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The big runs in Vale­mount are growing

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Jeff Bartlett

The big down­hill runs in Vale­mount, B.C., are growing

High Roller is the Vale­mount bike park’s sig­na­ture trail. It be­gins at the up­per park­ing lot and de­scends through thick for­est of­fer­ing only small glimpses of the sur­round­ing area un­til the trail en­ters an old cut block. From there, panoramic views across the Monashee, Cari­boo and Rocky Moun­tains stretch to the hori­zon, but it’s the view down the trail that likely holds most rid­ers’ at­ten­tions. “You can sud­denly see the whole jump line open up be­low you, as it snakes down into the over/un­der fea­ture on Tur­ducken,” says An­drew Lough­lin, a Jasper, Alta., res­i­dent who reg­u­larly makes the 90-minute drive to ride in Vale­mount, B.C. “It’s a pretty neat van­tage point. On a busy day, you can look down and see a dozen peo­ple hit­ting jumps be­low you.” He was quick to point out that busy is a relative term. It’s never crowded, thanks largely to Vale­mount’s stun­ning, yet iso­lated, lo­ca­tion amid some of Canada’s best scenery. Three moun­tain ranges sur­round the com­mu­nity. Mount Rob­son, the tallest peak in the Cana­dian Rock­ies, is just 30 km north. The clos­est ma­jor cities are Prince Ge­orge and Kam­loops, B.C., but both are more than a three-hour drive.

Like many small towns in ru­ral Bri­tish Columbia, Vale­mount de­pended on the forestry industry through­out the ’80s and ’90s be­fore fall­ing on hard eco­nomic times when the mill closed per­ma­nently in 2006. In re­cent years, the town has emerged as an out­door re­cre­ation des­ti­na­tion. In the win­ter, the nearby moun­tains re­ceive sig­nif­i­cant snow­fall, and both heli- and cat-ski­ing op­er­a­tions have opened. It’s also be­come a pop­u­lar snow­mo­bile des­ti­na­tion,

as the many for­est-ser­vice roads pro­vide quick ac­cess into the back­coun­try. In the sum­mer months, Kin­bas­ket Lake pro­vides ca­noe, boat­ing and fish­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, but the bike park is quickly be­com­ing the com­mu­nity’s big­gest draw.

“The com­mu­nity is sup­port­ive,” says Cur­tis Pawliuk, gen­eral manager of the Vale­mount and Area Re­cre­ation Devel­op­ment As­so­ci­a­tion (varda). “The bike park is only a 10-minute pedal from down­town. We’ve al­ready seen an eco­nomic im­pact. We have two new busi­nesses – a shut­tle com­pany and rental shop – that have opened. And both the cof­fee shop and brew­ery are al­ways busy.”

The Yel­low­head Out­door Re­cre­ation As­so­ci­a­tion (yora) de­vel­oped a moun­tain bike net­work master plan for Vale­mount but didn’t have the ca­pac­ity to take it on. In 2014, the pro­ject was handed over to varda. With fund­ing through both the Columbia Basin Trust and North­ern Devel­op­ment Ini­tia­tive Trust, con­struc­tion be­gan shortly af­ter.

“We’re al­ready on Phase 4,” Pawliuk says, “but we hope we’re not done build­ing. We’ll sit down this sum­mer and plan fu­ture de­vel­op­ments. We’re hop­ing to add two new trails this sum­mer.”

The bike park, lo­cated on 5 Mile Hill and be­low Mount Mckirdy, is all built on Crown land. It’s within Vale­mount’s com­mu­nity for­est and is rec­og­nized as a pro­vin­cial re­cre­ation site, which means there won’t be long-term land rights

con­cerns. For the sum­mer of 2018, there are 21 trails. While it is pri­mar­ily a down­hill flow park, the trails do in­clude a few val­ley-bot­tom cross coun­try trails and a ded­i­cated 6-km up track that ac­cesses all but two routes.

Shut­tling re­mains the most com­mon way to ac­cess these down­hill-ori­ented trails. A lo­cal shut­tle, op­er­ated by Peak Shut­tles, runs most days through­out the sum­mer. Rates are in­ex­pen­sive. You can buy a punch card valid for mul­ti­ple laps of mid-moun­tain or full de­scents. For a rel­a­tively small park, the trails are sur­pris­ingly di­verse.

“I think we’re a per­fect week­end des­ti­na­tion,” Pawliuk says. “We have such a mix of trails. As you go higher up the moun­tains, the trails get a bit more chal­leng­ing. Pro­gres­sion is cer­tainly key to rid­ing here.”

“I have three favourites,” Lough­lin says. “Ba­con is a ma­chine-built trail with table­tops, smooth berms and a few larger fea­tures that are op­tional. It’s the kind of trail you can hit with a mixed skill group and every­one will have fun.”

His two other favourites are Moby Dick and cbt Mun­day Grind. The for­mer is one of the newer trails with plenty of wood fea­tures, in­clud­ing a whale tail, wall ride and clean drops. Lough­lin be­lieves the lat­ter, a 6-km up track, shows the park’s ma­tu­rity be­yond shut­tle-only rides and gives rid­ers the op­por­tu­nity to earn their de­scents.

“I don’t think a bet­ter free-ac­cess park ex­ists,” Lough­lin says, “es­pe­cially with this qual­ity of fea­tures. Mix in a great lo­cal brew­ery and friendly lo­cals and it seems like the per­fect bike des­ti­na­tion.”

“It’s the kind of trail you can hit with a mixed skill group and every­one will have fun.”

De­tails How to get there

Vis­it­ing Vale­mount re­quires a long road trip. The town is lo­cated 20.5 km south of the in­ter­sec­tion of B.C. Highway 5 and the Yel­low­head Highway. It’s 489 km west of Ed­mon­ton, 320 km north of Kam­loops, B.C., and 292 km south­east of Prince Ge­orge. Both the Kam­loops (yka) and Prince Ge­orge (yxs) air­ports have daily con­nec­tions through Van­cou­ver, while the Ed­mon­ton In­ter­na­tional Air­port (yeg) has reg­u­lar flights to all ma­jor Cana­dian cities.

Where to stay

The Best West­ern Plus Vale­mount Inn and Suites ( best west­ern­vale­mount.com) and the Canadas Best Value Inn ( cb­vi­vale­mount.com) are two pop­u­lar brand-name ho­tels. Nu­mer­ous bed and break­fasts are found be­tween Vale­mount and Tête Jaune Cache, about 20 km north, too, in­clud­ing Cougar Moun­tain Lodge ( cougar­moun­tain­lodge.net). Ca­noe River Camp­ground ( ca­noeriver­camp­ground.com), lo­cated just 8.5 km south of town along Highway 5, is the clos­est camp­ing area. Tourism Vale­mount ( vis­it­vale­mount.ca) has com­plete ho­tel, camp­ground and B&B list­ings.

Where to eat

The most pop­u­lar spot for moun­tain bik­ers, un­doubt­edly, is Three Ranges Brew­ing Co. ( three­ranges.com), but the brew­ery has a lim­ited food menu in its tap room. For quick meals, try the Log and Rail Bar (1200 Main St., 250-5664363) or the Cran­berry Lounge, lo­cated in­side the Best West­ern ho­tel. The Cari­bou Grill ( cari­bougrill.com) is an­other pop­u­lar lo­cal choice.

Where to shop

Bikes & Bites (1030 Main St., 250-5665169) is the only bike-re­lated shop in town, spe­cial­iz­ing in bike re­pair and ren­tals. For larger needs, Jasper, Alta., is lo­cated 123 km east. In the na­tional park town, vis­i­tors will find sev­eral re­tail shops, in­clud­ing two bikes shops: Jasper Source for Sports ( jasper­sports.com) and Vi­cious Cycle Canada ( vi­cious­canada.com).

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