Twenty Years Young
Photography & Words: Chris Pilling
Presented by Sun Peaks Resort
20 years, 20 summers of some of the best mountain bike lift access that the BC interior has to offer. In the bike park’s earliest days the resort’s trail crew doubled as medics while they worked to scratch the first trails onto a blank canvas. And with that, in 1999, the chairlift was outfitted with bike carriers and the bull wheel started spinning for mountain bikers. A lofty endeavor for any ski resort to take on such a new sport, opening up 2000ft of vertical terrain to the public, but here we are 20 years later, and Sun Peaks Bike Park lives up to its name as one of the best resorts around. Following a development plan that started last summer, this year marks a historic investment in the trail network to bring machine built flow trails to the already impressive lineup of raw, natural trails.
Sun Peaks is located 45 minutes north of the mountain bike mecca that is Kamloops, BC. But unlike the desert city, there is no sagebrush and dust finer than powdered sugar. Instead, the mountain greets you with lush green forests, perfectly saturated soil, and a small mountain town feel that puts you right at home. The village, nestled at the base of the mountain, has no shortage of amenities; bike shops, restaurants, and plenty of activities to keep everyone entertained. Everything is at your fingertips as you approach the hill. As you wake up in your hotel room, or even your parking lot campsite, it is mere steps to the heart of the action. You can plan your day while having breakfast at Tod Mountain Cafe, grab any essentials from the local bike shops, and then spend the day grinning from ear to ear riding your choice of close to 70kms of trails.
The trail selection is better than ever, which might leave you scratching your head on how to fit it all in and what you want to ride next. The park offers up everything you need to progress, from the skill-building green trails like the aptly named ‘Level Up’, a brand new 9km flow trail taking you from top to bottom. For the intermediate and more advanced rider, 11 blue trails await, including the newly machine built ‘Canada Line’. It has some of the best-linked corners and jumps Sun Peaks has to offer, and rivals the most famous trails from other West coast bike parks. If tech is what you’re after then definitely check out ‘Sugar’, a fast, singletrack trail filled with roots, steeps, and optional jumps for some air time. But what caught our eye most was the new trail building and designs coming to fruition, breathing new life into the area; Sun Peaks offers a truly well-rounded trail network.
Sun Peaks, still true to its roots, is host to some fantastic tech trails. The terrain seems to have that perfect mix of steep pitches with breaks of fast rolling open meadows. Options like Insanity One, Smitty’s Steeps, and Honey Drop will keep you on your toes. It’s where we decided to start our trip and in short time we were up to speed.
The technical trails, though raw, have that certain flow that has you coming back for more. Corners that hook up and rocks that beg to be ridden. With our arms pumped and our stoke high we called it a day. We headed down to the village for some food at Bottoms Bar & Grill.
5 minutes. That’s all it takes to get from bed to lift. The village stroll wanders along the base of the bike park with lots to see and do. Mini games scattered everywhere invite you to stop and hang out a while. We had a few games of table tennis as a cool down for our first day. A quick stop at one of the local coffee shops might slow you down a bit, but for good reason. Tod Mountain Café can whip you up a crepe and whatever soothes your caffeine addiction, a great way to start any day.
A New Attitude
They have enlisted the help of Lifetime Outdoor and Landmark Trailworks to create 12km of new flow and jump trails which have really opened up the potential of the park, to go along with ‘Level Up’ which opened last summer. Now riders of all skill levels have an option, starting with the new magic carpet accessible Progression Park skills area, located right beside the village. Young riders, and those new to the sport, have a place they can get their feet wet in a comfortable setting before heading up the lift.
From there, trails like ‘Level Up’, ‘Canada Line’, and ‘Steam Shovel’ offer progressional rides down the hill. Level Up takes you through the paces of everything gravity-fed mountain biking can be, with a host of light rocks and roots with seemingly endless corners. Canada Line steps things up a bit. Jumps, rollers, compressions and fadeaways will have you whooping to your riding buddies the whole way down. Party trains with your friends are highly encouraged. Finally, take a ride down Steam Shovel, which has recently been updated and extended (with even more to come!). Test your skills on this high flying expert level jump trail.
It’s easy to see how the summer days can go by fast in these hills. Get lost with your friends and discover what they have in store for you. As our time here is temporarily over we know we will be back for more, with new trails and new memories awaiting us. Sun Peaks is doing more for its patrons this year with extended days (the lift runs from 10am-7pm daily) and four bonus weekends running through September. To celebrate their 20th anniversary they have also introduced Windback Wednesdays, meaning you can ride the park from 4pm-7pm every Wednesday of the season for only $20.
Getting here: Sun Peaks is located in the interior of British Columbia, just a 45-minute drive from Kamloops, and only a four and a half hour drive from Vancouver. The Kamloops Airport is served by daily flights from Vancouver and Calgary, as well as a regular direct flight from Toronto in the summer.
Bike shops and repairs: Sun Peaks’ long-standing, dedicated bike shop is Elevation Bike, Ski, and Board, which offers an extensive rental fleet of DH, enduro and XC bikes, as well as protective equipment, plus plenty of parts and gear for sale. A newer shop, McSporties, also has regular and electric bike rentals. For any and all repairs, bring your bike into the mechanics at Fall Line Tuning & Repair Centre, connected to Elevation.
Lessons and tours: The Sun Peaks Sports School has a robust mountain biking program offering lessons, camps and clinics covering all ability levels, as well as guided tours to show you around the XC trail network.
Food and Drink: With over 20 cafés, restaurants, and bars to choose from in the Sun Peaks village you’ll find a variety of options to refuel and plenty of sunny patios to finish off your day of riding. Don’t miss a stop at Masa’s Bar + Grill, with Sun Peaks’ largest selection of draft beer!
Where to stay: Sun Peaks has a wide variety of accommodation options, with everything from full-service hotels and vacation rental properties, to a hostel and even camping lot parking. Most of the hotels in the village are bike-friendly and provide secure storage areas where you can keep your bike overnight. You can’t beat accommodation just a few pedal strokes from the lift.
Local Mountain Biking Clubs: Outside of the Bike Park, Sun Peaks has a small but growing network of XC trails that are being built and maintained by local volunteers from the Sun Peaks Recreational Trail Association (SPRTA). SPRTA is working on an ambitious Master Plan that will add a significant amount of new singletrack to the area over the next few years.
Non-bike Activities: There’s plenty to do off the bike in Sun Peaks too, from an 18-hole golf course, to lift-access hiking, racing your buddies on the gravity-fed Mountain Cross Carts course, or exploring local lakes via paddleboard or kayak.
For more information, visit SunPeaksResort.com.