Opening Sundance for summer

A behind-the-scenes look at the new trail network
Photo by Sam Egan.

The Sundance Mountain bike park expansion at Sun Peaks Resort means more time spent riding, more trail options and a whole new aspect of the valley to explore. 

Most importantly, the project’s trail designers and builders say it’s an opportunity to make the bike park accessible to a wider range of mountain bikers. 

Shawn Melnechuk, bike park coordinator, told SPIN his team’s vision for the Sundance expansion was to fill gaps between all skill levels in the existing trail inventory and make it easier for riders to develop their skills. 

They chose to focus on reducing the jump in difficulty between existing blue and black trails by adding six new machine-built trails to smooth out the progression curve. 

“We’ve now accomplished this with the new top-to-bottom black trail on Sundance and two new blue trails, which slide in between existing blue freeride trails,” Melnechuk said. 

“The top half of the trail will ride easier than the bottom half, but still within the designed skill level. Trail builders can influence the terrain more with a machine than by hand, so this progression within a trail is easier to accomplish with freeride trails.” 

Melnechuk said the freeride trails are the busiest in the network because bikers seek them out, and new riders at the park will gravitate towards them.

For beginners, Sundance’s new green and blue trails are shorter than trails on the other mountain, so they’re more forgiving and less intense.

Ted Morton, trail designer for McElhanney and founder of the Canadian National Enduro Series, said new developments are going to help riders improve. He added the physical characteristics of Sundance make the perfect training ground to complement what the bike park is historically known for.

“You couldn’t ask for a better mountain to build trails on. The soil quality is awesome and the grade of the mountain is the stuff of dreams,” Morton said. “It gets early sun so it dries out quickly, but the soil is compact enough that it’s not going to be super dusty.”

Melnechuk said both Lifetime Outdoors Inc. and Landmark Trail Solutions have provided their own signature flavour to the Sundance expansion.

“Both of these trail builders and their crews are well known and respected in the mountain biking community, having proven their skills for quality trail product with their own personalities integrated into their builds,” Melnechuk said. 

Both crews helped to create some of the most popular trails on Mt. Tod. Landmark helped with the Steam Shovel improvements, while Lifetime built Canada Line, Bermalade and Level Up. 

Landmark was chosen to build a new signature black jump trail, being known for mastering high-speed senders. Trail builder Ron Penney said their latest addition to Sun Peaks, “Super Nugget,” was designed with the interest of preparing riders for the double black jumps on Steam Shovel. 

Rather than focusing on particular features, Penney said he designs each of his trails to convey a feeling from top to bottom. 

“I like to focus on a machine-built trail being fast and flowy with a hand-built feel — lots of sections of a more singletrack vibe mixed in with big machine jump,” Penney said. “This trail being the latest trail, what sets it apart is that I’m always looking for a way to make them that much faster but more forgiving at the same time.”

Penney said overall, Sundance will be special for the next generation of trail development in the bike park.

“Sun Peaks has, in certain spots, this special gray clay,” he said. “It’s only in patches on the other mountain but on the Sundance side, it’s 95 per cent made up of this clay that I think is going to hold up to weather and riding better than anything else I’ve ever built with.”

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