The Promise Land

Words: Evan Wishloff 
Photos: Stirl and Rae Media Haus

This post is a continuation of Turducken. If you don’t know what Turducken is, you probably haven’t read the first piece - and you should! Click here to read Part 1 - Turducken, then come back here and read part 2.

It was just 3 days of riding and, already, I felt like calling this Plan C was doing a disservice to the experience. Laps of the Valemount Bike Park should always be top of the list when it comes to what to do. 

As I said my goodbyes to the group of friends I was with, I decided to extend my stay. I felt a pull, keeping me in this mountain escape. There was something more to this village. 

Apparently, many of the locals, new or not, felt that same attraction. 

“We lived in Jasper, but we were spending every weekend here.” 

I was in Vale Coffee, talking with Elliot and Meg, two of four co-owners who opened the cafe during covid. 

“We’d come camp, hike, bike… you name it. It felt like the opportunities were endless. It was like the promise land,” Elliot says. 

So they pulled the trigger and made the move, right as the bike park was starting to come into its own. 

“We’ve been able to watch the town change right outside our window. Our shop is enroute to the bike park, and every second car that drives past has bikes on it.”

They continue telling me how every summer has seen them get busier and busier. Vale Coffee has become a hub to start a day of mountain biking from.

“We saw the change happening through the growth of the trails at first, now we see it with the people we meet. People come into our shop from Squamish, Nelson, the Coast… people are coming from these huge biking hubs to Valemount, all because of the bike park.” 

“I first came here for a music festival taking place in the valley. And I kept coming back for more… There was this energy that I can’t put words to. The bike park was in full swing, the team behind it was seeing out their vision, and the community was getting put on the map,” John Osborne tells me.

John opened up District Bicycle Company Valemount, a satellite shop to his location in Kamloops, in 2021. He opened it with more on his mind than simply making a buck - he wanted to serve the community, and contribute a little piece to the mountain bike culture that was emerging in this bustling town.

In the middle of nowhere could be an apt description of the village. It’s about 300 km north of Kamloops, or 500 km west of Edmonton - the two closest cities. John thought something similar, but was set straight when the Mayor of Valemount came to visit the shop. 

“I told him it seemed crazy that, even with Valemount being out in the middle of nowhere, it was seeing such a boom of cyclists flocking to the community. And I’ll never forgot what he said next. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about…”

“He looked at me, and he said: No John, this is isn't the middle of nowhere, this is the middle of everywhere.”

“Most mountain towns have finished writing their story. They are what they are. But the future of Valemount is unwritten," Meg tells me.

That's right: I’m at Vale Coffee again - my daily flat white consumption is out of control.

“The bike park has changed the course of this town. It’s developing and growing, and with it, attracting a new demographic of people. The momentum of the park has really given this place some direction.”

A stroll down main street is all that’s needed to support Meg’s observations. Bike racks in front of local businesses are full. The vehicles parked along the street all have bikes on racks. The brewery is filled with mountain bikers, regaling stories of the sweet jump line from earlier in the day. Or the berm they shredded. Or the skinny they nailed. 

The downtown feels vibrant. Energetic. Exuberant. It feels alive. 

And much of that is owed to the bike park.

But a bike park doesn’t just spring up out of nowhere, especially somewhere that only 10 short years ago featured no more than a few local-only rough-cut trails through the bush. 

Who was tending to these sweet trails? Who was pushing the bike park forward? What did the unsung heroes behind the park think of all this? 

Stay tuned for part 3…

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