Cross country trails are becoming more and more popular in Sun Peaks. Photo Sam Loxton

The Sun Peaks Recreational Trail Association (SPRTA) started like so many other community organizations in the growing village.

In 2014 a small group of locals saw the need to improve the network of trails surrounding the village and came together with a desire to make their mountain home an even better place. A group of avid mountain bikers, the crew were looking for additional riding options outside of the bike park and saw the potential for endless trails in the shadow of Mt. Tod.
Since then they’ve been diligently working towards this goal. While initially the chance to get shovels in the dirt and construct new sections of trail was limited, the small crew of SPRTA volunteers continued working behind the scenes to fundraise, negotiate land use permissions, and plan out a network of potential trails in the valley.

Sun Peaks is a generous community, so the association has been able to raise a solid foundation of funding through events such as the annual Firefighters’ Society Charity Gala and High Five Day, as well as through the support of Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality’s community grants program.

While some of the money raised has gone towards purchasing tools and other equipment, the majority of the funds were saved until a robust trail plan was in place.

This financial responsibility means SPRTA heads into 2019 with $25,000 in available funds to invest into the organization’s trail building goals.

Last year the association took two significant steps toward realizing their plans. First they partnered with Sun Peaks Resort LLP and the municipality to fund the creation of a trails master plan for the area. The plan was created for SPRTA by an experienced crew of mountain bike planners from McElhanney, who joined the SPRTA team to scour every inch of the resort’s Controlled Recreation Area in order to recommend the best locations for new trails.

The master plan they delivered is sure to excite any mountain biker who calls Sun Peaks home. It outlines a huge new trail network in the area that, when complete, would consist of 75 kilometers of newly built or upgraded singletrack. Proposed trails highlighted in the document include the resurrection of a fondly remembered cross country race course to create a loop between the village and Burfield Drive, upgrades to existing trails and new additions between the village and McGillivray Lake, and the creation of a brand new network of trails in the Orient Ridge area of the resort.

The ultimate goal of the master plan is to combine several of the new sections of singletrack into one long distance behemoth of a trail, which would connect the summits of Tod, Sundance, and Morrisey for a truly epic day on the bike. SPRTA has presented the plan in several community meetings and will soon release a publicly available copy of the document.

The second major accomplishment for the organization in 2018 was the hosting of a wildly successful community meeting in August, which demonstrated the strong support for new trails.

Over 50 interested community members attended the meeting, which doubled as the association’s AGM, to learn more about SPRTA, express their desire to be involved with the organization, and view a presentation of the trails master plan. The biggest development from the meeting was the decision to increase the SPRTA board of directors from four members to nine, resulting in a recruitment process for new board members over the ensuing months.

Now, with a newly expanded board and renewed assistance from the resort, the hard work of previous years is about to pay off handsomely.

Since being appointed in December the new board has been meeting monthly to lay out the organization’s objectives for the summer and work to implement the first phases of the trails master plan. Insurance requirements and final approval on new trails will be finalized this spring, a membership program has been created to get the community involved, dates for trail building days are being set, and plenty of other projects are in the works. With a solid foundation in place to build from, all that’s left is for the group to wait until the last spring snow melts before they can kick their trail building plans into high gear.

Jase Petersen, SPRTA’s president, has been there since day one and acknowledged community support has been a key part of getting them into a position to achieve some of their long-term goals this summer.

“I’d like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who has supported SPRTA and donated to our cause since we started,” he said. “We’re in a very strong position heading into this summer, but we wouldn’t be here without the help of the Sun Peaks community. The SPRTA team has been working towards some pretty lofty goals to improve the biking and outdoor recreation opportunities here in Sun Peaks for a while now, so I’m excited that this is the year we’ll start delivering on those promises in a big way.”

On the trail building side of things, exact plans for the year will depend on weather and other factors, but at this point SPRTA’s initial priority is the completion of new singletrack sections on either side of the valley between the village and Burfield Drive. Wherever possible, these additions will make use of the former course of an old Master’s cross country race that was previously held here, helping to resurrect this classic trail.

Following that work, attention will turn to completing a section of new trail SPRTA has been working on for the past couple years, which winds through the forest to connect the covered bridge on Morrisey to the beginning of Vista trail. Improvements and additions to some of the trails out to McGillivray Lake are also on the agenda, along with the first stages of mapping out trails on Orient Ridge.

If anyone wants to get involved, SPRTA has released a new membership program which provides options for individual riders, families, and businesses to join the organization. Annual memberships start at $20, with all fees going directly back into building and maintaining trails. Along with helping to improve the trail network, a membership allows one to take part in trail building days and courses, participate in group rides and other events, and make use of other membership perks. Non-bikers are welcome to join, as the organization has plans to expand into advocating for new trails suitable for hiking, snowshoeing, and other recreational pursuits in the future.

To complement the membership program SPRTA launched a new website, SunPeaksTrails.com, so those interested in joining can get in touch with the organization to find out more information. Memberships will be available for purchase in person during SPRTA events or online.

Petersen, for one, is excited to see so much momentum behind SPRTA and mountain biking in Sun Peaks this year.

“I’m super stoked about where things are headed for biking in Sun Peaks. Between the trails we’ll be building this year and the awesome new stuff the resort is working on in the Bike Park it’s going to be a big summer for local riders,” he said. “Sun Peaks is turning into a mountain bike town more and more every year, and I’m proud to be a part of it along with the rest of the SPRTA team.”

With such a big year ahead for SPRTA and the local trails, one thing is clear, if you live in Sun Peaks it’s time to get on a bike, get out there, and enjoy the ride!

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