Get into the Whitecourt summer flow with bikes, boats and tubes
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Whitecourt, AB - Riding the dirt dragon down three rippling spines, the speed propelling my bike up, over and through a final samurai bridge, I’m learning a lesson in flow. With a newly opened bike park, an extensive trail network connecting across town, some of the best tubing anywhere and boating on two different rivers, finding the flow for summer fun in Whitecourt is simple: bike, tube, beach, boat, repeat. Relaxing into that flow as it sweeps you up is the key to spending days of unending adventure. Or, simply put: when in Whitecourt, do as the locals do.
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Generations of adventurers have put their stamp on the town of Whitecourt and it shows. Darrell Strebchuk is a second-generation Whitecourt resident, his father Willard formerly served as mayor. The younger Strebchuk has been instrumental in building the new bike park. And his son, Carter, is one of a gang of kids who are slaying the mountain bike park one fine summer morning when Mike Eaun and his son Spencer roll up on the scene.
Another young buck has also come to hang out—an adolescent male deer. With the park just minutes from the McLeod River along a forested valley, bikes aren’t the only traffic in the park.
For a moment, the buck and the bikers lock gaze. Then it’s back to riding. While the older generation tend to favour the cross-country trails, a couple even getting the e-bike assist to give them a little more boost going up, the younger crowd are all about the big dirt jumps.
It may be small compared to bigger mountain resort parks to the west, but for its location east of the mountains, this is a park that punches well above its class. Bulky berms swell up along the turns flowing into roller coaster humps and boardwalks, finishing with a wooden bridge feature that urban landscape architects would drool over. Angular, clean and both prominent and well integrated on the landscape at the same time, it looks like the earth just birthed this perfection.
The stylish design is a hallmark of Jay Hoots, who has been busy in Alberta helping cultivate the bike scene by bringing communities together in the cause of park building.
“When he asked what we wanted, we said blue—but aggressive blue,” smiles Strebchuk. And Hoots has hit it right on the head.
As always though in a Hoots park, there are progressive features to help riders of all skill levels build. Strebchuk, Eaun and a few of the other older generation who routinely ride the mountain parks are also able to have some fun here.
Riding bikes can be dusty work but fortunately Whitecourt has all the water features you could want to wash the dirt off and cool the muscles after a ride. You can go boating, fishing or swimming within minutes of downtown, but the town’s claim to fame in summer is river tubing.
You’d be hard pressed to find a Whitecourt resident who doesn’t own at least a tube or two. It’s pretty much a local rite of passage. So that’s where Mike and Spencer take us next.
Whitecourt is at the confluence of the Athabasca and the McLeod Rivers, and while the Athabasca can be quite powerful the McLeod is the tamer of the two. The lazier of the two rivers makes for safe tubing and a relaxing way to cool off on a hot day.
The Athabasca River is another story. One of two sites in the province for the annual international jetboating races, the action on this water is faster. Evening finds us cranking up the tunes and spraying the wake in all directions, the breeze off the river taking the edge off another sweltering summer day. With the roar of the engine, rippling waves and long tail from the boat, we’re riding the dragon again, but now we’re in the flow.
WHEN YOU GO
- Check out the Whitecourt Bike Mountain Bike Association for all your trail and park info, and to buy your trail pass.
- Camp right next to the bike park at Brooke’s Creek. There’s also an 18-hole mini-golf course on site.
- Be sure to bring your tubes! Rotary Park has giant river slides for the younger crowd, and the McLeod River has some of the best tubing in Alberta.
- Try a round at the Whitecourt Golf and Country Club and test yourself on one of Alberta’s most scenic—and most challenging—golf holes, perched just above the Athabasca River, with the green jutting out into the river on a small peninsula.