As the biking season edges ever closer to its end, we were lucky enough to take a quick trip to Calgary to meet with Christian Bagg at Bowhead Corp and see first hand the production of these game changing accessibility machines. On the return trip we spent the night at Nipika Resort, just outside the boundary of Kootenay National Park. I have known Nipika as a destination for winter recreation for years, what I knew less about were its mountain biking trails and this Spring we were introduced to Lyle Wilson and his vision of having the largest network of adaptive mountain biking trails in the county. Our trip included a stay in Nipika’s accessible cabin, as well as a tour of the initial work in the resorts adaptive network. Our commitment to Nipika’s network includes making sure that these trails meet the standards that allow for a trail to allow for hand cycles. I was blown away by their thoughtfulness of trail design, which probably speaks to the breadth of their experience with single track and their attention to rider experience. We were shown future staging areas, communal halls, trails and some of the most stunning viewpoints one could imagine. We at KASA look forward to a continued partnership with Nipika into the future, but for now we were able to pose a few questions to Lyle which will help you understand their vision and legacy they wish to leave.
KASA: Nipika of 2019 is an impressive achievement by any standard. Where did the idea of Nipika begin for you?
Lyle: In the late 1970s I ran an outdoor leadership training centre for the government of Alberta called the Blue Lake Centre north of Hinton, Ab. I loved the work and the setting, but the civil service was just too stifling for my creative, off the wall, mind, so I started searching for a location for a private centre dedicated to all the natural outdoor activities. In March of 1979 I was looking at a property for sale up the St Mary’s River In Kimberley and on the way back to Hinton, I stopped for a coffee in Radium Hot Springs. A conversation with a couple of loggers in the Husky Coffee shop led me up Settlers Rd. to look at this old homestead that was for sale. I fell totally in love with it at first sight! I owned it two weeks later.
KASA: Sustainability is a big topic these days. When you look at the over all brand and direction of Nipika, what does sustainability look like for you?
Lyle: Sustainability is the soul of Nipika! We are out to prove that non-consumptive Recreation can be exciting, fun, affordable, family oriented, and that experiences are more important than “stuff”. We build everything we can by salvaging waste wood from the forest around us. All the cabins and most of the furniture is built in our shop utilizing materials that grew up on the site. We generate our electricity with solar panels, burn wood ( a renewable resource) for most of our heat, and we focus completely on self propelled, non-motorized activities. We are a non-shooting area, no firearms can be discharged on the entire Cross River Canyon Recreation Site. The most important aspect that helps us with sustainability is that because Nipika is a pedestrian site, we get people out of their vehicles for their entire visit. Wildlife conservation is a central theme at Nipika. We try to retain a simple and natural setting, respecting the wildlife whose space we have invaded. We are a working woodlot and through our forest stewardship initiatives we maintain a healthy forest surrounding the resort for our guests to enjoy for generations to come.
Sustainability is about doing what you do with a minimal environmental footprint. We take that into consideration with every decision we make.
KASA: Sustainable harvest of beetle kill timber on your property not only keeps the health of the surrounding ecosystem in check, it also supports building projects and trail creation. How do you balance wood lot harvest quotas with the environment and trail development?
As a woodlot we have an annual harvest quota to maintain. From the beginning we set that AAC ( allowable annual cut) at a Level well below the annual growth rate of the forest. That simply means trees are growing at a greater rate than we are cutting them down. Everything we do in our forest management plan has to meet two other criteria, improving the recreational values of the landscape, and improving ungulate habitat. We harvest primarily for forest health, focusing on mountain pine bottle eradication and recently the fir bark beatle infestation. All our logging is done selectively, no clear cuts at Nipika. We utilize dead wood for heating and construction of our facilities and furniture.
KASA: Nipika has a storied history, of which we were thrilled to hear about. When it comes to the future, what would you hope people remember about this era of Nipika?
If people remember nothing else about their Nipika experiences, my hope is that they develop a great love for nature, improve their health and fitness through self propelled outdoor activities, and have a better appreciation for family and friends by sharing life altering adventures!
KASA: Inclusion in outdoor spaces is a relatively new conversation and Nipikas commitment to adaptive mountain bike trails is something we hope to celebrate along side the resort. How do you see inclusivity, through the lens of outdoor sport, helping the Resort?
I believe that one in thirteen Canadians has some form of disability. Why on earth should they not be allowed to share the values and joys that we promote to the able bodied population. I don’t really know that inclusiveness will directly benefit Nipika, but it will benefit the Wilson family and all our staff simply in the knowledge that we are attempting something good for EVERYBODY!
KASA: Looking towards the future, what can we look forward to in Nipika Resorts continued evolution?
Our focus for the future is not to continue to grow the size of the resort as much as it is to continue to enhance the qualities of the experiences we provide for our guests. This looks like, more and better programs, improving our trails and surroundings, continued training for our staff, and broadening the range of abilities we can cater to with our services and amenities. The future is only limited by our energy and imagination!