Mountain Biking Is Back!

Mike Manara is excited about mountain biking returning to Mount Washington Alpine Resort this summer.

Mountain Biking is back on Mount Washington for the Summer / Fall 2016 season.
Mountain Biking is back on Mount Washington for the Summer / Fall 2016 season.

Manara, the Resort’s Snow School Director, is in charge of the mountain bike trails while Don Sharpe, Director of Business Operations and Marketing, is looking after the operational side of mountain biking. The trails are due to open in mid-July.

Manara is also a mountain biker. It has been a way of life for Manara since he lived and worked in Jasper in the late 1990s. “I started riding over 20 years ago. Like a lot of people, I’m a real recreational enthusiast. I’m not a competitive rider. I just really like riding my bike.”

Manara moved to Cumberland in 2001 because of its reputation for mountain biking. “There was already a small community of people riding bikes, maybe 10 to 12,” he said. As President of United Riders of Cumberland (UROC) for the past seven years, Manara said his mountain biking experience in the Comox Valley was gained “through the school of hard knocks.”

He learned a lot about the village, the sport, trail building and community building. “One of the proudest accomplishments I’ve had in mountain biking is to be involved in so many world-class events,” both in Cumberland and at Mount Washington, he said.

He is also proud of the work that went into signing a land access agreement with TimberWest Forest Corporation on Jan. 31 this year, which allows legal access to the trails around Cumberland. The agreement is key to promoting Cumberland as a mountain biking destination, and it provides an opportunity to market the region in a broader sense.

“The Comox Valley is one of the few regions that would rival a place like Whistler where you have some lift access riding [at Mount Washington], you’ve got Cumberland, Forbidden Plateau, Hornby Island, Campbell River. You’ve got all this riding within 45 minutes of your doorstep.

Development of mountain biking at Mount Washington will take place over the next three years. The first year will be to assess what the trails are like after four years of dormancy, and getting four or five of the previous eight in shape for a mid-July opening.
Some of the best trail makers in Cumberland have been hired by the Resort to work on Mount Washington’s trails, he said. “Everybody we’ve hired has built trail in the local area. I think people when they start to see the product and see there’s been lots of mountain bikers involved in the design, they’ll be happy.”

Crews are building on the strengths of what the Resort had in place previously, he said. “The mantra for this summer has been ‘walk before you run’. We’re still waiting for the upper third of the mountain to melt. Trails haven’t been maintained for four years; other sections were dismantled when we decided to close mountain biking. In other cases we’ve had poor drainage.”

The Resort had approximately 700 responses to a mountain biking survey it publicized this spring, and Manara said they are listening. “We’re going to build the Bike Park to what the market wants and hopefully we’ll get a good response from that,” Manara said. “We really want to take our customers’ feedback seriously. I think people are excited to see the lift access product back.”
Manara says he is personally vested in growing the sport of mountain biking at Mount Washington, particularly for families. “I’ve got a four-year-old and I want to be able to go up there and ride my bike with my daughter in four years when she’s eight years old.”