Nico, Keona, Mackenzie and Jared fly down a snow-covered ridge and hit a jump on “The V,” a v-shaped section of hill on biking trails just outside of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.
They can usually be found biking a trail system they’ve helped build by hand as part of the Carcross Tagish trail crew at Singletrack to Success, but because it’s winter and those trails are covered in snow, they’ve traded in mountain bikes for fat tire bikes and are laughing as they push their bikes back up the ridge again and again.
On a cold Friday afternoon, we met up with program participants to talk about their work. It was -37 degrees and they shifted their weight, cold and nervous, while speaking about themselves and their experience.
The minute they hop on bikes, however, they turn on.
What they’ve said is visible as you see them pedaling furiously and flashing wide smiles. The program has instilled pride in them. Helping them reconnect to their traditional lands as well as placing them in positions of leadership in their community, talking knowledgeably about Montana Mountain, a sacred place for their community, Carcross/Tagish First Nation.
They’re aware of the importance of their role and they also get to ride the trails they make and have fun doing what they love.
Nico, a program alumnus, was also able to join us. He is currently training to be a ski-guide and spends his days working on trails with Parks Canada, a job he was recruited to do as a result of his work on the Carcross trails. He said he’s one of the few indigenous people he sees in the ski world and credits Singletrack to Success for an introduction to the outdoor industry.
Founder Jane Koepke says the program started on a wing and a prayer in 2006, but eleven years later, the trail system, built by indigenous youth as young as 14, was lauded by Outside Magazine as home to “some of the world’s gnarliest trails” and called mountain biking here “the new Yukon Gold Rush.”
Riding the trails, meeting the young trail crew dedicated to their upkeep and supporting a meaningful organization in an incredible location is an all-around win and it can only happen in the Yukon.