WinSport’s new skills park to extend mountain biking season

Mountain bikers of all skill levels will be able to ride in rainy weather at WinSport’s new outdoor skills park.

The hard-packed gravel surface of the Mountain Bike Skills Centre, located on the west side of Canada Olympic Park, will extend the sport’s season in Calgary — from the moment the snow melts in the spring to winter’s first snowfall.

“As long as there’s literally not a foot of snow on the ground, you should be able to ride and use the facilities,” said James Norton, a designer and project manager with Bike Track, the U.K-based company that built the park.

The park will become Calgary’s largest outdoor mountain bike skills park, boasting nine acres of terrain with 14 trails, which include both cross-country and flow trails.

It will also feature skill loops for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders.

A progression-based park

The park will open for mountain bike programs and summer camps on July 1 and to the general public on Aug. 15.

James Norton’s team at Bike Track designed and built WinSport’s new mountain biking skills park. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

A life-long mountain biker, Norton said his team was hired to design and execute a progressive, element-filled bike park that would encourage young Calgarians to get into the sport and develop their skills.

“It covers the whole range of riding abilities, from pretty much your first day almost on a mountain bike all the way to black, double black skill level,” he said, adding it’s rare for riders to be able to find a park where they can progress through all levels.

The new facilities, built for a $300,000 price tag, add to WinSport’s existing downhill mountain biking network to create the WinSport Bike Park.

Andrew Lunt, manager of sport development at WinSport, told CBC Calgary the skills park will give riders the opportunity to get comfortable on their bikes before going up the chairlift to try their downhill trails or go biking in the mountains.

It’ll be a social place where people come and meet and ride together, practise new things, challenge themselves a little bit.– Andrew Lunt, manager of sport development at WinSport

Lunt said bikers will be able to practise doing jumps and berms, as well as rides over rocks and logs, in a safe environment in the new facilities.

“It’ll be a social place where people come and meet and ride together, practise new things, challenge themselves a little bit, learn some new techniques,” he said.

And it’ll be a place where bikers can ride even when it’s wet and the rain damages the heavy, clay-based mud paths that form the downhill trail network and makes them “clumpy,” Lunt said.

‘An absolute game changer’

Norton said his team has expertise in building trails that hold up in the rain, due to the weather they’re used to in England.

Their latest project was designed with safety, durability and longevity in mind, he added.

WinSport’s Mountain Bike Skills Centre will open for mountain bike programs and summer camps on July 1 and to the public on Aug. 15. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Initial construction on the project began last fall before the winter break, started back up in April and will continue until its opening next month.

In a press release about the park’s opening, Lunt called the facilities’ hard gravel surface “an absolute game changer” because it will extend the sport’s season.  

About 17 per cent of Albertans 15 and older went mountain biking at least once in 2016, according to Statistics Canada.