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New Brunswick park ahead of the curve on mountain bike surge

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A New Brunswick provincial park’s pivot from a pair of alpine slides to a pack of bike trails nearly 15 years ago has given it a head start on the activity’s accelerated growth.

Sugarloaf Provincial Park in Atholville, N.B., will host its 2022 Adrenaline Festival this weekend, a tradition at the site since it became Atlantic Canada’s first chair lift mountain bike park in August 2008.

“Over the years, every year we try to develop more trails, new trails, improve existing trails,” says park manager Greg Dion. “It just kind of grew and grew and grew into what it is today.”

There are now 11 downhill mountain bike trails at Sugarloaf ranging in names from Sugar Mama (beginner), Sugar Daddy (intermediate), and Supa Sweet (expert). The trails include berms, wooden jumps, and drops.

The sport’s steady growth has only accelerated over the last two years.

“I think it had something to do with COVID maybe and everyone wanting to get outside more, but it’s on the way up for sure,” says James Sleigh, of British Columbia-based Gravity Logic, who’s been creating and improving trails at Sugarloaf over the last few weeks.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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During the winter months, Sugarloaf Provincial Park serves as an alpine ski hill.

The location’s previous summer draw had been two side-by-side alpine slides. Park staff had to make a decision to remove or replace the structure once the 26-year concrete tracks began to fall apart in 2007 under the weight of heavy snow.

“It would’ve cost us about $400,000 to fix the slide and get it operational again,” says Dion.

Instead, management leaned toward the groundwork being laid out by other park users.

“Some of the local mountain bikers had already blazed a few trails on the ski hill,” says Dion. “They were used occasionally for racing and what not. So there was already a bit of a flavour of mountain biking going on.”

The 2022 Adrenaline Festival will include racing events on both downhill and cross-country terrain “for people of all ages and ability levels,” says Dion.

There will also be live music and a “World Championship Mountain Bike Pond Crossing” event at the bottom of the hill.

“We’re going to build a little bridge which is 10 inches wide and put in on tire tubes,” says Dion. “We’re going to see who can ride across this floating bridge the fastest from one end to another.”

The Adrenaline Festival begins on Friday. The Sugarloaf Bike Park and its chair lift operates Thursday to Sunday for the 2022 season until early October.

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