Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Jasper in September

I went downhill skiing in Jasper this past weekend, taking full advantage of the Jasper-in-January discounts. While driving up Marmot Basin Road en route to the ski hill, I kept thinking to myself, man, I’ve got to ride my bike up this mountain someday! The road up to Marmot is a stunning and steep ascent of a full-on mountain road, one of those climbs that just keeps going up and up. Think mountain goats and yetis.  Yet I, somehow, had never cycled up it. I’ve ridden my road bike in the Jasper area, and, in fact, cycled right past the turn off a few times. How is it that I’ve never thought to cycle up to the chalet?

So imagine my surprise when later that day I stopped for coffee on the way back through town and saw this headline in The Jasper Local: “Tour of Alberta creates mountain stage in Jasper.” Seems I’m not the only one who’s been thinking about riding a bike up to Marmot. In the article, Tour Executive Director Duane Vienneau explains that the September 5 stage of the Tour will begin in the Jasper town site and end at the top of Marmot Basin Road.  He wouldn’t reveal any more about the specifics of the route at this point, but that hardly matters to Tour organizers and fans who can finally say that the Tour of Alberta has a true mountain stage. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Frozen Balls

I’ve been thinking about frozen balls lately, both the City of Edmonton’s and my own. I frequently pass this sculpture, officially known as Talus Dome (talus being a geological term for a pile of gravel that sometimes forms naturally at the base of a cliff)  situated beside the southeast on-ramp to the Quesnell Bridge, a busy stretch of the Whitemud Freeway leading to west Edmonton.

Some Edmontonians, however, unofficially refer to it as a pile of gigantic silver rabbit turds. The mound of nearly 1000 big, hand-crafted stainless steel balls is a controversial subject for some locals. The sculpture cost $600 000 of public funds, and naysayers point to it as a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money. Others, like me, kind of like it. It’s shiny, striking, dazzling in certain lights, a sort of man-made attempt at cool, natural beauty.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tomorrow, We Ride . . .

I love the photo on the cover of this book: two men—the Bobet brothers, Louison and Jean, riding side by side, so close together that they’re touching, in that way that only veterans of the peleton can do, despite having the whole road to themselves. The image captures the bond between these very different brothers. In some ways, they lived in different realms—Louison was the acknowledged champion, Jean the bespectacled intellectual—but throughout their eventually divergent lives, they shared a passion for riding bicycles together, one that lasted far beyond their professional cycling careers.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Chickakoo Review

I’m pleased to report that Chickakoo Lake Recreation Area, 40 minutes west of Edmonton, is not only winter fat bike friendly but also winter fat bike fun.

Finding trails to ride fat bikes on in winter can be tricky around here. Sure, the river valley is the go-to place to ride fat, and the valley does offer a fair bit of variety, but sometimes a fella just needs to get out of town. Some of the most obvious places for winter trail rides around here are cross-country skiing facilities like Cooking Lake-Blackfoot and the Strathcona Wilderness Centre. The packed and groomed ski trails at these facilities are ideal for fat biking. There’s just one problem: the skiers.