TAHOE CITY, Calif. — When the Tahoe Cross Country Ski Education Association’s Director Valli Murnane sat down with the Sierra Watershed Education Partnership’s Project Director Ashley Phillips to talk about the idea of piloting a mountain biking program, they thought the idea of getting 10 kids to come on board would be a huge success.
Their “pilot program” attracted 50 kids, ages 7 through 11, to join up and ride once a week on the Tahoe Cross Country Trails. Having a geared mountain bike and being able to ride a minimum of 4 miles did not seem to be a problem for the 50 young riders who signed up.
“We had been throwing this idea around for a few years, and Ashley encouraged me to just get it started and give it a try,” said Murnane. “We figured if we just mimicked our very successful Strider Glider after-school cross country ski program we could have something viable. It turns out we were right.”
The goal of the TCCSEA Mt. Riders program is to provide children with a safe and positive opportunity to experience and grow in the sport of mountain biking. The program focuses on instruction, practice, responsible riding, and most importantly, fun.
“If it’s not fun, they will lose interest and won’t come back. Our youngest of riders enjoy being able to stop at a destination, have a snack, balance on a log over a stream, maybe fall in the stream and then get back on the bike ready to go to the next pit stop,” said Murnane. “Whereas our older riders can cover more ground and feel more comfortable, being challenged with some hill climbing, rock and log hopping and some flowing single track turns. Our volunteers are absolutely amazed at the amount of skill development and confidence these kids have gained just six weeks in.
“Our goal is to promote family-friendly recreation all year long on the North Shore. Families can ski together in the winter here, and ride and hike together in the summer,” Murnane concluded.
A first-of-its-kind for young riders, Murnane hopes to see these kids continue on with their biking once they outgrow this program.
“Tahoe has so many great biking trails, and it feels good to know that these riders will have the skills to go out and ride them with confidence. It would be great to see our local middle and high schools develop mountain biking into a school sport and I think we are heading in the right direction for that to happen one day,” Murnane continued.
Mountain biking is undoubtedly a growing sport, with nearly 1,000 young riders competing in the National Interscholastic Cycling Association’s race in May. Northern California happens to have one of the largest high school mountain bike leagues in the country.
Tahoe Cross Country, entering its 15th year of winter operations, opened its doors in May to offer trailhead mountain bike rentals and services from the Highlands Community Center trailhead. “The response has been great,” said General Manager Kevin Murnane. “The Highlands Community Center building and these trails are such a great resource for Tahoe City. It was a shame to close the building for eight months a year. Now it is available for local residents and tourists to use during the summer months. The TCPUD has been very supportive, and we are working with the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association and California State Parks to map and mark the trail network above Tahoe City. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
“It would be great to see our local middle and high schools develop mountain biking into a school sport, and I think we are heading in the right direction for that to happen one day.”
Tahoe Cross Country Ski Education Association’s Director