Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Changing MTB Scene: New Rider Membership Program Will Benefit All Riders

Members participate in a VMBA trail-building workshop at Perry Hill.
There's a new deal on trails this spring. Riders in Vermont are joining the Vermont Mountain Bike Association and selecting a local chapter to support in the process, rather than the old method of directly joining local chapters. It organizes all riders under one roof, supports the state-wide mtb scene, and gives chapters access to thousands of riders.

When you join VMBA, you affiliate with a local chapter, which you choose from a drop-down list when you join VMBA. The money gets split 50/50 with VMBA and the local club of your choice. This arrangement takes the place of clubs paying dues to VMBA, which they've always done in the past in exchange for insurance, nonprofit status, and many other benefits. So it doesn't necessarily change the volume of cash flow, just the direction of it. And the benefits to a club from VMBA (insurance is a biggy) are tremendous, so its a good deal for you, and a good deal for the club. It means we now have a statewide membership program, through which you also support your local club, and you can support additional clubs for $24.50 each if you want.

A strong statewide membership allows VMBA to leverage more resources for all of us.VMBA coordinates state level land-use agreements, landowner liability policy and insurance, and trail grants programs, all of which directly benefit the chapters working on the ground (see a feature article on VMBA past and present). With this new membership structure, riders directly support that state-level advocacy. Then, by selecting a chapter to join, 50% of membership dues go to the local chapter's coffers, to be used for trail building projects and events. As founders of the Plainfield-Marshfield Mountain Bike Club (stay tuned for a much more fabulous name in the near future), Tristan and I are really excited about this new structure.

We encourage everyone to check out the membership benefits (including a digital subscrip to Dirt Rag magazine and over 80 coupons for places riders go - seriously, the list is long, check it out). Let us know if you have questions - we'd be happy to talk about the new membership program.

Happy trails,
S. & T. 

See this recent post on on what the organization has been up to. (Hint: it's all about strengthening chapters, securing access, and building long-term partnerships so we can build more trail!)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Circling the Camel: Skiing an Iconic Vermont Peak

The CHC crosses many high-elevation wetlands, perfect for snack breaks.

My skis glide onto the edge of an alpine wetland. A dark rocky cliff face looms high above and a layer of spruce trees cuts into the grey sky. I’m about halfway in to my 13-mile ski tour, and the boulder at the opposite end of this frozen water looks to be the perfect spot to rip open my Snickers bar. In those first few bites, I’m rewarded with the sweet taste of chocolate peanuts and cold-hardened caramel, and the sweet feeling of being self-propelled over great distances of Vermont’s backcountry.

I’m skiing the Camel’s Hump Challenge (CHC), a tour that circumnavigates the summit of Camel’s Hump by traveling through both private and State forest. A knee injury left my partner at the halfway point, where some nice folks will walk out with her and give her a ride back to our car. I'm on my own on a long tour, on a big mountain. And it's pretty cool.

So happy to see each other.
The CHC route affords access to established birch glades, fragrant spruce-fir forests, and strings of upland wetlands not typically visited by hikers or skiers. It’s beautiful, but it’s earned. With many miles of climbing, dotted by sections of smooth tracking and fast dips in elevation, this route is both challenging and rewarding.The forests I've seen today flash in my head. Birch glades out of a story book; spruce forests that hang heavy with the scent of pine. It's all been so beautiful.

There's a greater cause bringing me out here today. As CHC board member Bruce Beeken puts it, “The purpose of this event is to enjoy this extraordinary ski tour and to raise money for a good cause.” In order to be here, we each raised $125 or more in donations from friends and family to support education and family support programs at the Vermont Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.I don't know this during my ski, but I will later learn that together all skiers raised $22,000 - a new record. 

Later in the day I will ascend and descend Wind Gap (a feat I am still amazed I did on my own) and then beautiful Bald Hill - a ripping fast descent that had me grinning ear to ear the whole long way down. And I will ski up to my friends. My dog will run out and greet me, hugs will come from all directions, and beer will taste better than it ever has. For now, I taste the melting chocolate again, and savor the fresh air, my health and vitality, and every minute of this beautiful backcountry. 

Happy trails.
- S. 

Also, for a look into behind-the-scenes preparation for the CHC, see:
- Clearing the Way