New mountain bike program comes to Park City
Park City has long been home to a chapter of Girls on the Run, a nonprofit organization that builds confidence in young girls through training for a 5K race.
In September, a similar program will come to Park City — Little Bellas.
Instead of running to inspire confidence, however, Little Bellas focuses on getting girls ages 7 to 16 on mountain bikes.
Little Bellas was started by professional mountain biker Lea Davison and her sister, Sabra, along with college friend Angela Irvine, in Vermont in 2007. Since then, it’s grown to include chapters in places like Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado, Philadelphia, Massachusetts and California.
“At the current moment, we have 530 girls throughout the country on bikes and that number is growing every day,” Sabra Davison, director and president of Little Bellas, said.
Little Bellas also has 147 female mentors for the young riders. When the program starts in Park City, Davison said there will be no problem finding mentors for the girls.
“We’ve never had a larger response for volunteer mountain biking females who want to mentor girls on bikes,” she said.
The chapter will be led by Shannon Casson, Davison said.
“She’s phenomenal and Park City couldn’t be a better location,” Davison said. “Shannon is our program lead in the area. She rallies her groups of mentors together and we provide the mentors a curriculum.”
That curriculum includes eight weeks of riding, which Davison said vary in difficulty and distance.
“The first of eight weeks is a very simple ride,” she said. “We’re getting the girls settled and excited. The next week, we do what we call ‘Color Powder Day.’ We have a giant color tunnel and the girls ride through it and come out looking like a tye-dyed mess. Then we move on to obstacle day and scavenger hunt day. It’s all centered around fun, not competition.”
With Park City’s trail system, Davison said there won’t be any problem for Casson and the Park City mentors to keep the girls entertained and exploring new areas on their bikes.
“The infrastructure that’s there — it’s unreal,” she said. “That type of community isn’t replicated in a lot of places. It’s a pretty special thing.”
When the eight-week program starts in September, Davison said she anticipates a good turnout from Park City girls.
“I’m guessing that we’ll get about 30,” she said. “We have nine signed up right now, which is great.”
From there, Davison expects the program to grow quickly as word spreads.
“In chapters like Marin County, [California], we have wait lists that can be 45 girls long,” she said. “In Vermont, we have 150 girls sign up and it sells out in five minutes. Park City is probably going to follow suit with that.”
“We’re based in mountain biking,” she said, “but we use that challenge as a vehicle to have a ridiculous amount of fun and increase their confidence.”
Park City rides will begin on Wednesday, Sept. 7. The group will meet at 5 p.m. at Trailside Bike Park. For more information on Little Bellas, or to register for Park City’s chapter of the program, visit http://www.littlebellas.com.
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The Youth Sport Alliance is planning on expanding its program through the rest of the county, and, depending on a grant from the Women’s Giving Fund, adding two part-time positions.