Biking Trails: EKG – A Classic Ride
by Craig Douce, Rocky Mountain Outlook
EKG is the trail that marked a change in attitude toward mountain biking in the Canmore area and completely reinvented the Canmore Nordic Centre.
While it wasn’t the first of Canmore’s ‘new’ trails, it was the first trail to create a totally new experience for riders.
The Montane Traverse was completed in 2005 – a year before EKG – but the trail merely replaced the Upper Benchlands Trail, which was arguably better. The Reclaimer also came before EKG, but again was a replacement route and not overly cross-country-friendly.
EKG is a trail best suited to riders with reasonable bike handling skills and fitness and is therefore designated intermediate/blue. It is a fairly tough slog for beginners, who could expect to be on the described route for up to two hours. An expert will cover this approximately nine-kilometre route in 45-minutes to an hour.
EKG terrain is typical of what should be expected in Canmore – bumpy and taxing – but it never enters the realm of scary, even for a beginner. It is a must-do if you are a visiting mountain biker.
Less experienced riders can definitely maximize their enjoyment by using a full suspension bike, but anything heavier than a light trail bike would be overkill and a burden on the ups.
Like most major routes at the Nordic Centre, EKG is more than just a single trail, and therefore can be ridden many different ways.
This description is for the ‘classic’ full loop, which is accessed at the beginning from Centennial Trail, before following EKG East, EKG, Orchid Trail and Canmore Trail back to the stadium.
While there are a couple of confusing areas for first-timers, it’s pretty easy to follow, especially if you have the Nordic Centre Summer Trails map.
Departing from the main day lodge, EKG East is accessed by climbing up Centennial Trail, staying right and climbing up the steeper hill where Centennial Trail splits. At the top of this hill, which is the steepest climb on the loop, EKG East is found on the left. This is where the singletrack, and the fun, starts.
The first quarter of the route contains the lion’s share of the climbing, but one of the great aspects of the classic EKG Loop is its lack of major, relentless climbs.
EKG East crosses several ski trails and passes a few turns, but as long as you follow the EKG East signs with the blue square you should stay on track. There are a couple of smaller orange markers with a bike rider, and at least one smaller red maple leaf with a bike rider along the way where the trail is shared, but for the most part, the large EKG East signs show up regularly enough for peace of mind.
At about one-quarter distance a relatively short switchback climb brings you to a high point where EKG, EKG East and FYI intersect (if you’ve already had enough, bailing out on FYI at this point will take you down to within sight of the biathlon stadium via one of the best trails at the Nordic Centre).
The classic loop continues west on EKG across a moderately challenging technical traverse, crossing several ski trails, but once again, following what should be obvious as the main trail will keep you on course, passing EKG signs regularly.
At approximately the half-way mark, the trail pops out of the woods onto Mine Meadow, which rewards your effort with a fabulous view of the Bow Valley as you negotiate fast sweeping turns prior to diving back into some outstanding, but bumpy, sections of singletrack.
Now heading east following EKG, the route makes the most of the natural terrain, twisting and turning with a tendency to descend rather than climb.
EKG continues to cross the Nordic Centre’s labyrinth of ski trails, but the major signs are normally easily seen at these intersections. EKG never follows ski trail for longer than a few metres, so it should soon be obvious if you make a wrong turn. The intersection numbers on your map should quickly set you straight if you stray off course.
When directly below the biathlon range and disc golf course, EKG ends (intersection no. 39 on map). Follow Orchid Trail, which should be visible straight ahead, for the last, but definitely not the least, fast and fun section.
The second half of Orchid Trail climbs up to the intersection of Canmore Trail and Devonian Drop. Making a right at this junction (no. 41) is the final turn before the steepish climb up to the biathlon stadium past the bike jump park.
As with all local trails, wildlife deterrents such as bear spray and bangers are highly recommended. Be sure to respect any posted wildlife closures.
While most riders follow the described clockwise loop or parts thereof, it is important to keep in mind all biking trails at the Canmore Nordic Centre are advertised as two-way, and regularly making noise will help to alert other trail users and animals of your presence.
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