Greatest Contribution To The Outdoors – Black Diamond Awards

Which organization contributed most to Vermont this year? Our readers decided in the 2018 Black Diamond Awards. 

How did one of the smallest states in the country, a place where snow, ice or mud cover trails for nearly half the year, a state with fewer than 620,000 people become the home of the largest state-wide mountain biking organization in the country?

Over the years, the Vermont Mountain Biking Association has quietly grown. But in 2017, under the leadership of executive director Tom Stuessy, VMBA exploded.

Membership went through the roof. Total numbers grew from 278 in 2016 to more than 950 in 2017, adding $30,000 to local chapters and creating a total base of 5,500 members. Out of state membership has also increased from 18 to 21 percent, and the association connected with groups in Canada to help expand the Northeast Regional Mountain Bike Alliance.

VMBA funneled the surplus of new memberships into support for local chapters, which will collectively have more money to build and maintain trails this year. VMBA’s pool of grant money is set at $50,000—more than twice what is was in 2015. And its 2017 trail grant will support more than 13 new trails project.

Perhaps the most exciting and largest  trial project yet is The Velomont Trail. VMBA is working with The Rochester Area Sports Trail Alliance, the Catamount Trail, Vermont Huts Association and others to create a trail system that will connect Killington to Stowe.  The best part? The trail will be 70 percent singletrack. Velomont marks VMBA’s first long-term trail project.

The list keeps going: VMBA expanded the Vermont Mountain Bike Retailer Alliance to include 24 shops that will now offer an annual VMBA membership free to buyers of the first 25 bikes, valued at $1000 or more, sold in 2018. The association also expanded its relationship with VT Tourism & Marketing, and this year, it’s planning to embark on a long-range expansion plan with the state. The organization is even planning to spruce up and relaunch their website, with the support of Vermont company Cabot Creamery.

If that weren’t enough, Vermont Mountain Bike Association executive director Tom Stuessy has been working on yet another project: VOICe. He’s gathered a network of Vermont businesses that have a stake in the success of Vermont’s outdoor recreation infrastructure. Together, they’ve been establishing a culture that supports the efforts of the nonprofits that contribute to the state’s outdoor recreation. VOICe includes successful businesses like Outdoor Gear Exchange, Cabot Creamery and FUSE Marketing and Vermont Sports.

Then, of course, there’s VMBAFest– which tied with New England Mountain Bike Festival for best mountain bike event. With rides, mountain bike Olympics, bonfires and camping, it’s one big party. And this year, there’s a lot celebrate. Be there, at Mt. Ascutney, July 27-29.

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