October 30, 2020

MBF Tarentaise selected as Outstanding Local Trail Crew

Each year, the Take Care of Your Trails campaign highlights the work of many volunteers and some of the best volunteer trail crews we have around Europe. Although conditions were far from perfect this year to host trail work events, the groups that participated in our September campaign still managed to contribute more than 6500 hours of volunteer work to maintain and improve their trails and places they love to ride.

We’re exited to announce the first groups that have been selected as “Outstanding Local Trail Crew’. This new award category honours crews that go beyond what you may expect from your local group of volunteers and provide inspirational stories for other groups.

Meet MBF Tarentaise, a group of volunteers active in the Tarentaise region in the French Alpes.
MBF Tarentaise has been selected as Outstanding Local Trail Crew for being successful in key topics like community building, inclusion & diversity, preserve/ enhance trail access, protecting the environment and volunteer recruitment.
Photo credits: Nicolas Secerov

Meet and read the full story of Fahrvergnügen e.V, a MTB club from Trier (DE), maintaining and developing the trails in the Weisshauswald.

During this TCoYT campaign, MBF Tarentaise worked on one of the iconic trails close to Bourg Saint Maurice. Following a municipal decree several months ago, mountain biking became prohibited on this trail in the Tarentaise region in the French Alpes. After some positive conversations with the new local council representatives, the group wanted to organise this event as a community building project that would bring in all types of riders in order to show that the MTB community is there to share, respect and preserve the trails for all users. The discussions and dig day also served as a platform for a communication campaign in order to bring riders into a long-term project of creating a community where MBF/IMBA’s  values to protect and share the environment are shared.

The volunteers made minimal changes to the route of the trail itself to keep it trail-runner and hiker-friendly and to preserve the natural feel of trail. Almost 20 little drainage ditches were re-cut or newly created to evacuate water from the trail and prevent erosion. Hundreds of little rocks were removed to ensure a better footing for walkers and better grip for riders. There were several corners where short-cuts had appeared, and these had caused some quite bad erosion because the water had also taken these short-cuts! We blocked these corners off in a safe and visible manner to encourage hikers and riders to take the original route while managing water flow. And finally, the group was able to fix up several narrow sections where the trail had been eroding to the side of the trail. These even included sustainable solutions such a re-building a wall underneath the side that was eroding to extend the width of the trail without having to cut into the mountain.

Moving towards an inclusive and diverse MTB community
A total of 26 volunteers took part in this TCoYT event and defied poor weather conditions (rain and snow!). A third of those volunteers were women and children, and 50% of the total participants were non-French citizens. MBF Tarantaise is really proud of being able to create an inclusive and diverse community and being able to successfully integrate them all into the process. Overall, we were able to bring together a diverse group of people in order to fight for a common cause and to incite positive change for mountain biking going forward.

Key learning points for other trail crews
When asked about key learning points that could be inspirational for other groups, MBF Tarentaise referred to their diversity approach. ‘First, and perhaps the most important is that the core committee group is split evenly between men and women, and is 50/50 French and non-French. Having people of such diverse backgrounds really help not to get to new ideas and how to carry them out instead of getting stuck in old habits.

Perhaps other trail crews don’t have that diversity of people in their area, but it’s still valuable to keep an open mind and listen to lots of ideas to see if there is a better way to achieve something. Given the international nature of the ski areas around where we live, it was almost inevitable that we would have a mixed committee/organising group. The advantage is that hopefully all local people should feel that we are approachable and inclusive, and where no one will feel alienated. All our publications through social media are both in French and English and making the effort to publicise our events in both key languages of our valley is clearly worthwhile given the diverse group who turned out for our dig day.

Secondly, don’t hesitate to talk to your local council to get their approval. It may not always be easy, they may not always agree with your ideas, it takes a long time and can be tedious but persistence is key and by simply having an open conversation you will be able to find a compromise – don’t give up!

As campaign partner and supporter of IMBA Europe, Specialized Bicycles will provide the MBF Tarentaise crew with a Turbo Levo hardtail and Ibex Bike Trailer. Future trail work events will run even smoother now trail tools and other equipment can be easily transported into remote, hard to reach trail sections. Through their Soil Searching Program, Specialized’ recognizes, celebrates and supports trail builders and trail crews around the world.