Posted June 19, 2017
Interview with James Jeffries, Bike Park Coordinator
Photos by Sam Egan of Cedar Line Creative
With opening day for the Sun Peaks Bike Park on the horizon this Friday, June 23, and a spring that saw monumental amounts of water moving all across the country, we caught up with James Jeffries, Bike Park Coordinator, for his thoughts on the season ahead.
How long have you been overseeing the Sun Peaks Bike Park trail crew, and how did you end up landing in Sun Peaks?
I grew up just down the hill in Kamloops and was pretty involved in the mountain bike community, beginning in the mid 90’s as a cross country racer and then as a bike mechanic at various local shops. I was involved in the original downhill races in Sun Peaks in the late 90’s and started working on Ski Patrol in 2002, and the Bike Park trail crew in 2007. A chance encounter with the Park’s previous manager, while home on vacation from working in northern Alberta, presented the opportunity, and this will be my fourth year as Bike Park Coordinator.
Pictured above: James Jeffries, Bike Park Coordinator
How many people are on the Sun Peaks Bike Park trail crew and what can you tell us about them?
We have seven full-time staff members on the crew including myself, and two of us are machine operators. We’ve got an awesome crew this year with great personality dynamics, everyone’s a local of some variety and they’re all riders, and a few even race DH and Enduro.
This year we tried a new program with our early season staffing and instead of enlisting Patrollers during their pre-season, we hired four young staff members from Sun Peaks, Whitecroft, and Kamloops for four weekends to help buff up the machine-made freeride trails. Machine-made trails take the most effort and time to repair, but the youngsters are super energetic and got after it. It worked great and I wish I could keep them all on all season; they’re the future up here and they’ve got a vested interest in making the trails great because they’re out riding them all summer!
We understand there are some exciting changes in the works for this bike season. What can we expect to see on the trails?
First off, we’re incredibly excited to now have a mini excavator with our crew for the entire summer, which will make a huge impact in what we can accomplish for repairs, reshapes, and builds. This piece of equipment at our disposal full time allows us to effectively work towards a multi-year trail improvement plan.
We have three main projects in our scope for Route 66 and Smooth Smoothie. The last two years we’ve been working on an overall facelift for the existing segments of these trails and this will work towards the overall completion of this phase.
This season Smooth Smoothie will see an additional stretch of trail tacked on to the bottom of the existing route, completing the top-to-bottom green flow trail through Blazer trees and back to the chairlift.
Route 66 will see a lower leg added in a similar vein, utilizing the woods on rider’s left of the Flow Zone with the same bermy feel as the existing route. Route 66 will also be expanded from the top, adding a stretch of trail through the trees joining Exhibition and Cruiser ski runs, for a top-to-bottom freeride flow trail that’s consistent the whole stretch, with more intuitive flow. We anticipate having the Route 66 and Smooth Smoothie additions ready mid-summer.
We also reshaped the bottom half of Homerun last fall, in-line with the upper portion that was done the year before to allow the winter’s snow to settle the fresh dirt. We’re not done with it yet but it’s been fitted with berms through the trees like the upper for the most part, with just a few pieces left to make this a full and proper machine-built trail.
Any news regarding the lift-accessed XC trail network?
The alpine terrain is still mostly buried in snow, but we do have some exciting news once we can get up there. Last fall we retrofitted an existing alpine hiking trail – Gil’s – that traverses the backcountry skiing zone, back to the top of the Sunburst chairlift. With this addition XC riders can now link up an alpine loop covering over 10km. The next step will be to connect the end of this trail with a new route to Sugar and Big Rock Ride, but the existing loop will be open for riding as soon as the trails thaw.
What can we expect for Bike Park developments over the next couple of years?
This year we’re dedicated to improving and enhancing our green and blue machine-made flow freeride trails, and next year we’ll be turning our attention to our black flow trails to give Steam Shovel and Ain’t No Scrubs a major facelift. After that I have some ideas to potentially shift beginner and intermediate terrain towards the Sundance face, but you’ll have to stay tuned for that.
That’s definitely not to say we’re ignoring single-track with all the improvements to our machine-made network. We just want to catch up on that front and solve the holes in progression we have, for a more user-friendly experience for beginner riders. In the future I’d like to work towards upgrading more of our alpine hiking trail network, where the terrain allows, to allow for multi-use. There’s a ton of potential up there and the hiking community has been very supportive.
What are your favourite trails in the Sun Peaks Bike Park, and why?
Number one descent, no question, is Sugar into Sweet One. It’s original gangster, super fun, mega playful. Number two, the new race course we completed last summer. It combines classics Insanity One and Honey Drop with some fresh new stretches, for a full-on DH assault.
Any tips you’d pass on to riders checking out our Park for the first time?
Expect a different Bike Park experience up here, and we’re proud of that. The Sun Peaks Bike Park has its own unique character you won’t find anywhere else. Variety is the name of the game and we have some incredible single-track, a growing machine-made network, and absolutely tons of trails to sample while you’re here.
How are things looking for opening day this Friday?
The spring thaw has left its mark on a few areas but overall our program of proactive water-barring was very successful, and the trails are drying out nicely. There’s still some snow and significant moisture on the northeastern aspect, think Gummy Bear and upper Sugar, that will delay opening, but most of the park should be up and running. A lot can change in a week though, so stay tuned!
See you on Opening Day, June 23, 2017!