Recently, The Valley was selected as the site of the 2016 Vermont MTB Fest, a weekend-long mountain biking event that will take place next July.

This is not only great news for local riders – it’s important for anyone who lives or works in the region.

This past summer and fall, the Mad River Valley Planning District (MRVPD) and the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce hosted a series of economic vitality workshops in which local business owners talked about the challenges they face and strategized potential solutions.

One of the biggest challenges was how to overcome The Valley’s reliance on the ski industry and the intense seasonal fluctuations it creates. “We need more year-round activities,” was the sentiment that echoed across every workshop.

But the activities have to fit with the character of The Valley, business owners said, which they described as authentic and outdoorsy. “We don’t want a water park,” they said, referring to the recent installation at Jay Peak Resort, and “we don’t want to become a Stowe.”

Behold: mountain biking.

Mountain biking season starts when ski season ends and most riders won’t quit the trails until — and sometimes after — the first snowfall. The pedal-powered sport also has a low environmental impact, as its development doesn’t require any major infrastructure. Instead, mountain biking showcases the natural beauty of The Valley, allowing visitors to access mountain forests they may not have experienced otherwise.

The Mad River Riders have been working tirelessly over the past few years to expand the region’s trail network to include more options for beginners. The Valley’s selection as the site of the 2016 Vermont MTB Fest is a testament to their efforts, which has resulted in a growing recognition of the region by riders across the state – both beginners and experts.

Next summer, the Vermont MTB Fest will attract hundreds of riders to The Valley. Some of them will camp, but others will stay in one of our many local lodges. They’ll probably go out to eat at local restaurants, and they’ll definitely be buying local beer.

That’s all good business for The Valley at a time when the ski resorts are closed. Let’s welcome the mountain bikers to our community and support the Riders in building the trails that bring them here.