More than 100 children are participating at this year’s Mountain Bike Madness summer camp at Yellowknife’s Bristol Pit.
Scott Stirling, a previous participant and volunteer who is now a co-owner, says the camp encourages physical fitness and confidence while teaching cool skills and tricks on a mountain bike.
“We’re very much of the thinking that mountain biking and physical activity is really important to kids and it’s a really great way to allow kids to enjoy the summer months in the short time that we have,” Stirling siad.
“It’s really heartwarming when I hear that the camp is not only helping a child to be very active but is also giving them a lot of confidence, giving them social skills, and helping them make lifelong friendships.”
The camp, which runs from June 8-August 28, has been a feature in Yellowknife for 15 years. It is open to children aged seven to 13, while past campers who have aged out can come back and volunteer.
Liam Upton, another co-owner and past camper, says 164 children are registered with some riders participating in multiple weeks.
“There are kids that have been coming to camp for a while. We have our volunteers now, one of which has been coming to camp for seven years, so we watched him grow up,” said Upton.
Alongside mountain bike skills, the camp offers bike repair lessons, beach visits, and games of capture the flag and manhunter.
“We talk about staying positive and maybe something that we do at camp isn’t your favourite but, as long as we stay positive and participate, we can make someone else’s day a little bit better,” said Upton.
“We go to the beach, do some swimming, and some kids simply just love to swim all afternoon.”
Dig to ride
Most of the trails, jumps, and skills park features are built and maintained by the campers themselves.
“There’s a motto in mountain biking: you’ve got to dig to ride. So we spend some time taking care of our features with the kids, so they have a sense of pride in the area of Bristol Pit and just the Yellowknife surroundings,” said Upton.
Dominick Somers, nicknamed Loaf, is a returning camper. He says his favourite part of the camp is that it gives him a reason to be active.
“My mom originally got me in here just so I could get exercise because I was a couch potato, but I liked it and I like progressing in mountain biking now,” said Loaf.
Upton said: “It’s really neat working with different campers. As we progress in our skills, we have terrain to offer everyone and we’ll kind-of push them toward something a little bit out of their comfort zone – but something definitely within their limitations, and you see them warm up to it.”
A participant at the 2020 Mountain Bike Madness camp in Yellowknife.
Working on a bike during the camp.
Jordan Mair, known as Fish, is a returning camper. He says the camp gives him something to do during the day.
“I really like the camp because it gets me doing stuff instead of just staying at home thinking about what to do,” said Fish.
“Last year I only did two weeks, and now I’m doing two months of mountain bike camp. I enjoy it a lot more than I usually have and I’ve gotten way better at mountain biking.”
Stirling and Upton took over the camp in 2018 after the previous owner wanted to move on, but did not want to see the camp end.
“I think he saw how much we cared – and how passionate we were about riding and about promoting a healthy lifestyle through physical activity and physical literacy – and he said, ‘Hey, do you guys want to take this over?’” said Stirling.
Upton and Stirling now want to expand the camp to other communities in the territory.
“Mountain biking is a thing in the North and it can be bigger than just here in Bristol Pit and this area,” said Stirling.
“There are new trails happening and being built all the time through the Yellowknife Mountain Bike Club.
“Liam and I are really looking to reach out to other communities and other areas around the North to see if this might be something that they’d be interested in, and if we could possibly go and run our programming elsewhere, because we think it can be so cool.”