Organizer of new bike festival wants to transform Alberta

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Canmore is addicted to bikes.

Mountain bikes, cross bikes, road bikes, fat bikes, downhill bikes, dirt bikes, townies and unicycles – all are common sights in a town that believes the proper number of bikes to own is “one more.”

Now, a new festival in town is ready to harness that energy into an economic driver for the province.

Even though its debut is still more than a year away (June 2017), the Canadian Rockies Mountain Bike Fest is already generating a buzz, and recently picked up second place in Travel Alberta’s Growing Rural Tourism Conference Entrepreneurship challenge, held in Camrose.

Envisioned as a method of promoting Alberta’s vast yet disconnected mountain bike community through a multi-day celebration, event owner Wanda Bogdane said the festival will knit together the province’s incredible cycling resources while bringing together trail alliances, coaches, clubs, destination marketing organizations, builders and manufacturers to celebrate the sport and create an economic driver in its wake.

“It’s a big piece. This will close a number of gaps we’re seeing,” said Bogdane. “The initial vision was to promote the region from gateway to gateway. Starting at the Saskatchewan border, we want mountain bikers to have info on how to access the largest urban mountain bike trail network in North America in Edmonton, and include amazing cycling in Hinton, Jasper, down to Lake Louise, Banff, Canmore, Kananaskis and into the Crowsnest, or heading up to Red Deer and Devon.”

The multi-day festival in Canmore will be designed to push the regional approach to the sport, however, instead of adding yet another mountain bike race to Canmore’s crowded calendar, the festival’s focus will be on connections and joy of the sport.

Mountain bike communities from across Alberta will be invited to showcase what they have to offer. While the initial idea sounds a bit like Crankworx, which attracts 130,000 people to Whistler each year, Bogdane said the grassroots festival will be grassroots.

“The festival will be for fun and will celebrate the culture of mountain biking. We will invite communities in the region to showcase their own mountain bike assets and trails,” Bogdane said.

Looking into British Columbia, Bogdane said other jurisdictions have pulled off the regional approach, and she sees no reason why riders won’t flock to Alberta for cycling the same way they rush to Moab.

While the town of Canmore has a bike festival, Bogdane said this festival has its sights set on bigger horizons, and could be an extremely important way for Alberta to further diversify its economy. As the province’s demographics change, golfers are seeing many courses close, and being redeveloped as mountain bike parks.

“The timing couldn’t be better. We see a lot of rubber tire traffic coming through Canmore and the low Canadian dollar is an advantage for tourism. Mountain biking is seeing such strong growth overseas as well … Studies are showing mountain biking is the new golf.”

The Travel Alberta win came with $6,000 in seed funding and a mentorship package and Bogdane is still looking for more partners.

“There are a ton of different ways to be involved, and we’ve had interest from the bike industry and non-bike industry companies who want to reach the core demographic of a loyal, affluent group mostly aged 35-55. But with something this large, we need more support.”

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Rocky Mountain Outlook