Why We Dig:
Building the Culture of Mountain Biking
Words By: Alex Showerman
I remember my first time walking on to the 2021 Red Bull Formation Venue, and seeing the drop to canyon gap that Chelsea Kimball and her dig team built.
I was completely by myself, standing on hallowed grounds of Mountain Bike history, the site of multiple Red Bull Rampage (including this year!) and iconic video parts that have shaped the sport.
The names associated with features in Virgin are Brandon’s, Reed’s, Tyler’s and Ethan’s, it’s a space that doesn’t feel inherently like ours as women.
Then, there it was, Chelsea Kimball’s drop to canyon gap. This place that felt so inhospitable, and foreign, all of a sudden felt a bit more like I belonged here. It gave all of us collectively as women, a claim to these iconic mesa’s that have long excluded us.
My personal path to freeride has been a surprising journey,
actually coming up through trail building and advocacy, serving as president and lead trail steward of the Waterbury Area Trails Alliance and serving two years on the Vermont Mountain Bike Association board. During that time I absolutely fell in love with digging and designing trails. To date my proudest achievement is the revitalization and extension of the Disneyland and Six Flag tails at the iconic Perry Hill in Vermont. Over those five years I saw first hand trails build community, and the incredible bonds that form when we dig in the dirt with our fellow riders.
With this love of trail building,
digging in the red dirt of Virgin, Utah was always a dream of mine. Prior to the existence of Formation, it was to dig at Rampage, but being a queer trans woman, never felt like something I would ever actually do. When I first heard of Red Bull Formation, I just knew it was something that I wanted to be a part of, and when I finally earned the invite to come dig, it was a pinch me moment.
What struck me about digging at my first Formation, was how much it felt like a dig day at my local trail network back home in Vermont.
Groups of people working together to bring a vision for a feature to life. The tools of the trade, the same, the camaraderie the same. Even if you can not relate at all to the riding that goes down at Formation, it displays why having more women involved in digging on our local trails is essential. At Formation, we see what is possible when women are given leadership, build their own lines, and through that define our own culture in mountain biking.
Locally, I know more trails built by Joe’s than I do trails that were built and designed entirely by us women.
As Formation showed us what is possible at a space completely built by women, can imagine what it would be like riding an entire trail network built and designed by women? It would have all of the magic of a Roam Fest combined with the progression found at Formation. Trails are the very foundation our sport is built on, so if we as women want to take ownership of the sport, and create a culture around it that reflects our style, our goals and our values, digging is our way to do just that.
This is why at Roam Fest Fruita and Sedona, we launched Pivot Digs,
a three hour dig session on Sunday, aimed at giving participants the skills and knowledge needed to go home and show up at local trail nights.
At our inaugural dig day in Fruita, we had 25 attendees, a vast majority of them were first time diggers. We got to complete and open a new trail at Fruita’s iconic 18 road. Part of a new 30 miles of trail that was recently approved to be built. It was so powerful to see so many of the light bulbs go off of participants, with the joy found in digging, I can’t wait to see what they all go create back home.
One of the coolest aspects about mountain biking is we as riders all get to have a say in our local trails.
Almost all of your favorite trails are managed by a non-profit. In Fruita and Sedona, respectively it was COPMOBA and Verde Valley Cyclists Coalition. These organizations are largely volunteer driven, that anybody can show up for a trail day, train to become trail crew leaders, and even run for board leadership. These are the organizations that literally build our sport. Imagine what mountain biking would look like if more of us as women stepped into leadership?
Words by Alex Showerman