Gripping the handlebars, I steered my front tyre to roll between smooth, rounded boulders. Ahead of me the dirt track curved to the left, and I guided my bike to stay high, negotiating the banked corner smoothly. Then, with a couple of well-timed pedal strokes, I rolled down, up and over a roller coaster dip, and I shouted for joy.
I felt at one with my bike, experiencing a bliss only found on mountain bike trails that are masterfully designed, as they are at Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park. And I just love how the smooth berms on the Soft Yogurt trail actually help me to roll effortlessly from one obstacle to the next.
The Canmore Nordic Centre was originally built to host the cross-country skiing and biathlon events of the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. A scant drive – or an invigorating bike ride for fitness buffs – from the mountain town of Canmore, the Centre continues to be a favourite for athletes in training and regular folk like me. The skiing here during the winter months is divine, but guess what? This place is heaven for mountain bikers in the summer.
When I’m in the mood for gorgeous Rockies scenery, I love riding the intermediate level Adrenaline Loop to Meadow View, where the wide open views stretch far down the valley, with the brilliant turquoise Bow River winding right down its centre.
And for a fast-paced bit of excitement, nothing beats the expert-level Black Coal Chutes for a uniquely thrilling downhill spin on black dirt rich with real, shiny coal, a souvenir of sorts of the area’s coal mining history.
Outdoor Fun Centre
The facility offers 95 km (59 mi) of mountain bike trails, including 30 km (18.5 mi) of steep, tight, exciting and challenging single track for intermediate to expert riders. There are also shorter, gentler trails for kids and novice mountain bikers.
Plus there’s an 18-hole disc golf course, trail running and walking options, and an orienteering course. Ranging from 1 to 8 km, (0.5 to 5 mi) the course offers great opportunities for exploring and to practice map-reading skills, from beginners to experts. For the acrobatic set, there’s a skills park complete with dirt jumps and technical features including bridges, drops and skinny beams to test a rider’s balance.
In a sight unique to the Centre, the 6.5 km (4 mi) paved roller ski trail is where you’ll often spot Olympic cross-country skiers and bi-athletes training on extra short skis mounted on small wheels. The Bi-athlon Range is also open for athletes to practice their shooting skills.
The place hosts several popular events in summer, including the 24 Hours of Adrenalin mountain bike race where riders race around the trails right through the dark of night wearing bright headlamps. For runners, the annual Canmore Rocky Mountain Half Marathon features 5 and 10 km (3 and 6 mi) distances.
And, for a tasty après ride snack and pint, you can’t beat the handcrafted beer or the view of Canmore’s Three Sisters mountains from the patio of Canmore’s own Grizzly Paw Brewing Company.