Horseshoe Resort set to pick up mountain biking slack left by Blue Mountain
Anger over Collingwood-area resort's move lingers
The mountain biking scene in Ontario is shifting about an hour to the southwest of the Blue Mountain Resort and Collingwood after the resort pulled the plug on lift-serviced downhill biking and the province’s largest bike park. The good news is that Horseshoe Resort is picking up the slack providing lifts to ferry bikers to the tops of the slopes and corralling big-time mountain biking events such as the Sea Otter Canada cycling festival to the area. But the hole is very deep and it will deliver a huge blow to the fast-growing scene.
Blue Mountain Resort’s move has left some in the local mountain biking community stunned and angry, including James Frost, a competitive mountain bike racer who has raced on the world stage including the Union Cycliste International (UCI) Elite World Cup. His hometown is The Blue Mountains, and his first downhill race was at Blue Mountain.
“My initial reaction included shock, disappointment, frustration and direct anger towards Blue Mountain Resort,” he says. “The entire delivery of the closure communications and the terrible communication up to the announcement of the closure were an embarrassing display of Blue Mountain's inability to understanding the entire sport of lift-accessed (downhill mountain biking) riding and their business operation, which was the staple and self marketed "largest lift-serviced bike park" in Ontario for 20 years. It's a snub, there was no thank you, no trip down memory lane, just radio silence for 12 months then and announcement of closing.”
Blue Mountain announced the bike park and lift service closure through a prepared statement on the resort website.
“After a lot of review and deliberation, Blue Mountain has elected to discontinue lift access biking as of this spring. Downhill mountain biking and the passionate riders who have enjoyed the Blue Mountain Bike Park have all played a part in developing summers on the Mountain. For everyone on our Blue Mountain team, making the decision to shift our approach to our on-mountain trails was not an easy one,” the statement read, in part.
Horseshoe Resort will now host the Sea Otter Canada cycling festival
Shortly after, it was announced by Horseshoe Resort that lift-serviced mountain bike operations would continue as per usual. And, that the facility just north of Barrie would also be hosting the three-day 2021 Sea Otter Canada cycling festival, which was originally held at Blue Mountain.
“The Horseshoe Valley area is a cycling hub. Horseshoe Resort is surrounded by world-class mountain bike single track, rolling roads and gravel trails, and we’ve invested heavily into building the only lift-access mountain bike trails in the province. As cycling enthusiasts who have admired the Sea Otter Classic from a distance, we are thrilled to be the host venue for Sea Otter Canada this fall,” said Jonathan Reid, vice-president of ski resorts, Horseshoe Resort.
Horseshoe now boasts the only lift-serviced mountain biking in Ontario. Frost thinks the resort has positioned itself quite well.
“They saw an opening and quietly built up a following and business operation that caters the core values of riding, something Blue Mountain time and time again failed to grasp,” Frost says. “Horseshoe is now the sole full-time lift-accessed operation, and they will see the benefit of increased pass sales and bike park-related revenue with BMR bowing out. There is already a strong riding community around Horseshoe Resort in the Oro-Medonte area with fantastic trail, gravel and road routes and networks available. Now that Oro has the sport of downhill mountain biking wrapped up, this will only be beneficial.”
According to Krystle Forget, marketing manager for Horseshoe, the increased emphasis on mountain biking will also include trail improvements, new trails and longer hours of operation as well as a mountain bike camp for kids and the return and expansion of the Trail Showdown weekly trail series.
But it will likely take a long time to replace the hole left by the Blue mountain closure. The operation had a couple of decades of growth, which help create a culture and a generation of both enthusiasts and competitive racers.
“What is lost is the on hill investment to trails and infrastructure, the growth and progression of the sport in the community and the province, and a 20-year operation that influenced and raised riders (myself included). There is 750k minimum (probably more) worth of investment on that hill, all now a waste,” he explains. “The entire trail network will be closed. While Blue Mountain intends to have light-accessed cross country riding in the Orchard with access to roughly a third of the lower, lesser-grade existing trails, this barely scratches the surface of the now wasted trail network. Money and tourism are also lost, as there will be a decrease of MTB specific travellers to the area, who would have spent money at the resort on food and beverage, hotels, and other attractions.”