Canadian Rockies: Mountain biking in the Canmore Nordic Centre

Jeff and I spent our last full honeymoon day in the Canadian Rockies — August 15, 2009 — enjoying activities at our home base of Canmore, Alberta, Canada. We enjoyed a gorgeous day mountain biking through Canmore’s world famous cross country ski park (home to the 1988 Winter Olympics).  Jeff and I opted to save the mountain biking for our final day in Canada, just in the event this new activity wreaked havoc on muscles that we would otherwise have to use for hikes that week.

During the summer, the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park rents mountain bikes instead of skis, and provides mountain bike lessons instead of ski lessons. Although both of us had grown up on banana seat bikes, 10 speeds and beach cruisers, neither Jeff nor I had ever spent much time on mountain bikes. And those few times that we did, it was biking through Southern California paved streets…not riding bumpy muddy mountain dirt trails. Every time we encountered mountain bikers on our hikes, we both expressed a big interest in taking up that outdoors sport as well — particularly since it would allow us to cover more distance than on foot.

So, when we read about the Centre’s mountain bike packages, and realized it was located in the same town as our resort, we decided to check it out. The rental and lesson packages are incredibly reasonable: $60pp for a private lesson and $45pp for an all-day rental of a full suspension bile.  The lesson was excellent!  Our instructor was a young competitive skier named Martin, from the Czech Republic, who spent ski season training in Canmore, and was now working as a mountain bike instructor during the summer season.  Martin was a fabulous teacher — very patient with me.

The Centre is located just outside of quaint little downtown Canmore and includes an extensive trail system into Banff National park that is set among rugged peaks, lush green forest, and spectacular wildflowers. There is a nice wide dirt trail that stretches the length of the park, but the Centre also has plenty of tougher single track trails for more experienced cyclists (download a .pdf trail map here).  Don’t be surprised if you come across deer or even bears during your rides, and allow yourself some time to stop and soak in the breathtaking majestic scenery all around you.

Jeff and I got a bit hooked on that whole mountain biking thing, and we are still debating between double-suspension or hard-tail for our own purchases.  What do you recommend?

Honeymoon Day 7 (1)

Here, at the start of our ride, our Czech-born instructor Martin tries to coax me into riding down a short single track trail that comes out on the road. I couldn't do it. Even after tackling steeper hills through the morning, I never conquered this tiny one -- total mental block. Jeff did great; he managed to make it up and down all the hills the entire morning.... I did a mix of walking and riding my bike on the hills.

Honeymoon Day 7 (2)

Martin led Jeff and I to the widest, easiest trail in the park, the 11K Banff Trail. This is definitely more my style! We did venture off onto a very short stretch of single track, which was a blast. Muddy and rocky.

Honeymoon Day 7 (3)

This is where our instructor Martin said goodbye.... leaving us to ride throughout the park on our own. The weather was nice, but still a bit too cool for shorts, and I alternated between wanting my jacket on and off. Note that I'm sporting a t-shirt from the new Bass Pro shop in Calgary!

Honeymoon Day 7 (5)

We stopped at a big meadow, hoping to see wildlife, just not a bear (although I think Jeff was hoping for one). We contemplating taking alternate trails back, but I felt more secure sticking with our original trail.

Honeymoon Day 7 (7)

Here our trail crosses with a paved trail for the cross country ski-skaters (not cars). The ski-skaters have the right-a-way in the park, since they don't have brakes. A high-pitched noise (almost like a sheep baa'ing) caught our attention... it was a baby deer crossing the road. We must've sat here for about 10 minutes quite still watching the beautiful baby deer. It started making its way right down the road, straight at us. But, it eventually sprinted off into the trees on the left.

Honeymoon Day 7 (8)

A view of downtown Canmore from the road leading into the Nordic Centre. What a fabulous vacation spot!

Honeymoon Day 7 (10)

The reservoir just above Canmore, on the road leading into the Nordic Centre.

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