The Swiss Bike Park Oberried and the International Mountain Bicycling Association IMBA (Europe) have developed the International Trail Rating System (ITRS) to classify the challenges of mountain bike trails and routes. The ITRS puts the bikers in the centre and is a consistent advancement of the approaches of already existing systems. Numerous experts from various fields were involved in the development.
In 2020, there were at least 15 different trail rating systems in Europe alone to describe the “difficulty” of mountain bike trails and routes, whereby “difficulty” did not always evaluate the same aspects. Therefore, the Swiss Bike Park Oberried – the Swiss society project for the needs of top, popular and disabled sports in the field of mountain biking – together with Davos Klosters and other destination partners, initiated a project that aimed to standardize trail rating systems. This project has now resulted in the ITRS – International Trail Rating System.
Thanks to financial support from Innotour, the funding instrument of the Swiss state Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO, voluntary work of IMBA-Europe and the support of the strategy consultancy Input Consulting in Bern, the contents of the ITRS have been developed and structured over the last two and a half years. Central inputs were obtained through a survey among over 1,300 bikers from Europe and coordinated with numerous experts from riding skills training and trail building.
The ITRS is a consistent and clearly structured combination and advancement of the most relevant previous systems, such as the Single Trail Scale, the system of IMBA North America, and that of the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention bfu.
“The ITRS is an objective way to assess trails and routes from a biker’s perspective. The ITRS informs the bikers about what they need to bring with them in order to safely master the various challenges of a trail or an entire route, regardless of whether they are riding here in the Swiss Bike Park or in tourist destinations such as Davos.”Swiss Bike Park
For this purpose, four aspects are evaluated in the ITRS, which in their interaction reflect the fascination and complexity of mountain biking:
- Technical Difficulty: Defined according to the riding skill level that you need for mastering the technical features of a trail
- Endurance: The combined effect of length, climbs and descents of a complete route, ranked according to the amount of training required to reach the corresponding level.
- Exposure: Defined by the consequences for the biker in case of a fall in an exposed place.
- Wilderness: The amount of planning required to account for rescue options, mobile phone reception, water supply and dangerous wildlife.
Mountain biking thrives for a relevant part through the variability and unpredictability of trails and routes. The ITRS strives for a balance that leaves mountain biking this fascination, but at the same time can contribute to the achievement of the following goals:
More safety for bikers through:
- Linking the technical difficulty of trails and routes with the necessary riding skills. This enables the content of riding skills courses to be specifically adapted to the technical difficulty levels. Misjudgements of the necessary riding skills and thus the risk of accidents are reduced.
- International dissemination of a uniform and target group-oriented trail rating system. This alone will reduce the risk of accidents as well.
Increased attractiveness of touristic offers through:
- A new logic and innovative graphic implementation of the rating of entire routes or tours, which illustrates their complex reality in an intuitively understandable way. It makes it easier for bikers to find the right offers for them and to have positive experiences on their bikes.
- Introduction of a certification system for the classification of trails according to ITRS in order to achieve a correct and consistent application of the ratings. Destinations will be able to demonstrate that their trails are rated according to the standards and that the trails are professionally maintained.
- Greater consistency of newly built trails, as the ITRS also serves as an additional guideline for trail builders to consistently build mountain bike trails according to specific difficulty levels.
“The ITRS will not immediately replace existing systems. But each system will be revised occasionally and testing the ITRS in selected destinations – as it is currently done in Davos-Klosters in Switzerland or around Lake Garda in Italy – can lead to new insights. On the other hand, the ITRS can serve as a blueprint or be adopted one-to-one for countries without a trail rating system in place.”IMBA Europe
For example, the whole Trentino region in Italy is currently planning to incorporate the ITRS into its new route signalling system. Furthermore, the Forestry Authority of Israel, for example, is interested in adopting the ITRS. The European Organisation of Mountain Bike Instructor-Guides EO-MTB-ing has announced its intention to include the ITRS as a standard in guide education.
The ITRS is free to use for describing, marketing, planning, building and signalizing trails and routes.
For more information, visit www.itrs.bike
For inquiries about training on the ITRS or for general feedback, please contact us here.
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