Story and photos by Dylan Sherrard.
The late days of summer in Sun Peaks always arrive in abrupt and notable fashion. A cool breeze whispers in a season of change and we’re pressed to find any element of the ride that isn’t shifting. And if you’ve been fortunate to ride in Sun Peaks recently, you’ll recognize that mountain biking has been enjoying an extended season of change spanning recent years. I see it ringing true with the families in the lift line, the kids lapping the Progression Park, and the riders opting to climb the increasing volume of trails spread all over the valley.
I’m sipping a coffee while plotting a ride with Aidan Kelly - Chief Marketing Officer of Sun Peaks Resort, and a character key in creating these changes - and the impact of growth is echoing all around me.
“It’s a place where we get to welcome guests to share our playground in the mountains. How good is that?” Aidan asks, as I enquire about his perspective on the recent growth of riding in Sun Peaks.
"The stories and experiences of the people who come and go is what drives the place forward.”
His first Sun Peaks riding experience coincided with the beginning of his work life in Sun Peaks, and he immediately saw potential for something special. “Our Sales Manager (Aaron Weiss) took me down Root Dog on my first lap. I almost got crushed. He almost got fired (joking, not joking). And from that day I knew there was an unrealized opportunity that we could one day tap into with our summer bike product and experience.”
Avoiding Root Dog (obviously) our ride takes us through some of Aidan’s favourite elements of biking in Sun Peaks. “Challenging but approachable,” he describes it as we pick our way through the lines of Gummy Bear and into Spicy Taco where, "Those berms automatically toss you smoothly from one to the next.”
I’m surprised that Aidan’s favourite lap only flirts with the array of Sun Peak's newest trails - trails that he was a driving force in bringing to fruition - though I admire the impact of his push for development all the same.
"Building anything in this day and age is complicated and bike trails are no exception.” Aidan admits when I ask about the push these developments needed. “Business cases, consultations, permitting, insurance, layouts, contractors, future maintenance requirements, operational impacts, and financial implications are just a few of the key items that need to be considered and/or worked on before go time. Definitely a fair bit of heavy lifting in advance of building anything, but we have good processes in place to help make it happen.”
And as our ride rolls on through the fast arcs and flowing lines of Holy Rollers into the chunder and gnarly shapes of Arm Pump, I wonder what it takes to inspire and maintain persistence through such heavy administrative lifting.
“Sun Peaks had a long history in the bike park world, but hadn’t kept up with the pace of industry change over the years. Some people might not be stoked to hear this, but I felt strongly enough that I was advocating for a ‘get in or get out’ approach. Status quo was not acceptable. The team created a vision and a plan for what was possible, ownership was supportive, and luckily we’ve achieved a lot of it much more quickly than I ever could have dreamed.”
It feels agreeable amongst anyone I ride with that Sun Peaks has grown into its current dreamlike state much more quickly than we could have imagined, ourselves. A laundry list of new trails that seamlessly fill the blanks between pre-existing lines, not to mention an entire new mountain of flow trails, and a rapidly expanding network of pedal access trails throughout the valley. It really is dreamlike. And as we ride the lift to the top of that new mountain, I have to ask Aidan, "What aspect holds the most impact in your eyes?”
Without skipping a beat, “The inclusivity of the product that exists here. Whether you’re a first time rider in the Progression Park or a World Cup racer training on Smitty’s Steeps. Both riders can have a rad day, but for very different reasons. And that’s not something we were always able to say at Sun Peaks.”
“Almost a decade ago,” Aidan continues, “I got stoked on biking, and it was because of how welcoming and non-judgmental the culture was. That has always stayed with me, and we’ve been able to build our bike park product around that same vibe in recent years, while still staying true to our roots.”
It’s a vibe that’s easily felt in Sun Peaks, fostering a new wave of community growth and engagement. I think of Aidan as a thought leader in pushing Sun Peaks toward the mountain biking destination it’s become, and the mountain biking destination it will continue blossoming into. “In my time at Sun Peaks,” Aidan adds, “I’ve worked at identifying and pushing for key strategic opportunities, while making sure there’s always smarter people than me in the mix who have figured out how to execute and convert the opportunities into reality. The team here is passionate and resilient, there’s been no better group to work alongside.”
With a career change on Aidan’s horizon, the shifting seasons and sensation of change feel full circle. Our ride comes to a close with a carefree cruise down Bermalade and into a favourite village patio, where we watch the evening roll in. The sunset colours of a cooler season give way to night amidst conversation about all the infinite possibilities of where life can take us, and how Sun Peaks will continue growing in Aidan’s absence. “It’s really become a place to celebrate what we have on our doorstep, in the moment.” Aidan offers.
"It’s obviously been a turbulent few years for pretty much everyone and everything, and I feel an increased appreciation of what Sun Peaks delivers for those of us lucky enough to spend a lot of time in these mountains, both on and off the trails.”