Revelstoke: lessons in living (and riding) awesome.

Keystone alpine views. Just out of view are the bugs.
Keystone alpine views. Just out of view are the bugs.

Life is full of lessons. Our trip to Revelstoke was no exception. When I ran into an employee of the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce on the Galena ferry I learned that the BikeFest wasn’t the only show in town and we’d be competing for accommodation with hundreds of baseball players. When I tried to sit down with Mike Gravelle from Skookum Cycle to talk about the BikeFest I learned he was working hard to help organize a weekend full of events. I also learned that sometimes I’m lucky and I couldn’t go wrong riding in Revy.

We rolled through town and were lucky enough to score the last campsite at the Wadey Rec site about 25kms north of town. Just past Martha Creek Provincial Park, it’s quiet, clean and you can pick up water at Martha, but unfortunately it’s out of cell service, which means it’s hard to stay in touch. Once we’d moved in our first move was to head back to Revy. I needed to buy gloves to replace the set I’d left in Nelson so we stopped by Skookum. They helped me find something to fit my fat hands and we set off to grab dinner at the Wolsey Creek Bistro. Since our first visit to Revy we’ve barely even driven through without eating here. The food is amazing (they always have duck on the menu, my wife’s top pick) and the atmosphere and service are impeccable.

It's always a treat to 'duck' into the Wolsey Creek Bistro.
It’s always a treat to ‘duck’ into the Wolsey Creek Bistro.

Back at the site we put our daughter to bed, which wasn’t easy she was so excited to be camping and sat down with our crew to organize our weekend rides. My wife and I trade off riding when there’s no babysitter available. I wanted to ride Keystone Standard because I hadn’t been up that way since our visit in ’08 and my wife wanted to ride Frisby Ridge since I’d raved about it after my visit in ’11 when I was cheeky enough to go riding without her. I was nervous about riding Keystone as I’ve been recovering from a bulging disc that I got as a Christmas present this year and it would be my third ride of the season. I have a fear of inconveniencing people, especially those I don’t know.

Keystone Standard is an epic ride by any measure; it’s a beautiful and demanding out-and-back ride through the subalpine forest. Located about 50 kms north of town and a relatively easy drive up a logging road your vehicle takes you most of the way to the alpine. Starting from the parking lot at 1750 m the trail hits you right away with a technical climb before it flattens out a bit and gets smoother as you reach the subalpine forest. I took it easy on the uphill, riding what I could and pushing what I couldn’t. The trail was busy, and we met riders from across BC. It was great to stop and meet people. Especially for me, I felt sluggish and clumsy on the technical parts, taking breaks made thing easier. Once we got up to the treeline the views were phenomenal. The terrain is rugged and abrupt with peaks reaching up from the valleys in every direction. Lake Revelstoke sits in a narrow valley and once it disappears you’d never know it was there and we were surrounded by 360-degrees of sharp alpine peaks. While the technical dimension of the trail sometimes relents there are several demanding sections along the way. The buff downhill to the cabin at the end is probably the most notably flowy section. Going fast and railing the corners felt amazing. Which is good, because I wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much if I’d been thinking about how I was going to turn around and ride it right back up it. We reached the cabin at the end of the trail and grabbed a quick snack and relaxed until we tired of the mosquitoes’’ relentless onslaught. Yeah, bring deet. Really, I’m not kidding. The Revelstoke alpine is stunning, but the bugs are plentiful.

Keystone Standard Basin

That same day my wife took our daughter to the Meadows in the Sky parkway in Mount Revelstoke National Park. They drove up the paved road into the alpine and took a shuttle bus to the firetower at the summit. It was an easier, toddler-friendly way to get up high and enjoy the spectacular panorama of the park and the surrounding wilderness. They explored walking the hiking paths and enjoyed the alpine flowers before heading back to town for lunch.

Once back at camp that evening we made a great decision based on what we’d learned from riders on the Keystone trail. Instead of heading out early to ride Frisby Ridge, we’d shuttle the Boulder Mountain trails in the morning, grab lunch in town and then the crew (minus me) would start the Frisby ride at around 3:30.

Frisby Ridge
Frisby Ridge

Boulder Mountain is the local gravity shuttle spot. We did several warm-up runs down Logging Leftovers before heading higher on the mountain to take on Boondocker and Gravy Bacon. These steep, sandy trails are an awesome change from Coastal riding and Boondocker in particular is a well-routed trail where every steep section is followed by a spot to scrub speed and prepare for the next descent. Part way down the trail breaks from its slippery steepness with a series of big tabletop jumps. These jumps were built by Rick Schneider from Nelson and paid for by money received from the RCA to rebuild the old jump line. Lots of volunteer hours by local riders to set it up and the whole project was completely built over two days with a rented excavator by Rick, who has built parks/jumps in Nelson and Kimberley. This is a great sign of how committed the local community is to developing Revelstoke as a mountain bike destination. The jumps are fantastic, and with a parking area at the bottom, riders drive up just to session them.

After lunch, the crew set off to ride Frisby Ridge. This trail is a flowy masterpiece that invites riders of all skill levels to get out on their bike and enjoy themselves, a completely different ride from Keystone. It’s been built so that it ascends smoothly to a summit at 2 009 m before dropping down again to a cabin. Because it’s also an out-and-back trail the ride down can be interrupted by groups who are ascending. An early start means you can ride up uninterrupted, but can mean a lot of stops on the way back down to the car. By leaving late our group only had to stop once on the way down, and it was for the group who had told us to start late. They were aiming to do the descent under the setting sun and were armed with headlamps in case of a mechanical. Our crew’s ride went off without a hitch and they had a blast on the trail. My wife can’t wait to get out there again.

Highly recommended: Skookum Cycle.
Highly recommended: Skookum Cycles.

That afternoon I had hoped to take our daughter for a swim at Revelstoke’s pool. I’d heard great reviews from other parents, but unfortunately she’d fallen sick overnight and was in no condition to visit a pool. I didn’t need to learn what happens when you take a sick toddler swimming. She passed out in the car right after lunch and I took her back up to our campsite to recover. We’ll have to hit the pool next year.

We ended up missing the BikeFest events, which is a real shame. Attendance has grown every year, as has the number of events. Rather than focusing on competition, the Revelstoke BikeFest is all about the social aspect of riding. Group rides and guiding visitors on the local trails is great because of the commitment necessary to ride trails like Keystone. And Mike tells me that the plan is to expand BikeFest next year with an even greater emphasis on adventure. More heli-drops (Wandering Wheels organized this year’s drop on Cartier) more adventurous riding, and when Revelstoke promises more adventure, the bar is already set pretty high.

Monday morning we packed our car and got ready to head on to Invermere. We were looking forward to soaking in the hot springs and drinking beers on the porch with some good friends. We made quick stop at La Baguette for some sandwiches to eat in the car and headed up over Rogers Pass. We’d learn some good things in Revelstoke and we’ll be back next year to learn a few more.

One last reason why Revelstoke means so much to so many bikers in the know.
One last reason why Revelstoke means so much to so many bikers in the know.

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