This Summer I have been lucky enough to spend a few weekends at some of Victoria's Mountain resorts riding my bike. Mountain Bike riding at snow resorts is reasonably new to Australia, but obviously makes sense. What's the point of having beautiful alpine mountains empty for the majority of the year?
Hundreds of hours of hard work have gone into making some incredible trails on these mountains with some truly 'epic' results. People that ride at the mountain resorts really enjoy the diversity of what is on offer to them.
With the expansion of the trail networks there is also a cost, paying trail builders to cut in these trails isn't free, and with each season passing by the resort would hopefully be seeing visitor numbers on the rise. With more people visiting there should be a flow on effect in terms of accommodation required and places to eat and drink. These mountains should be a really vibrant place in Summer!!
Unfortunately this is not the case, and after attending a MTB festival recently and sharing a beer with a good friend maybe we (or just he!) came up with a reason or part there of as to why these amazing destinations almost resemble ghost towns in the peak of Summer.
The resorts have built great trails, no doubting that, but who do they cater for?? It is safe to say that to ride the majority of trails you need a reasonable amount of experience and also fitness. This point alone wipes out possibly the biggest growth market in the sport, beginners!
The mountains need to attract more people, they need to get more businesses open during summer, they need more accommodation options, they want people to not only be riding the trails, but sleeping, eating and spending money in the resorts. It's great to advertise the knarliest downhill run or race, but realistically what percentage of the riding community will be interested in it??
We need trails that appeal to the masses, it's not an easy task but it can be done. I am not saying remove or change the existing trails, but maybe add a loop or 2 to give beginners a taste of Alpine Mountain Biking.
Hans Rey, a living legend in out sport has coined the term Flow Country Trail. In his words this is what it is all about:
Flow Country trails are flowy, purpose-built singletrails for mountain bikers of any skill level or for any kind of mountain bike, no matter whether beginner or expert or on a hardtail XC or downhill bike; and especially for the ever growing section of All Mountain/ Enduro riders. This mountain bike specific trail will provide a common playground for both worlds of riders, the endurance driven riders and the Freeriders. The tracks shall neither be extreme, nor too steep or dangerous, small berms and rollers shall provide the addicting rollercoaster feeling and sensation.
Flow Country trails go predominantly downhill with short uphill sections, if the terrain permits, to naturally reduce the speed and to enhance the rollercoaster character. Ideally, a good biker would not have to do too much braking or pedaling. Flow Country trails are narrow, natural singletrails (1–3 ft. wide), with diverse and appropriate elements such as; berms, rollers, rocks, roots, small jumps and drops which should also be roll-able or can be avoided. In certain areas the trail can be a bit more technical demanding, steeper, rougher, or more narrow, but will still be easy to navigate for all riders. Potentially with some pedal sections and short climbs.
Could this philosophy help increase rider numbers, maybe an experienced crew could bring a newbie along, or instead of a dad heading to the trails on his own he could bring the entire family knowing there is riding, accommodation, food and more for everyone to enjoy.