I have been a guest of the Canada Olympic Park (COP) in Calgary for a week each summer for the past 5 years, hosting a performance bike camp for youth. I do not return each year because of the epic riding, but rather to have the chance to participate in the awesome mountain bike scene that has been created here.
The COP bike park is a veritable David amongst the many Goliath parks to the West. It is an insignificant bump to the west of the Calgary skyline, probably un-noticeable if it weren’t for the looming ski jump towers, a reminder of the Winter Olympics Calgary hosted in 1988. The bike park is scratched out of the shrub-like forest, milking the unassuming vertical for everything possible. These trails did see a modernizing in the form of a Gravity Logic rebuild several years ago, but due to a tight budget and current building projects on the mountain COP cannot dedicate that much time to expanding the park further.
Where this park shines is in the people that are involved. Keen mountain bikers who truly care about their molehill next to the Rocky Mountains, and are willing to put in the time and effort maintain and improve the trails. The coaching staff host Trail Tuesdays, a volunteer effort to keep the trails in good condition, and add new features to keep things exciting. This weekly event is attended by many COP employees, plus a bunch of young bike groms that understand if you want to ride it, you are going to have to build it.
Not only do the trails see love, the local riding scene also receives its share of attention. The COP Bike Camps greet almost 1000 kids every summer into their programs. These are kids all the way from bobble-headed tikes just off training wheels, all the way up to promising young racers dreaming of taking their skills to the big mountains one day. The coaches work tirelessly to instill a love of riding in these campers, assisted by past campers that have taken on volunteer positions as “Junior Pros”, helping to teach programs that they were fairly recently being dropped off in the mornings to attend.
The dedication of the coaches and COP staff to their sport and to their compact little bike park is evident, and inspiring. It is because of this commitment to mountain biking that this unexpected bike park in the prairies thrives, and continues to produce hundreds of new mountain bike enthusiasts every year.