Community grant will give Ecoquest students chance to be winter sport leaders, sample winter fatbiking

By Greg Basky

This winter students in Saskatoon Public School’s Ecoquest program will be rolling around town and trails on shiny new Salsa Mukluk fat bikes* thanks to a community grant from Quality Bike Products, one of the industry’s largest suppliers of bikes, parts, and accessories. Ecoquest partnered with Saskatoon independent retailer The Bike Doctor on their submission; their application was the only Canadian grant among the 12 selected by QBP for support.

Ecoquest students will start out by learning the basics of maintaining the bikes and how to ride them safely on local trails. From there, the Ecoquest program will begin offering a “Snow School” day camp to other Grade 7 and 8 students at City Park School, home to the program, then open things up to students at other community schools with the public system. Snow School participants will get hands-on exposure to equipment and technique for fat biking, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing.

Tyler Rittinger, an Ecoquest teacher and year-round cyclist himself, says the purpose of Snow School is to empower Ecoquest students to take on the role of leaders in the three winter pursuits, and will for many of them provide access to equipment they might not otherwise have the opportunity to try. 

“It aligns well with our goal of keeping kids active throughout the year and embracing our winter climate,” says Rittinger. “It also allows us to teach in a safe environment in terms of physical distancing in an outdoor space.” His students, he says, are very excited to both try fat biking, and also to teach others the skills they acquire. 

Sarah Robbins, senior sales associate at the Bike Doctor, says the shop was pleased to support Ecoquest with their application. “The program is building strong leaders for tomorrow,” said Robbins. “Plus Tyler’s idea for a Snow School is sure to help grow the community of winter riders in Saskatoon.”

If the program rolls along as planned, Rittinger hopes to expand it so that students can use the fat bikes outside of school hours. He’d also like to build a partnership with the Fatlanders Fat Tire Brigade, which would give young riders a chance to access the amazing St. Barbe trail network west of the city. Rittinger’s also interested in forming a female youth winter sport group, which would enable young women to use the Snow School’s ski and bike equipment as an extra-curricular activity.

* Bikes are expected to arrive in November, but global supply chain issues caused by the pandemic could push this date back.

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