First Nations community turns town into world-class mountain bike destination

The Carcross/Tagish First Nations have turned their community into a world-class mountain bike destination. The Weather Network's Mia Gordon spoke with 'Single Track to Success' about creating jobs, all the while respecting the land around them.

Carcross is a small community in the Yukon, with a population of only a few hundred, but in the summertime this place really comes alive. Thousands and thousands of people visit the area for one main reason, mountain biking.

About 15 years ago, when the Carcross/Tagish First Nations reclaimed Montana Mountain as their traditional land after years of mining. There was debate around what to do with the land. Many of the residents wanted to welcome visitors, but were afraid they wouldn’t respect the region.

Some community leaders along with local youth started working together, and had an idea to create mountain bike trails. The youth that made this a summer job didn’t just learn how to build trails, but also identify plants, protect heritage sites, and how to truly appreciate nature. But not everyone was completely on board with the idea.

“One day I heard about the Elders council having a meeting with the land use team,” Shane Wally tells the Weather Network while working on one of the trails. Wally has been working with Single Track to Success since it started, when he was just 16 years old.

Gov't of Yukon / Derek Crowe: Carcross mountain bike trail. Submitted.

(Government of Yukon/Derek Crowe)

“At first they thought we were cutting down trees and bulldozing the mountain. So I went down to the meeting and let them know, no we aren’t up here doing what we want to do. We have major respect for the land. If there was a tree in the middle, we would build the trail around the tree. After that meeting they were like, ‘Yes! Let’s get these youths working.’”

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Now Montana Mountain boasts about 40 km of mountain bike trails, and has become world renowned appearing in international magazines. Shane says it has been incredible to hear stories of people that have travelled all the way from Whistler and even Europe to bike in his hometown.

Government of Yukon/Derek Crowe/Submitted

(Government of Yukon/Derek Crowe)

As the trails grew, so did the community of Carcross.

“Now there are shops in town, an ice cream shop and coffee shop,” says Wally. “All locally owned and operated. It is pretty cool to see that growth happening all because of some mountain bike trails.”

But he adds what is most important to him is teaching visitors to respect the land.

“I think our ancestors are pretty happy that we are out here on our traditional land and building bike trails and inviting people to come out here and ride the trails. We get to show them why us First Nation people want to protect the land, because it is so beautiful. If we can invite more people out here and show the beauty of the forest and the mountains, more people will want to start taking care of it.”

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Find out more about this incredible community in the video that leads this article.