Spending an entire summer in Whistler does strange things to your perception of what is normal for mountain biking – we headed out of the bubble to see what else BC had to offer…
Spending an entire summer in Whistler does strange things to your perception of what is normal for mountain biking – super high speed becomes commonplace, jumps that would be the centerpiece of a UK race track become average, and rock sections that would instill fear at home become playthings to get loose on in British Columbia’s premiere mountain biking resort, it’s all too easy to become acclimatised in this environment – but what do the other bike parks in BC have to offer?
We had some questions that needed to be answered; is it like this everywhere? Do they have loam under any chairlifts in this country? We took a trip out of the Whistler bubble and headed a few hours down the road to Sun Peaks to find out.
Pulling up in Sun Peaks it was obvious this was a completely different gig to what we had got used to in Whistler, for a start 5 minutes earlier in the morning and we’d have missed the ranger and got away with pitching the tents in a public car park overnight – this would not be acceptable behaviour in Whistler. Arriving at the lift in the morning and where were the monster branded demos? For that matter where were all the riders, had we even come to the right place?
Luckily we were met by the marketing director for the bike park, Sam Egan, who was extremely helpful and told us a bit about the park and that the number of riders through here is vastly smaller than Whistler. Eager to get up on the hill and find out what the riding was like, we grabbed a trail map and headed up the lift, it was obvious just by looking at the map that there were quite a lot of trails here for what seemed like such a small resort. Networks of blue, red and black lines criss-crossed the piste map and many runs split off and rejoined part-way down the hill, adding variation to the runs available.
We headed off down the nearest available blue run and 2 things became quickly obvious; firstly the tracks here don’t get the same level of maintenance that the runs in Whistler get. This is not necessarily a bad thing though and certainly leads to more proper downhill as you might be used to at home (think steep, deep natural corners with exposed rocks and roots) and secondly the blue runs aren’t really blue runs by normal resort standards, they are blue runs for proper riders, which is definitely a good thing.
The riding in Sun Peaks has a good mix of very high speed jump tracks, such as Steam Shovel, Hi Octane or Ain’t No Scrub or some pretty steep, dusty (at least on the day we were there) more technical tracks like Arm Pump, Insanity One and Gnar-Boom. Oh and did I mention the dust? I think it hadn’t rained in something like 6 weeks on the day we rode there and the dust was unreal, following Whistler local Jimmy Bearance down Smitty’s Steeps was a huge error – it’s easily the longest sustained steep chute I’ve ever ridden. Think 30 seconds of right over the back wheel just letting the bike find it’s way down the hill – mix that with 6” of dust kicking up off the guy in front’s back wheel and you just hold on and hope for the best!
We got lucky in that a fresh section of loamy track (a rarity in these parts) had been cut into the woods on Insanity One, it was about a minute’s worth of loose, loamy turns and off camber straights where you can drop the wheels onto a catch at high speed – super good fun and one of the best sections of track we rode all summer. One of the best things about the resort of Sun Peaks is that not only do they have a good variety of tracks on offer, but with such a good length to the hill (probably around 10 minutes per descent) you can mix and match a good variety of tracks on each run, and by the time you hit Arm Pump at the bottom, you’ll definitely be agreeing with the tracks namesake.
In terms of facilities, the lift office has a fantastic cafe that does a great sort of Canadian approximation of a proper fry-up, the town has some good pizza places and the main shop open in the summer although other than that it’s pretty quiet, which means plenty of free parking right at the lift. Sun Peaks itself is located about an hour from Kamloops and also not far from Silverstar, which makes it very worthwhile as part of a road trip from Whistler or Vancouver. A lift pass for the day will set you back $39 for the day, $105 for 3 days or $349 for the season. Whistler season pass holders get 25% off these prices and staff get 50%, Sun Peaks is also part of the BC Bike Parks scheme (http://www.bikeparksbc.com/).
View the full Trail Map here: http://www.sunpeaksresort.com/summer/interactive-maps/bike-park
Words – George May
Pictures – Tom Laws