Riding on Thin Ice

Men's Journal|May - June 2020

Riding on Thin Ice
Greenland is hoping to ramp up its adventure tourism with outdoor pursuits like mountain biking. But can—and should—its small coastal communities handle a boatload of tourists?
RYAN STUART

I AM JUST GETTING into a rhythm on my first mountain bike ride in Greenland when I I nearly slam into a singletrack traffic jam. While pedaling over a slab of rock, the giant Ilulissat Icefjord suddenly appears in front of our group of five riders—who all stop on a dime in front of me, staring in silence. Icebergs, from car-size cubes to massive hunks the length of aircraft carriers, stretch to the horizon in shades of white and blue.

We’ve come to Greenland in September, during the few weeks between mosquito season and winter, with the plan to spend seven days exploring the MTB potential along the country’s west coast. What we’ll quickly realize, though, as we pedal, boat, and fly around,is that this trip is more than scouting: We’re witnessing Greenland’s awkward emergence as the next bucket-list adventure destination.

“Greenland feels like Iceland did 15 years ago,” says Chris Winter, a mountain-bike tour operator and the reason our group is in Greenland. “It’s amazing and beautiful but also so fragile and sensitive. It could so easily be ruined.”

Winter’s company, Big Mountain Bike Adventures, based in Whistler, British Columbia, runs knobby-tire tours all over the world. Twenty years ago he pioneered guiding North Americans to the best trails in the European Alps, and he was one of the first to take mountain bikers to Iceland in the mid-2000s. After that, Greenland was the logical next step.

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May - June 2020