Ben Johnson, originally from Australia, traveled around the United Kingdom and Europe for a couple of years before moving to Canada. During his travels he met some amazing people who seemed to really get the most out of life. To Ben, they were living a dream life of adventure and travel and Johnson jumped right in! Ben’s adventures included:
- Skiing and ice climbing in Zermatt, Switzerland, and climbing the Matterhorn (4477m).
- Climbing Mt Elbrus in Russia, the highest mountain in Europe (5642m).
- Road Cycling, Mountain Biking and Rock climbing in the French Alps and climbing Mt Blanc, (4810m).
- Climbing Aconcagua in Argentina, (6962m).
- Climbing, hiking and mountain biking in the Dolomites, Northern Italy and rock climbing in Thailand.
Following these exploits, Johnson felt it was time for some adventures in the legendary Canadian Rocky Mountains, and in 2009 Ben found himself in Edmonton, Alberta. It was here that he found his passion for helping others to live their dreams, by offering small, custom group transport to various outdoor activities in the Rockies. A few years after starting Mountain Madness Tours, supported cycling trips between Jasper and Banff became the most popular offering and the organization now operates thirteen of these tours between May and September each year.
How do the experiences you offer at Mountain Madness Tours give guests a unique perspective on the history, people or culture of your region?
Cycling between Jasper and Banff is human powered travel at its best. There is no roof to get in the way of the soaring mountain peaks, and no windows to insulate the traveler from the sounds of untouched natural surroundings. Participants will be immersed in the fresh clean mountain air and travel at a pace that enables them to take full advantage of all their senses. This more relaxed pace of travelling gives guests the gift of time, allowing them to better absorb the history, people and culture of the region.
How have the experiences that you offer evolved since their inception?
Originally Mountain Madness Tours offered transport to mountain activities on a custom group basis and was a part-time business. Over the years a demand for cycling tours evolved but continued on the custom group trend. These days with the 4 day Jasper to Banff cycling tour becoming more popular, we’ve been able to fine tune the service each year and offer guaranteed departures for 2 or more people every week of the summer. Our early bike tours mainly stopped overnight at the wilderness hostels, but these days the majority of our guests stay in hotels.
What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
Weather conditions vary greatly in the mountains, with many of the high mountains we pass creating their own localized weather systems. Quite often people will get worried about the weather reports leading up to and during the tour. In our experience though, with a bit of planning by the guide and keeping a close eye on local conditions, plus a bit of luck, we can adjust the flow of the day and quite often dodge the bad weather completely. The enclosed bike trailer that morphs into a mobile cafe means that the planned rest stop locations during the day can be flexible. There are enough seats in the van to accommodate the group and in the rare case of extreme weather conditions, the whole show can be packed up and riders can be transported to the next hotel.
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in the experiences you offer?
Most guests, even the experienced cyclists that join our tours, usually feel a bit of fear and experience some nerves leading up to the start of the ride. Before signing up, they worry if they are fit or experienced enough to complete the tour. The route can be challenging in parts and there are two high passes to cross, but in our experience anyone with an adventurous spirit and love for the outdoors is capable of riding the route. We’ve seen people of all body types, abilities and fitness levels complete the ride and have lots of fun along the way. The road bikes available now are very lightweight, have many gears to help you up the hills and are very efficient. We have lots of sunlight during the summer days here in Canada, so there is plenty of time to enable you to ride at your own pace each day. The many great sights to see along the way enhances the experience and the support van is able to regroup the guests at various scenic rest stops.
What is one travel trend that really excites you?
Road biking has been on the increase for several years now and still doesn’t show signs of slowing down. This has resulted in a dramatic increase in bike tour providers world wide and there are not many countries nowadays that you can’t ride across by bike, fully or partially supported by a tour operator. As this mode of travel keeps on getting more popular, more services are appearing to fit this niche and slowly but surely cycling paths and safer cycling routes are being built. As the economic benefit of cycling tours increases we’re really excited to see how cycling infrastructure improvements follow.
What sets Mountain Madness apart from other bicycle tour companies in the area?
Most cycling tour operators in the area are owned and operated by larger, global tour companies based in the United States. We are proud to be a local tour operator based out of Edmonton Alberta. We’re a smaller company and with the Jasper to Banff route being our main focus, we tend to get better at it each year. We use Mercedes sprinter vans to transport you to the start of the tour and a unique enclosed trailer for the bikes that transforms into a mobile cafe. You may bring your own bike on one of our tours or rent one of ours.
What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
Make sure you take your time and look around as you cycle. It can be tempting to grind out the km’s looking at your front tire or the road ahead of you.
What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?
Our main growth strategy has been word of mouth. Being a smaller business we’ve never had the marketing budgets of the big guys. We pride ourselves in giving personalized service at a very high level and this has resulted in high praise from our customers and recommendations to others. It’s not a fast process but it’s steady and sustainable.
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
I pay attention to small details. Replying promptly to requests, checking with people that they OK and being positive and using humour is all essential. It’s kept a lot of people happy, satisfied and safe on our tours.
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
We had a guest join a Jasper to Banff cycling trip who had been undergoing a large lifestyle change leading up to the tour. He had lost a huge amount of weight and although he was well on his way to becoming much healthier, he was still a big boy and had some health challenges to cope with. He signed up for the tour and rode all the way from Jasper to Banff on his bike with our support. The point where he reached the Bow Summit was a memorable time for both guide and guest. He ended up walking beside his bike for the final few km’s to the top of the pass and there was a few tears shed in celebration of his great achievement. Proof to me once again that this tour can indeed be achieved by anyone with an adventurous spirit and a good attitude.
Ben’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ben on LinkedIn: ca.linkedin.com/in/ben-johnson-204a2720
Montian Madness on Twitter: twitter.com/MtMadTours
Mountian Madness on Facebook: facebook.com/mountainmadnesstours
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Mountian Madness on YouTube: youtube.com/user/MountainMadnessTours