Trade one downhill season for another at resort bike parks
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Slush cups, Hawaiian shirts, bluebird skies and soft snow, it’s always bittersweet bidding goodbye to another ski season, and waiting out spring until the downhill mountain biking season kicks in. Then it’s time to trade those skis for pedals and hit the trails. There’s something about flowing the berms, rolling the bumps and sailing off a boardwalk drop into the sweet alpine air that nicely parallels the sensation of skiing. The patina of chain grease, sweat and dust from regular rides is one of my annual rites of summer.
Across Alberta and B.C., mountain resorts are swapping out snowfarming for trail maintenance. But if you’re new to lift-accessed riding, it can all feel a bit overwhelming, from the chunky full-face helmets and the body armour to the alloy-frame, full suspension 29ers with their beefy, knobby tires. (Pro tip: even if you think you know how to ride, a lesson can help level up your technical riding game, and resorts make it easy to learn on a variety of terrain.)
Even if you’ve been into the scene awhile, it’s not always easy to know where to start or how to make the best of your trip. However, if you’re looking for a thrill, it’s hard to beat the rush of bombing downhill on your bike. Check out our rundown of mountain bike parks in Alberta and B.C. to help you discover where to get sendy this season.
Of course, local and provincial Covid measures may apply. Check before you go and follow all provincial health advisories and precautions.
B.C. BIKE PARKS
With a large inventory of park-accessed riding, B.C. is a mecca for Western Canadian downhill riders. Here are some tips on the big eight.
Fernie Alpine Resort, Fernie B.C.
Open: June 26
The Griz-ness boasts toothy topside riding with technical trails and big boulders, and friendly flow trails below treeline. Learn more about their summer operations here.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Golden, B.C.
Open: June 25
KHMR has for a long time been renowned for having some of the most challenging terrain for mountain biking. Drop in if you dare. Covid-specific protocols are in effect, particularly with the base gondola. Learn more here.
Whistler Blackcomb, Whistler, B.C.
Open: May 31
Being a major international tourism draw, Whistler is the big fish, with Whistler and Blackcomb mountains creating a huge footprint for trails and variety, on trail and off, to meet all riders’ needs. Learn more here.
Sun Peaks Resort, Kamloops, B.C.
Open: June 18, 2021
With its semi-arid Kamloops climate and rolling terrain, Sun Peaks has great variation, and a resort scene on par with Whistler. Golf, alpine hikes, paddling and more can be easily accessed from the resort. Learn more here.
Silverstar Mountain Resort, Vernon, B.C.
Open: June 25, 2021
With smaller feeder destinations to draw from Silverstar maintains a solid local feel, renowned for its progression. And then, there’s Beowulf - a 35km cross-country trail. Epic! Learn more here.
Big White Ski Resort, Kelowna B.C.
Open: July 1, 2021
Big slabs and boulders in the alpine flow into treeline dirt trails giving Big White tons of play for riders. Being in the Okanagan, you can ride all day and flop down on the beach when you’re done. Learn more here.
Panorama resort, Panorama, B.C.
Open: June 26, 2021
Pano retains some of the feel of classic DH trails, before machine-building became the norm. Expect to find a few roots here and there for some added fun, but all the big fun rollers and berms, too. Learn more here.
Revelstoke Mountain Resort, Revelstoke B.C.
Open: June 19, 2021
The newest mountain resort bike park in B.C., Revelstoke features the longest flow trail ever built. I personally have yet to ride here but the Stoke never disappoints. Learn more here.
ALBERTA BIKE PARKS
Alberta has less lift-accessed riding than B.C., but some excellent entry level and intermediate riding, with a few more technical lines to satisfy the expert. Also worthwhile to note that community bike parks (not lift-accessed but well built and maintained by local riders), like Hinton and Red Deer, play a bigger role in Alberta riding.
Winsport, Calgary, AB
Open: July 1, 2021
Formerly known as Canada Olympic Park, Winsport is a small hill with a big punch, offering something for every level of rider with a park designed by Whistler’s Gravity Logic, and the accessibility of the city. Learn more about their summer operations here.
Nitehawk Year-Round Adventure Park, Grand Prairie, AB
Open: dates pending
Big boreal riding with a campground nearby for multi-day riding. Although a landslide tore out the chairlift in 2020, ending an already Covid-shortened season, the resort is working to clear hurdles to resume riding this year (as of writing on May 10.) Learn more here.
The obvious omission of big Alberta ski resorts - Sunshine, Lake Louise, Marmot, Norquay, Nakiska and Castle — owes to the fact that being within national parks, there are various regulations preventing summer biking (mostly wildlife protections). However, the chairlifts still spin at Sunshine and Lake Louise for hiking and sightseeing, and Norquay, where there's the added appeal of the via ferrata (fixed route, simplified mountaineering climbs).
While newer than the ski resorts on which they new operate, bike park operators have evolved from the early days of downhill, lift-access biking back in the early 2000s. Operating standards and certifications have reached an international level of consistency, at least across North America. So, much like skiing, from one resort to the next the overall experience will be similar with your basic difficulty ratings (green, blue, black), safety standards and above all, that high level of stoke.
It’s hard to go wrong with any of these parks. Put some names up on the wall, blindfold yourself and throw a dart and you're bound to land somewhere fun.