IMBA Summit set for week in Steamboat

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— The influx of mountain bikers heading here this week is coming from nearby — the International Mountain Bike Association, which is putting on its world summit starting Wednesday in Steamboat Springs, is headquartered in Boulder, of course.

But it also is coming from far away. Organizers expect at least 13 countries to be represented, and some bikers will be coming literally from the other side of the world, flying in from as far away as Australia.

Mountain biking, as it turns out, is a bit of an international language, and it will be the topic of conversation among the 400 people bound for Steamboat Springs.

“The great thing about the international flavor is that the whole point of the summit is to share experiences,” IMBA Communications Director Mark Eller said. “There’s no substitute for hearing of trail experience and getting the broadest possible perspective on what people are doing to have fun on knobby tires.”

The summit begins Wednesday with a focus spread around town, from a trail crew workshop to tours of the Moots Cycles factory and, of course, a few rides on Emerald Mountain.

The event kicks into high gear Thursday with sessions at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort and The Steamboat Grand geared toward IMBA chapters themselves on topics such as avoiding legal action, fundraising to build trails and getting volunteers effectively involved.

Friday's sessions will focus more on mountain bike tourism.

The attendees aren’t just mountain bike addicts, though there will be plenty of those. They also will be policymakers, including those from government agencies who play a big part in building and maintaining trails.

“From the federal to the state to the local level, we try to make sure it’s not just the mountain bike enthusiasts, but that there are policymakers who decide where we’ll be able to take our bikes that we involve in the conference,” Eller said.

Saturday brings the opportunity to ride with trips to trails on Rabbit Ears Pass and Emerald Mountain, then a summit barbecue, and finally, Sunday will feature the Summit-X Enduro race starting at 9 a.m. at Steamboat Ski Area.

Many of those activities required registration, which now has passed, but there are ways for locals to still get involved. A vendor expo will take place from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday in and around Gondola Square. A film, "Singletrack High," will be shown in Gondola Square starting at 8 p.m. Saturday, and registration remains open for Sunday’s race.

Steamboat was one of 16 locations to apply to the Boulder-based organization and beat out fellow Colorado biking hubs Breckenridge and Crested Butte in the finals. This is the first time the biennial event has taken place in Colorado. The most recent edition, in 2012, was in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Previously, hosts have included many of the very best cycling hot spots: Whistler, British Columbia; Moab, Utah; and Park City, Utah.

“It’s a challenge,” Eller said. “We want to do it all while we’re there, and that includes playing on our bikes and getting out and riding. We chose Steamboat for a reason, and that is because it really exemplifies a community that gets behind biking and mountain biking and commits resources to making it better.

“The only way to really appreciate that is to get out and hit the trails.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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