like 40 interviews. His research showed about 75% of local people favoured the CVCS to lead mountain biking into the future. That was quite satisfying and it really showed that mountain biking is growing up. We need legal, designated places to ride that can be maintained and marketed to locals and visitors.
What has your relationship been with the trail builders in your community that are building “illegal” trails?
We were all originally ‘illegal’ trail builders. The survey mentioned above helped us. We love trails and new trails are always a treat to ride. We just, as a club, think trails should be kept on the down low until they can go through the legal designation process. Marketing illegal trails is a quick way to piss a lot of non-mountain bikers off and give cyclists a bad name. Counter productive in the long term.
What advice do you have to offer somebody who is thinking of building a trail of their own?
Read the IMBA’s Trail Solutions trail building guidebook. http://www.imba.com/trail-solutions
I would like to thank Adrian and the Columbia Valley Cycling Society for all their efforts. I’m looking forward to my annual spring trips to Invermere. Check out the Mt. Swansea area for All-Mountain and DH riding as it is amazing and improving leaps and bounds every year. Or for a good time ride The Johnson, a 12 km XC loop on the other side of the valley towards Panorama.
Riders in the East Kootenays and Southern Alberta owe the volunteers that keep these trails in such great shape some gratitude. If you haven’t been to Invermere with your bike yet, make an effort to check it out. The riding scene their is big and still growing. There is a new skate/BMX park in Invermere that is amazing for a town of that size! And a new pump track has been approved for construction in Radium this summer. There is also great lift accessed mountain biking at Panorama Mountain, just 18km west of Invermere.
If you like what you ride in the Columbia Valley, please consider making a donation to the C.V.C.S. and thanking them for their excellent work.
- Follow C.V.C.S. on Facebook
- Contact Columbia Valley Cycling Society (CVCS)
- C.V.C.S. Home Page
- Become a Member of C.V.C.S.
- International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) Home Page
- Columbia Valley Trail Maps
- Follow Columbia Valley Cycling Society’s Blog
- Subscribe to the C.V.C.S. RSS Feed