“I came here for the mountains and I stayed for the cheap rent.”
That’s Randy Pruden, Trail Boss at the Valemount bike park, who I caught while he was out working tirelessly on maintaining the trails after the long-weekend rush of riders. He moved to the promise land in 2001, leaving Jasper behind.
“Being in a National Park, I couldn’t create trails like I wanted to.”
It doesn’t take long to realize how passionate Randy is about building trails. He started developing a small trail network long before the bike park came to be, mostly so he had a place to ride. But as the trail network developed and grew, those trails started to be shared with more than just a few locals.
“I love getting the chance to see people having the best day on the trails. Nobody is having a bad day out here!”
As he gestures out to the surrounding alpine landscape, I can’t help but agree. I don’t think it would be possible to ride here without a smile coming across your face at least once…
Randy is one of many locals involved in building and maintaining the bike park trails - like all trailbuilders, I’d go as far as to call him an unsung hero.
“Valemount has been known for a long time as a stop-over community. People driving between Vancouver and Edmonton pull off the highway briefly to refuel, or maybe even spend a night in a hotel, but after that, they hit the road again.”
That’s Curtis Pawliuk, the General Manager of the Valemount and Area Recreation Development Association, and Owner of Frozen Pirate Snow Services. He’s been involved in the community in one facet or another for over 20 years.
“Tourism has stepped up big for Valemount,” he explains. “We’ve been known as one of the top snowmobiling destinations in Western Canada for sometime now, but once summer rolled around, things really slowed down.”
You don’t need to be an economist to understand that something has changed now. A short walk down main street is all it takes to see the sheer number of bikes on cars. And where are those bikes’ owners?
In the coffee shop ordering a flat white, in the brewery knocking back a pint, in the grocery store buying food to fuel the next ride, or in the local campsite, chilling out around a fire.
Bikes are a boon for business.
“When we went down this path of building bike trails to bring summer tourism to Valemount, I had to go to local businesses and explain our plan,” Curtis tells me, a smile coming across his face.
“The manager of the local Best Western actually laughed at me when I told him our plans for the bike park. He was pretty skeptical that mountain biking would bring many people to the town. But now? He’s 100% onboard. He’s even buying sea cans and retrofitting them as secure bike storage onsite.”
Buying sea cans in today’s shipping-container-shortage? (Trust me, at Swagman know a thing or two about container shortages…) At the inflated prices a shipping container sells for today, they must be serious about catering to this mountain bike thing happening in town!
“The bike park has been the only long term project in my 20 years here that has brought such amazing change.”
That’s Randy again, his passion for the bike park trails coming out in his tone.
“I mean people are starting to move here because of it!”
It’s safe to say Valemount isn’t a stop-over town anymore. It’s a destination.
And it’s all thanks to a hard-working community that radiates outward from the bike park. It’s because of people like Randy. Because of people like Curtis. Because of businesses like Vale Coffee. Because of businesses like District Bicycle Company. Because of countless more people and businesses that we didn’t have time to cover, but are just as important in what makes Valemount - and it’s bike park - so damn special.
Words: Evan Wishloff
Photos: Stirl and Rae Media Haus