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After the Snow Melts, Pursue New Adventures on BC Slopes
by Steven Threndyle

Once the snow has melted and the alpine bowls turn into grassy meadows, BC ski and snowboard resorts offer a whole new world of adventure. From July to October, BC’s mountain resorts are a great place to be – offering long, sunny days in comfortable weather, in an unmatched scenic environment.

Mountain Bike Riding at Sun Peaks ResortResort towns like Whistler, Sun Peaks, and Fernie boast a sizable number of year-round residents who organize summer festivals dedicated to all manner of enthusiasms –jazz, blues, and country music concerts; micro-beer and wine festivals; and, of course, tests of athleticism and endurance. Outdoor adventure competitions range from "Eco Challenge" style multi-sport events such as the Sea2Summit Race at Panorama Resort to world-class mountain biking races at Grouse Mountain and Whistler to trail running events at Mount Seymour and Cypress Mountain near Vancouver. Of course, many resorts offer a ‘lazy way out’ – taking a sightseeing ride up the chairlift with the kids in tow, getting off at the top to do a short hike before grabbing a bite to eat at a mountain-top restaurant and then taking the lift back down.

There's fabulous hiking atop any of the three ski resorts, Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour and Cypress Mountain, on Vancouver's North Shore. At Grouse Mountain, give your lungs and legs a workout on the legendary "Grouse Grind." This steep hiking trail ascends 2,800 vertical feet in less than two miles - Grind fanatics call it "Mother Nature’s Stairmaster". Of course, you can take the world-famous Skyride (passing all of those puffing hikers) to get to the top much more quickly. Other attractions include mountain biking, lumberjack shows, the Theatre in the Sky, and other hiking trails. This July, the resort hosts the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup; one of only four resorts in North America to be awarded this prestigious event.

HikingLocated in the provincial park of the same name, Mount Seymour offers some of the finest alpine hiking close to a major city anywhere in the world. Trails start right from the parking lot for the ski area, and continue along a series of lightly-wooded ridges which offer a stupendous view. You can hike into Elsay Lake and spend the night at the campsite there.

The North Shore’s largest ski area, Cypress Mountain is surrounded by hiking trails both at its base and summit. Park trail maps are available at the interpretive trail at the kiosk near the entrance to the chairlift area (close to the lift ticket office). Of particular interest is the Yew Lake self-guided interpretive trail, which is wheelchair accessible. The trail winds through old-growth forest and a unique marsh ecosystem. Experienced hikers can use trailheads at Cypress to gain access to either the Baden Powell Trail or the Howe Sound Crest Trail. The Four Lakes loop trail is great for families, especially later in the fall when blueberry bushes yield their scrumptious fruit.

It isn’t much of a stretch to state that the mountain biking at Whistler-Blackcomb matches the ski and snowboard experience. Indeed Intrawest, owners of this dynamic resort, have developed a mountain bike park within their area boundary that is changing the face of the sport. From full-on hard-core “Shore Style” freeriding to peaceful mountain tours where chairlifts take the grunt out of gravity, the mountain bike programs are geared to riders of all ability levels. The Mountain Bike Park is organized just like a ski area, with trails for beginner, intermediate, and expert riders. There’s even a Biker Cross course for riders who go ‘mano-a-mano’ over wicked jumps, banked berms, and corkscrewing turns. Off the bike, the number of activities Whistler-Blackcomb offers is simply off the charts – hiking, whitewater rafting, ATV tours, jet boat tours, paragliding, horseback riding, glacier tours – the list goes on and on. Whistler also offers the very cool Ziptrek Eco-Tours, where participants go back and forth suspended above Fitzsimmons Creek in a series of high-wire cables. It’s fun and even educational – the opportunity to learn about the flora and fauna of the Coast Range rainforest. The major mountain bike event of the summer is the Summer Gravity Festival from July 14 – 20; a week-long celebration of the freeride mountain biking scene.

GolfFestooned with a carpet of Indian paintbrush, purple lupines, columbine, and avalanche lilies (not to mention cow parsnip and skunk cabbage) the slopes of Sun Peaks are ablaze with colour during the summer. The Sunburst chair carries you to a network of hiking trails (and a mid-mountain restaurant), and you can put your mountain bike on the back of the chairlift for an exhilarating ride back down. Sun Peaks was one of the first resorts in Canada to recognize the "freeriding" mountain bike phenomenon and chairlift-assisted downhill mountain biking is a huge part of the draw in these parts. The 24 trails that corkscrew down from mid-mountain are ridden by daring cyclists clad in thermoplastic body armor. For those looking for something a bit milder, a paved bike path circumnavigates the Village and the Sun Peaks Golf Course. This relaxed trail is ideal for riding with your kids, too – before they get old enough to kick your butt on the downhill trails. A detailed map of all of the trails can be found at any of the outdoor stores in Sun Peaks Village. Competitive events for this summer include the Canadian National Mountain Bike Championships (August 4 – 6) and the Canada Cup Finals (August 11 – 13).

Yet another ski resort located in a provincial park, Silver Star Mountain Resort offers even more outdoor adventure in a pristine wilderness setting. Located just twenty minutes east of Vernon and the refreshing turquoise waters of Kalamalka Lake, Silver Star’s Victorian-era mining theme village is an attraction in its own right. Hiking and mountain biking are a big hit, as is horseback riding; there’s even a special barbecue trail dinner at the Wild Horseman’s cabin. At over 6,000 feet, the temperatures here are a touch cooler than the heat of the Okanagan, making Silver Star a refreshing diversion on your way through the valley. The major summer event here is the Okanagan Summer Wine Festival, from August 7 – 9.

Bear sightingFrom day one of operation Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, BC’s newest destination resort (just off the Trans-Canada Highway, near Golden), has had big plans for the off-season. Located between two national parks – Yoho to the East and Glacier National Park to the west – Golden and Kicking Horse offer the perfect respite from driving to get out of the car or RV and stretch your legs. The state-of-the-art Golden Eagle Express aerial tram whisks hikers and mountain bikers over 3,800 vertical feet above the Columbia River valley into the Selkirk Mountain range. The mountain bike trails, constructed in conjunction with the local mountain biking club, are among the best in the province.

Mountain biking isn’t only for the hard-core at Fernie Alpine Resort, located in the Lizard Range in BC’s southeastern corner. Taking a cue from the successful ski and snowboard instruction programs of the same name, the new Discover Mountain Biking provides first-timers with a lift pass, bike rental and instruction to get started on the way to single-track nirvana. With the opening of the Timber Ridge chair in mid-summer, hikers will be able to enjoy two new interpretive trails through the alpine of the Currie Bowl and Lost Boys Pass. From here, sightseers and mountain bikers can rest at an elevation of more than 5,500 feet and take in the incredible views of the Elk Valley. Upon completion of a connector trail from the top of the Timber to the Lizard side of the mountain, bikers will be able to access the existing trail system and their favorite routes.

Beach Volleyball at PanoramaIntrawest (owners of Whistler-Blackcomb), also operate Panorama Resort, a village-style resort in the rugged Purcell Mountains, just east of Invermere, in the Rocky Mountain Trench. In summer, Panorama Resort buzzes with a kind of ‘Club Med’ vibe that offers visitors the opportunity to cram more many activities into their day than humanly possible! The usual favourites like hiking, downhill and cross-country mountain biking are augmented with horseback riding, river rafting, tennis, beach volleyball, a rock climbing wall, ATV tours, aerial flightseeing, and the unique ‘Eurobungy’ trampoline system which lets you safely do inverted aerials! Kids (and parents who need a break, too) will love the all-day Adventure Camp, where Panorama staff introduce kids children aged 4 – 12 to the wonders of the natural world. From July 4 - 6, Panorama Resort hosts western Canada’s premier endurance athletic event – the Sea2Summit Adventure Race, where teams of two or four take on the lakes and mountain trails on foot, in canoes or kayaks, and on mountain bikes. It’s a spectacular, spectator-friendly course that loops around the resort so that non-participants can easily cheer their favourite racers on!

For more information on summer season resorts:

bullet Grouse Mountain ; 604-984-0661
bullet Mount Seymour ; 604-986-2261
bullet Cypress Mountain ; 604-926-5612
bullet Whistler-Blackcomb ; 1-800-766-0449
bullet Sun Peaks Resort ; 250-578-5542
bullet Silver Star Mountain Resort ; 250-542-0224
bullet Kicking Horse Mountain Resort ; 1-866-754-5425
bullet Fernie Alpine Resort ; 250-423-4655
bullet Panorama Resort ; 1-800-663-2929
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