A Clear Path Forward For The Vermont Mountain Bike Association

Mar 3, 2023 at 10:28
by Vermont Mountain Bike Association  
Mountain biking in Vermont has changed considerably over the last decade and is now Vermont's fastest-growing form of outdoor recreation. In 2022 alone, TrailForks counted over 580,000 ride logs, more than double their pre-pandemic number. Vermont Mountain Bike Association (VMBA) has also grown into the country's largest statewide MTB advocacy group, wrapping up last year with nearly 10,000 members - equivalent to 1.5% of the Vermont population. With this incredible growth in profile, presence, and impact - those at the helm of VMBA acknowledged the need for a new long-term plan to chart a course that harnesses this growth and ensures we retain the magic and character of Vermont trail riding.

Vermont mountain biking trails

Photo by Mark Clement - Richmond Mountain Trails

“Taking stock of the state of the big challenges and opportunities for mountain biking here in Vermont, as well as the strengths VMBA has developed as an organization, allowed us to put together a plan that we believe will bring trail riding in Vermont to the next level.” - Nick Bennette, VMBA Executive Director
The Board and staff sat down in early 2022 to revisit VMBA’s Mission and Vision, culminating in modest but important updates to both Statements. With these in place as a ‘north star,’ VMBA leadership collected input from the organization’s 29 Chapters, listened to partners, and analyzed data from their annual Member Surveys. Based on these sources, they then mapped out the major challenges in the way of well-planned, accessible, and progressive trail systems state-wide and a future where mountain biking is at the center of healthy, economically vibrant, and environmentally sustainable communities statewide.

VMBA Group Ride at Burke Mountain Resort
Photo by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur - Burke Mountain Resort

With this long list of ideas, desires, challenges, and opportunities, the Board and staff hammered out seven major goals across Trails, Advocacy, Community, and the Organization. That’s right, TACO:

1. Steward a statewide network of accessible, well-planned, progressive, and sustainable trails
2. Move public-access recreational trails out of Act 250 and into an appropriate oversight model
3. Acknowledge landowners by incorporating public-access trails into the Current Use program
4. Establish an informed ridership that knows where, when, and how to ride
5. Count the majority of those who regularly use Vermont’s trails as active VMBA Members
6. Significantly increase youth, non-male, BIPOC, and adaptive representation in MTB ridership
7. Run a thriving, sustainable organization that attracts and retains talent and develops our Chapters.

You can check out a visual summary of the plan and the entire document on www.vmba.org. Those interested are also invited to attend VMBA’s virtual Annual Meeting on 3/23 to learn more; details can be found on the Events page on vmba.org.

About VMBA
Through a family of 29 unified Chapters, the Association carries out its mission to ensure the sustainability of mountain biking in Vermont and thoughtfully promote exceptional riding experiences for all through advocacy, education, and community-driven stewardship. VMBA is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. The Chapter model and approach to state-level advocacy is a uniquely effective combination that meaningfully links the perspectives of individual riders to the Association’s work with state leadership. With nearly 10,000 members, VMBA is a cornerstone of Vermont’s outdoor community, advocating for public land access, private landowner protections, modernized policy, and sustainably constructed trails.


  • 5 0
 I’ve been happy to support VMBA over the years. Looking forward to more local trail systems springing up in rural areas. Pumptracks at schools would be cool too (need more!) Specifically Northern VT like Franklin County (I am also part of that club) where it takes longer (usually 30mins or more) to get to the “good” networks surrounding I89 south of BTV, or on the other side of Mansfield. Traditionally these rural areas have had nothing to do with biking, but farming, big trucks, and the 2nd amendment. The much heralded Northeast “Kingdom” was this way until it exploded (I grew up there). I know it takes time, and I can see improvements all the time, including the rail trail systems and small trails now popping up. It’s exciting and I’m happy to be a part of it!
  • 3 0
 Franklin county mountain bike club member here! Super happy with the progress with the club over the last 5 years, it basically went from nothing to something big for the county in little time. Trail work days, group rides, new trails, events and sponsors have all happened and are only getting better. Vmba as whole has obviously helped make this happen along with some dedicated leaders in the club, and It is all very appreciated! But you are right, it’s hard in our area to push more trails/trail systems as most large land owners don’t care about anything but hunting, sugaring or farming. I get it; as a sugarmaker and a hunter I obviously understand how large landowners think it’s crazy to open your land to the public to recreate and we have to respect it. Luckily the sport is growing in our county thanks to vmba and fcmtbc! So let’s keep spreading the word about the club and take the momentum we have and get Franklin county on the map in vermont for mountain biking!
  • 1 0
 @norcoridervt: Hear! Hear!
  • 4 1
 If you’re not into the style of trails getting built in your area, get involved in your local trail organization! Orrr do nothing and complain about the trails…
  • 1 0
 Yeah exactly, I'm curious as to what percentage of the "complainers" are involved in their local trail organizations and have the foggiest idea of how much work goes into building and maintaining a trail network. Spoiler alert, the actual trail work is the tip of the iceberg.
  • 5 1
 Thanks VMBA for making Vermont such a bad as place to ride.
  • 6 1
 “Bad as” Yes, VMBA has help set an example, in some cases, for a way to make trails as “bad as” a trail could be.
  • 1 0
 @theliberator: Which trails are you talking about? The clubs maintain the trails so they all have their own character but the fund raising and guidance provided by VMBA is clearly doing something because the amount of trails in the state only seems to be increasing.
  • 1 0
 Details? What do you mean?
  • 7 1
 @ridedigrepeat: take Tunnel Ridge for example. After 60 or so berms you just get bored. Perhaps this will end up being the “up” trail to some fun descents as the area keeps expanding. That would be good. I mean no disrespect to the builders who made that trail. It is a hell of an accomplishment. Just so smooth, so bermed-out, so wide. With the terrain available there and the vert to work with, it could have been so rad.
  • 8 0
 @theliberator: Couldn't agree more. It feels like many trails, while they may be unique in their location and topography, the tread is anything but unique. We need more trails that incorporate natural features instead of endless berms and tiny doubles. I love riding KT, but it feels like every new VT trail is just a passable copy of some KT flow trail. I love Base Camp trails in Killington...lots of rock features, surprises around most corners. It still retains its rake and ride roots. Same at a lot of the Green Mountain Trails in the Devil's Throat area. VT needs more raw and rugged trails to keep the diversity up. Keep the rocks, keep the roots. Billy goat a line. Not everything needs to be a flow trail.
  • 5 0
 @rip8569: 100% agree. All these new trails or trail systems are amazing, but most end up being wide, smooth, flow trails with few features. They help people get into the sport, and it gives beginners fun trails to ride all over the place! But, I do wish a larger percentage of new trails could be intermediate/expert rake and ride style trails with natural features. This is all hear say keep in mind but it makes total sense; a club near me primarily focuses on some public land owned by a town/city. I have heard that some officials in that municipality have specifically said that trails on the public land must be built by “professional trail builders” and features can’t be overly dangerous. I assume this is to prevent injuries and in the end keep any sort of lawsuit from happening. It’s too bad people have to worry about that happening.
  • 6 0
 @RednBlack802: that's not on VMBA though. Individual chapters build trails. Tunnel ridge is part of Velomont which is meant to be bikepacking friendly.

There's is lots of gnar still being built!
  • 4 0
 @ridedigrepeat: in Chittenden County we have some great old school trails: HTF, Carse, the backside of Cochran's. There is next to no flow in these generally beloved spots. There is definitely pressure to make them more accessible to more riders, but FOTW and RMT are doing a good job of balancing things.
  • 1 0
 @Gilesa: Agreed, those networks are so good. Never a bad time at Cochrans!
  • 1 0
 @ridedigrepeat: for sure. Bikepacking doesn’t require perfectly manicured trails, either. And I will say, most of our riding is so spicy! Tight and rowdy. I think compared to a lot of other MTB hotspots VT and NH has some of the gnarliest “easy” terrain. So I guess I see why there has been a trend toward flow trails recently to balance it out a little.
  • 3 2
 Please don't stop at just public access trails. It would be really helpful for the resorts if act250 didn't oversee those trails as well
  • 9 0
 With all due respect, don’t Jersey Vermont. Act 250 aims to protect Vermonts environmental integrity and while not perfect it has done more good then harm for a state that wants to remain rural.
  • 4 0
 @theliberator: I agree that act 250 is very important, but excluding trails, especially hand built trails, from it wouldn't be the worst thing. Parking areas and supporting infrastructure, in my opinion, should still have to be compliant.
  • 4 0
 @theliberator: Well, due to the Covid exodus from major cities to VT, VT is not becoming Jersey so much as a playground for the wealthy laptop class. The desire to keep things small and rural has always made VT living a challenge, but still possible if you’re dedicated enough. But recent developments have pushed it over the edge. The old “don’t Jersey Vermont” standby saying will, if not already, become quite dated. Certain realities are catching up to Vermont that are going to force some compromise on its ordinary resistance to growth. And it will come from sectors that are quite unexpected. Namely, young progressives pushing affordable housing.
  • 1 0
 The trailforks logs number is awesome, but perhaps it could be compared with change in trailforks users over the same time periods.
  • 2 0
 Agreed, before Covid the majority of Vermont trail orgs were posting conditions and maps on a different platform, I can not recall the name. That being said their are a lot more riders out on the trails
  • 2 0
 VMBA putting in work!
  • 4 4
 Nice work, VMBA! The advocacy goals are on point.
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