Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Nordegg riding

Nordegg is well represented in Doug Eastcott's "Backcountry Biking in the Canadian Rockies", the Bible of mountain biking in the ...Canadian Rockies. Like that other bible, it is outdated but still somewhat relevant.

Frontier Lodge in Nordegg (also supporters of that other bible) is responsible for much of mountain biking development in the Nordegg area. Having passed through the area years ago, I never realized how small Nordegg is. Like other front range towns such as Hinton and Bragg Creek, the lack of National and Provincial park red tape has allowed the sport of mountain biking to flourish.

My first stop was Coliseum mountain. Get on the Baldy road and eventually you will come across signs direction you to the trailhead. A well graded pack horse trail leads up through some rock to an awesome summit ridge and to the summit. Most of the first part of the climb is rideable, but there will be a lot of pushing. There was some freshly cut deadfall, so thank you to whoever is keeping this wonderful trail going! This mountain was commonly ridden by helicopter, but save your pennies, the entire ride took under 2.5hrs.

GPS track here

View from the summit, the trail travels along the ridge on the left, then descends to the right across the face in the background.

Coliseum Mt. was the home of Alberta's first fire lookout. The lookout is no more, but there is a  modern lookout on  the adjacent Shunda (Baldy) mountain, but is accessed by a road :(

Yours truly

A nicely benched trail through the rock field.

The trail down has some fun rock sections to keep you on your toes.
In classic Peter Knight style, 1 ride wasn't enough for the day, so I headed out on the other ride in Nordegg for which I had some information on. Children attending the Frontier Lodge bike camps rave about the 12 level DH, and there are some directions to the goods in Eastcott's book.

A video by someone else:
twelfth level, Nordegg on Pinkbike

While I was able to find the trail using the guidebook descriptions, there were times when it felt like I was guessing. I could type out directions, but it is easier to link to my GPS track. To all of you shuttlewhores, the gate at the bottom is locked, so raise your seat and prepare to pedal. Keep an eye out for singletracks leaving the road. Eventually, you end up at the "Telus Tower", and the entrance to the singletrack is obvious.

The first section is some awesome loam and takes you back to the road. Cross the road, and the trail drops down a coal bank. Berms and small wooden stunts welcome you as you cruise along a fast doubletrack section that spits you back out on the road. The next section starts on the left side of the road, you will see some jumps below the road to the left. The final section (well the last one I found) starts at the tip of one of the road switchbacks and spits you out on a quad trail and back to the road. From here, I dropped into some fun, loamy singletrack that I spotted on the way up. Near the bottom, there is a flat quad trail that goes across to the east. I did some exploring here, but not far enough. There is a singletrack that drops off that quad trail further east, used in the 2008 MTB marathon race.

Anyways, I kept following singletrack down and eventually got brought back to my vehicle on gravel roads. I enjoyed the steep loam sections a lot. I did find the fast "12 level" sections to be a little boring probably because I wasn't hitting the stunts. Lots of doubletrack and gravel road. 

The main 12 level section starts just above this point, and drops down a black coal bank similar to that one there. Maybe it is the same one...

Coliseum mountain, where I was earlier.

The Telus Tower, aka the top. The trail entrance is out of view on the left.


The mine closed "recently "in the 1950's. Lots of the old buildings and infrastructure is still intact.

So overall, a nice way to spend the day taking the long way from Edmonton to Canmore. There are many more Nordegg rides described in Eastcott's book but I would like to know a little more about their current condition before committing to the drive. The Black Mountain Challenge and Landslide Lake trails are two such trails that pique my interest. The latter is designated as a recreation trail by the AB government, so I hope that it sees some love. I have also heard of the "Get er Done" downhill trail built by Frontier Lodge staff, but I did not have much information on that.

A short GoPro video I made.

Frontier Lodge sells a guidebook for $12.50 describing trails around Nordegg and the Kootenay Plains area. It would be nice to see more information online to help people plan trips and convince people that there is good mountain biking in Nordegg. Being based in Canmore, Nordegg is around 3hrs away compared to trails from the house (0hrs), Bragg Creek (1.5hrs), Golden and Radium (2hrs), and Jasper, Fernie, and Revelstoke (4hrs). But for someone based in Edmonton, I think Nordegg is actually closer than Jasper or Canmore, so definitely worth it. Frontier hosts an annual biking festival with competitions and group rides as well as bike camps which would be a good opportunity to learn the trails.

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