24 May 2019

IMBA Europe Summit 2019 - Silkeborg embraces 'trails close to home'

At first glance it seemed a bit contradictory to host the IMBA Europe Summit in Denmark, a country that lacks any 'real' mountains. But Silkeborg has proven that with the right strategy, it is possible to develop a varied offer of mountain bike trails in a landscape with limited difference in elevation. Driven by a strong local mountain bike community, a clear vision and (political) determination, Silkeborg municipality showcased a great example of IMBA's new direction 'trails close to home' to the international attendees of the 6th IMBA Europe Summit. 

From planning to design, training and activation

At the first day of the IMBA Summit, Silkeborgs strategy to become Denmark's Outdoor Capital was explained by development consultant Simon Christensen. From IMBA US, James Clark and Kent McNeill showed what it takes to create model trail communities from scratch, based on several US examples. The morning program was closed by Mark McClure, focussing on training of both volunteers and professionals to build and maintain quality trails and Wendy Ulyett who guided the attendees through Sheffields well thought marketing and activation strategy.  In the afternoon, several sites and trails in and around Silkeborg were visited, including the almost finished bikepark. 

Broadening the mountain bike agenda: health & diversity 

The second summit day addressed a few important but somewhat underexposed themes: (mental) health and diversity. Niamh Allum, Specialist Occupational Therapist Mental Health and Dr. Tony Westbury, Lecturer Edinburgh Napier University presented the promising results of the first mountain biking & mental health project in Scotland. Hannah Barnes held a warm plea to work on more diversity within the mountain bike community and to recognise that the differences between men and women in sport are likely to be smaller than those between two persons of the same sex. 

In the afternoon, various breakout sessions were offered to dive a bit deeper in specific themes, ranging from trail mapping, guiding, to planning, tourism and sports pshychology. 

Day 3 brings it all together 

The final summit day couldn't be more diverse. In the morning, keynote speaker Maxine Gregory showed the strength of outdoor sports based on the prelimanary results of the BOSS project (Benefits of Outdoor Sports to Societies) while Fanie Kok presented Specialized' Soil Searching project to support volunteer trail builders and mountain bike communities. Graeme McLean talked about Scotlands guideline for land managers and riders on unauthorised mountain bike trails, a growing issue in some Scottish regions. 

On the MTB tourism side, Olve Norderhaug (Trysil Bike Arena) and Luca d'Angelo (Dolomiti Paganella Bike) highlighted two succesfull case studies and the way (economic) impact was monitored in the region. More breakout sessions followed in the afternoon with topics like trail signage, management of shared use trails and typology of recreational trails before leaving Silkeborg for a final sunny bike ride along the shores of the lake and dense forests to finally arrive at the nearby bike festival.  

Social events and a perfect summit closure

The 2019 Summit also had an extensive social program and riding activities. Thursday evening's social program was hosted by Specialized Nordic with a big BBQ at their headquarters, Danny Macaskill performed his Drop and Roll Tour twice (!) and Cyclesport Silkeborg showed local bikeshops are alive and kicking and can be easliy transformed to perfect evening hangouts for mountain bike geeks. And after the Saturday afternoon group ride, the nearby MTB Festival Sohojlandet was the perfect setting for the Take Care of Your Trails Award Ceremony, a crazy clunker relay and a boat trip back to Silkeborg to close the IMBA Europe 2019 Summit. See you next year!