In seemingly the middle of nowhere, exists a miniature version of Whistler, minus the hoards of people.
Sun Peaks Resort is situated five hours outside of Vancouver, through the Fraser Valley, and just past Kamloops. Despite popular belief, it’s not a treacherous drive, except dealing with traffic when initially escaping Vancouver.
After hours of highway driving, an exit brings you to an adorable, seemingly desolate building, known as Heffley Creek Store, where one can stock up on cold beer, simple groceries, and gasoline.
Here you take a right and follow the winding Tod Mountain Road for roughly 30 kms to arrive in the heart of Sun Peaks Resort.
The village itself is quaint, and seems as though it would an easy feat to “conquer” if one was trying to cross items (restaurants, clubs, activities, shops) off of a list.
Accommodation choices varied from chalets and resorts, to the Sun Peaks International Hostel, which looks like a barn, but mimics an alpine hut. As tempting as it was sleeping with a bunch of mountain bikers in a hostel, we opted for a chalet in the Crystal Lodge. Our unit was cozy, but nothing spectacular. It lacked the outdoor hot tub that other units had, but was equipped with a dryer/washer, which was a pleasant surprise – particularly after hiking and mountain biking.
I enjoyed the keyless entry, as well as the little touches that showed off the “bear country” pride.
The kitchenette in the chalet would have been appreciated had we brought groceries, alas, we wanted to explore some of the twenty eateries in Sun Peaks so came purposely empty-handed. We did, however, find that the wine glasses came in handy; something that isn’t always available in a hotel room. It was for the best that we didn’t use many dishes anyway, as there is a hefty surcharge for leaving the kitchen amuck. We were on holidays, we wanted to tidy up, but not clean up.
The primary reason for this visit wasn’t to stay in beautiful, five-star accommodations though, it was to explore and be active.
After a quick, and surprisingly unsatisfying breakfast at Tod Mountain Creperie and Coffee House, it was time for some alpine hiking.
With visions of meadows of alpine flowers in my head and the smell of fresh, alpine air enveloping me, I was raring to go. Cameras in hand, we hopped on the Sunburst chairlift and were taken 6,000′ above the Shuswap Highlands. I’ve never taken a chairlift while hiking, and normally would oppose the idea, but I enjoyed this lift almost as much as the hiking due to the view.
Of the 16 hiking trails to choose from, we opted for the highest we could go – Top of the World.
Normally you can go higher to Tod Mountain or over to Tod Lake, but the trails were closed at the time due to conditions.
The hike we did was a lovely, moderate hike, unfortunately, my vision of a field of alpine flowers was abolished as it was ahead of their peak blossom season that runs from mid-July to mid-August. Flowers were still scattered across the mountain sides, just not in the abundance I expected.
Goodbye shammy and tank top, hello full faced helmet and elbow pads. The time had finally come for me to get on a mountain bike. Since I’m a road cyclist, I had to rent a bike and gear from Elevation Bike, Ski & Board; knowing my history, I paid the $25 damage deposit.
“And here’s your bike. Enjoy your ride…”
After staring at the “Wall of Pain” while they prepped my bike, I wasn’t so sure that what I was about to do was a good idea.
I was comforted slightly knowing that I wasn’t just being thrown on the mountain and that I was taking a lesson with Jaide Foster, who won the provincials last September and placed first in the Junior Women Canada Cup this year. I was sure she could teach me a thing or two, even if she was only 16 years old.
Having no idea what was in store, but having watched a few trick-abundant mountain biking videos, I hopped on the bike ready for an adventure. At the beginning I complained…a little.
“Wait, I can’t sit down…at all?”
“This is stupid, I’m going to kill myself.”
“I hate this, how is this a beginner run?”
The complaining stopped when I realized that riding a bike was second nature to me, and that the bike I was using had a wheel width that was three times the size of those on my bike, which ultimately meant more stability. It also had shocks, which meant I could ride over almost anything.
And ride over things I did: bridges, potholes, “gnarly” rocks, and half of a jump (don’t ask).
I was able to handle the berms (just learned that term), but I struggled slightly on the flat corners. Despite this, I didn’t walk or fall off my bike at all, which is apparently quite unusual. Yay, me!
Jaide was so confident in my ability, that on the lift going up the second time she said, “I’m 89.8% sure that you can handle a blue run…want to try?” To which I replied, “Hmmm, I probably shouldn’t, but okay.” After half a run on blue, she asked if I wanted to try a black. To which I replied, “Hmmm, I probably shouldn’t, but okay.”
And this is what I liked about Jaide; she understood my distaste for lessons, and despite being new to the coaching thing, was smart to let me “lead” the lesson in a sense. I learn by watching and doing, and so she rode, I followed, we’d reconvene and chat about techniques, then we’d ride again. The faster she rode, the faster I rode.
The experience was exhilarating, intense and made my heart feel like it was going to burst. I have a new appreciation for downhill mountain biking, even without the jumps. I’m happy that my first time was in a bike park that wasn’t overpopulated, as it was nice to learn without people zipping by me the whole time. And don’t tell anyone, but I’ve actually been thinking about getting back on the mountain since I got off the bike.
After a couple of runs I was starving, and ready for a big juicy burger and a cold one from Bottom’s Bar and Grill. Check out my Sun Peaks dining experience (including Bottom’s) and the recap of Burton Cummings’ free concert.
For more photos, check out my gallery on Flickr.
- Sun Peaks Resort sees approximately 18-20,000 lift rides in the summer.
- I met Jaide the first night I was there – at Mountain High Pizza. She works there part-time…so that she can pay for her mountain biking expenses.
- We had dinner with Al Raine and a glass of wine with Nancy Greene, both extremely iconic and admired individuals.
- Sun Peaks has a Winter Wine Fest in January – I’ll be there.
[ Google Map directions from Vancouver: http://goo.gl/maps/PnOPy ]