Whitehorse has some of the best mountain bike trails in the world, Outdoor Magazine has declared.
In its April issue, the American publication listed Yukon – specifically Whitehorse and Carcross – as the world’s best mountain biking destination.
Yukon’s Contagious Mountain Bike Club celebrated Whitehorse’s awesome trail network in its season opener in the Schwatka Lake area Saturday afternoon.
The event, called Welcome to Your Backyard, was co-hosted by the Trail and Ultra Running Association of the Yukon (TURAY).
“We did it as a joint event because we really wanted to focus this event on celebrating our trails, so the fact that we both use them,” said Contagious president Sierra van der Meer. “(We wanted) to celebrate our backyard and the beautiful trails we have.
“We’re excited to be out on these trails that people have noted as being incredible.”
TURAY enjoys the same trails as Contagious, but TURAY president Nancy Thomson feels runners could learn a thing or two from the mountain bikers when it comes to trail stewardship.
“The mountain bikers are head and shoulders above the trail runners in terms of having a sense of stewardship for the trail,” she said. “I want to promote that sense of ownership among the trail runners.”
Over 30 riders and runners braved the rain and chilly temperatures for the event that was a friendly, non-competitive bike ride and run capped by a barbecue at the lake’s boat launch.
It was the second year in a row Contagious kicked off the season with a joint event. It hosted last year’s opener with the Yukon Orienteering Association.
“We sometimes use this first one to work with other user groups,” said van der Meer. “We have so many wonderful trails and we want to share them.”
“It’s the first ride of the year and it’s more about coming out,” she added. “We have our first race on Tuesday. For anyone who wants to race, that’s the time to do it.”
The Contagious club has another busy schedule this season.
Contagious is hosting its Boogaloo to Boreal race on May 25, the 24 Hours of Light festival noon to noon from June 22 to 23, and the King of the Canyon – the Yukon mountain bike championships – to close out the season on August 25.
The club is also hosting “enormously popular” mountain biking clinics on most Mondays for the next month with Grant Owen, a former Yukon coach for mountain biking at the Canada Summer Games. There are also Toonie Races every
Tuesday for the next month and Dirt Girls rides for women every Thursday through most of the summer.
Contagious had about 175 members last year and expects to break 200 this year.
TURAY will host its premier event, the Yukon Ultra Mountain Madness, on August 18 – the Sunday of the Discovery Days long weekend.
The ultra will be a single-track race beginning at Chadburn Lake and heading up Grey Mountain, along its spine and back, spanning about 25 kilometres for the short distance and 50 kilometres for the long.
“(The last) couple of years we’ve started at the top of the mountain at the towers, and we run along the spine of the mountain and run back,” said Thomson. “But that’s short. It’s all along the top of the mountain, and it’s beautiful, but this is going to be much more arduous.”
Thomson also leads weekly trail runs every Thursday, the schedule for which can be found at the Athletics Yukon website.
“It’s a different location every week,” said Thomson. “We had 39 people out last week.”
In addition to the nod from Outdoor Magazine, in 2011 the International Mountain Bicycling Association inducted the Mountain Hero Trail on Montana Mountain in Carcross into its Epic Trails category. At the time it was only the fifth Canadian trail to achieve the designation.
“We all love the trails for the same reason,” said Thomson. “They’re not on the road because they think flat, boring pavement sucks and we’re not on the road because we think flat, boring pavement sucks. They like hills, we like hills, they like twisty-turny, we like twisty-turny, they like narrow, we like narrow.
“We’re kindred spirits.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org