Peaks’ sun sets on summer biking

Photo by Steve Riffel / Sun Peaks

The mountain biking scene at Sun Peaks is progressing, but much work is still to be done before downhill and cross-country riders are satisfied.

“In the mountain bike world, word of mouth is everything,” said Aidan Kelly, director of sales and marketing for Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR).

“We’ve taken a step in the right direction, but we’re not there yet.”

Long has the downhill bike park been considered one of the best and most-challenging in the country and efforts have been made in recent years to make the trails more suitable for less-experienced riders.

“We’re limited a little bit just based on the terrain we have to work with,” Kelly said. “With the layout of the mountain and where the mountain bike trails go, they’re pretty steep. We don’t have much lower-grade stuff to work with, but there are options to look at to mitigate that.

“If we want to attract that beginner market and the family market for downhill mountain biking, we’ve got to progress even further.”

The number of hikers and bikers buying chairlift passes was up this summer, a tribute to the work done by the SPR trail maintenance crew (which grew by one staff member this year) and as a result of an improving tourism climate across B.C.

Kelly also noted altered marketing and promotional strategies paid off this summer.

Sun Peaks successfully hosted the 2015 Canadian Downhill Mountain Biking Championships in July and the event will return for the third consecutive year in 2016.

“There was a good buzz around the resort that weekend and that helped boost the profile of the bike scene,” Kelly said.

“The conditions and trails were some of the best we’ve seen at Sun Peaks. We’ve got great terrain up here for mountain biking. It’s just a matter of how well you can make those changes and improvements.

“We made some changes and they were very well-received. We want to keep
pushing, though.”

The cross country trails at Sun Peaks are primed to improve in the coming years, thanks in part to the Sun Peaks Recreational Trails Association (SPRTA), established last year by Jase Petersen, Mike Sleziak, Meghan Kolodka and Zac Cunningham.

“There is a general lack of cross country single track up here,” Sleziak said. “We have the bike park and it’s awesome, a world class park but, on the pedal up and ride down, as far as cross-country behind Mt. Morrissey, it’s lacking a solid network.”

Much of SPRTA’a inaugural year was spent dealing with red tape insurance issues and seeking permission to put shovels in the dirt.

“There are some real gems kind of hidden, but they’re separated by very long stretches of fire road and double track that are fairly uninteresting,” said Sleziak, noting SPRTA received a grant from the Sun Peaks Municipality.

“People just wish there was more there. Building a network is on peoples’ minds and that’s sort of the reason why we started the association.”

Once it got the go ahead, SPRTA wasted no time getting to work on a new cross country trail, half of which is expected to be complete by the end of October.

The trail will begin on the south side of the golf cart path going to Hole 9 on Sun Peaks Golf Course, part of an old World Cup cross country race course.

“We’re breaking in an old section of trail and pushing into the woods on the south side of the back nine of the golf course, creating a new trail that will connect the bottom of the Morrisey chairlift to the village with single-track,” Sleziak said,

“Both myself and Jase are really, really keen to keep working until the ground freezes.”

The work will continue when the thaw arrives next spring.

“There is reason to be optimistic about mountain biking up here,” Sleziak said.

“We have the full support of the community and everyone seems to be rallying
behind the cause.”

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