A West Kootenays Road Trip
By Vince Hempsall
The sport of mountain biking has literally shaped the landscape of British Columbia’s West Kootenay region since its adoption by local riders in the late 1980s. Over a thousand kilometres of singletrack now snake through most every community between the Monashee and Purcell ranges south of the Trans-Canada. And wider, machine-built flow tracks have also become prevalent in the last decade, especially near the village of Nakusp in the Slocan Valley, which is the homebase of the Kootenay Adaptive Sports Association. That group has spent the past few years creating guidelines for building wider tracks suitable for adaptive mountain bikers and those directives are now being adopted in countries around the world. In other words, the West Kootenay is helping shape the global landscape as well.
For this article, we’re keeping it local by concentrating on exceptional trails, eateries, and accommodations for mountain bikers visiting the Arrow Slocan area as well as the communities of Revelstoke, Rossland, Nelson and Kaslo.
The Arrow Slocan region is appropriately shaped like a diamond because it has some real gems when it comes to trails. At the northern end of Slocan Valley is Mt. Abriel, a six-year-old recreation area near Nakusp that was one of the first in Canada to feature a purpose-built adaptive trail. Since then a whopping 70 trails have been created here from family-friendly jaunts beside the lake to fun up-down loops. With 43 campsites, Mt. Abriel is the best biking destination in the valley but if you prefer more refined accommodation, consider the Kootenay Lakehouse on Upper Arrow Lake or the Forest Cabin, nestled in an old growth forest near Nakusp. Good restaurants in the valley include Arrow & Anchor Pizza and the funky Frog Peak Café and you’ll also find one of the few Kootenay cideries here: Burton City Cider. At the southern end of Arrow Slocan is the city of Castlegar that has exploded onto the mountain bike scene in recent years with artistic, hand-crafted trails in the Merry Creek network. From the base of those trails it’s an easy ride to Tailout Brewing, the city’s only brew pub, or you can hit the Lion’s Head Pub where bikers regularly hang after outings to the Rialto Creek network, which includes the new climb trail Dirty Dreams.
North of Slocan Valley is the city of Revelstoke. Long have riders visited here to enjoy such alpine classics as Frisby Ridge and Keystone but there are also amazing trail networks including MacPherson where you can test your cardio on mountainside singletrack and riverfront runs, and Boulder Mountain. Primarily a truck-drop, downhill destination, Boulder Mountain added a new climb trail this year, which ends at the five-kilometre mark on the logging road and helps riders access the sweet lower trails while avoiding gravel trucks. Revelstoke Mountain Resort is also the only lift-access bike park in the West Kootenay and it offers 14 trails and 1,712 metres of descent. Pre-ride coffees can be swilled at Dose, where a portion of the sales of the “For The Trails” roast goes towards the local trail association, and post-ride beers can be enjoyed at Rumpus, Big Eddy Pub, and Mount Begbie Brewing. When it comes time to rest weary heads, bikers turn to the Valley Retreat, Basecamp, and the Stoke Hotel.
NELSON & KASLO
Southeast of Revelstoke is the community of Kaslo where trail builders finished a project of epic proportions this year. Appropriately called the Friendly Giant, the 18-kilometre-long bi-directional trail rises to the summit of Mt Buchanan at 1,910 metres. From there riders can hoon back the way they came or navigate the old-school double-black diamond Monster trail. It’s also appropriately named. Before your ride, hit the Bluebell Bistro for fuel and afterwards calm your adrenaline with a pint at Angry Hen Brewing or the recently refurbished restaurant in the Kaslo Hotel. You can crash there too or head south to the city of Nelson where a lot of work has been done on the Morning Mountain trail network in recent years. That includes the completion of Blue Steel this past summer, which boasts plenty of berms and jumps to keep the whole family happy, and the new Rhythm and Blues, the city’s latest offering suitable for adaptive mountain bikes. Oso Negro is a favourite café among bikers as are the three brewpubs in town. Crash at the historic Hume Hotel or the new Savoy Hotel, which has a dedicated room to store your bikes.
Rossland bills itself as the mountain biking capital of Canada and for good reason. The world-famous 36-kilometre-long Seven Summits trail is located here as well as 169 others totalling 200 kilometres of riding. Many can easily be accessed from downtown, including the entire Monte Christo network, and it’s also possible to bike to the base of Red Mountain Resort where you’ll find 20 trails and 1,511-metres of descent. The newest addition to the city’s offerings is the Upper Cedar Trail, which completes a four-year-long project to connect a nine-kilometre moderate ride between Nancy Greene Provincial Park and Gibbard’s, the trail that connects to the Black Jack nordic area. Fuel up at Alpine Grind, unwind at the Rossland Brewing Company, order in from the Underbelly Bistro, and enjoy a sauna in a barrel at the cool Josie Hotel at Red Resort.