Story and photos by Dylan Sherrard.
Winding upward under tall cedar trees, we find relief from a deep summer day in the shade and the breeze that linger on this eastern flank of Mt Morrisey. Cedar Twist serves a plot twist amidst the classic stories of summer days spent riding in Sun Peaks. For Kelly Kozevnikov, it’s the most exciting chapter in Sun Peaks' recent growth.
"It’s really started to make Sun Peaks feel like a true biking destination, and so much more than just a bike park!” Kelly claims with delight as we push on our pedals.
As an instructor of Women’s Bike Nights in the Bike Park for the last four years, and member of the board of directors for the Sun Peaks Recreational Trail Association (SPRTA) as the Director of Events for the last two years, Kelly has a firm grasp on the impacts of growth and change at a grassroots, community level.
“Not everyone has the ability or the desire to pound out bike park laps all day,” she admits as a matter of fact. “And the option to ride over here on Morrisey opens up more biking terrain and experiences to a bigger group of people with different skill levels.”
When we reach the top of the trail, weighed against the rewards, the climb suddenly feels short. The village and surrounding hills look small and close together from up here, while the conversation and Kelly’s stories begin to feel larger and further apart as they span the 23 years she’s been riding in Sun Peaks.
"I first visited Sun Peaks Bike Park in the summer of 2000 to race a BC Cup DH race,” Kelly recalls from a lap down memory lane.
"So many of my best Sun Peaks memories are tied up in racing,” Kelly laughs as I press for more nostalgia. “Winning Canadian Nationals Masters in 2015 really stands out though,” she admits with humble reminiscence.
"My son was only 7 months old. I lucked out a bit that they ran the older, shorter DH course that year. And it was cool to wear the National Jersey on the podium!”
We start cruising the loam laden lines of El Diablo, a technical trail that demands a keen eye for line selection. It’s right up Kelly’s alley.
"My early days riding were on the North Vancouver/Lower Mainland trails… so very technical, roots, rocks, wet and slow. Sun Peaks has such fast terrain, with great dirt and tech, so this is a great mix for me.”
"I’ve become someone who doesn’t hate riding up-hill anymore,” Kelly laughs when I ask how her riding has evolved since those early 2000’s days in the Bike Park. "Though I’m still biased toward the descent,” she laughs, clarifies, and continues.
"Sun Peaks is known for being scary, fast, and gnarly. I hope the resort doesn’t forget that set Sun Peaks apart at the beginning. It’s what put us on the map, and I’m hopeful they’ll continue to develop this kind of terrain in the bike park, not only flow trails.”
By the time we’ve navigated the north facing lines of Morrisey, the shade of the evening has come creeping over the hill.
“We’ve probably got just enough time for a Bike Park lap before the lift closes… What’s the dream lap?” I offer. "Sweet One, full pull, top to bottom,” Kelly shouts without hesitation and begins pedaling toward the lift.
"It’s great to see the recent growth of the Bike Park trails and how it caters to different riders, spreading us out all over the mountains with two chairlifts,” Kelly adds as we watch a couple of deer playing beneath the lift.
"I’m hopeful that connectivity will carry on in future development, like how we can ski all three peaks in the winter,” she continues. “Here in Sun Peaks, we have such a unique mountain canvas that our resort and recreational trail association can work together to develop these awesome multi-use trails. I hope this relationship continues to thrive, building a mountain bike culture that our small yet quickly growing community can be proud of."
“It happened almost by accident,” Kelly confesses, in response to my curiosity of how the last 23 years have blazed by with Sun Peaks as the backdrop.
"Just by visiting to ride and race, and eventually moving to the area. We made the big move out this way in 2007 and have been in the valley below Sun Peaks ever since. Our son goes to the school up at Sun Peaks. My parents moved out this way a few years ago and live down the road from us. Sun Peaks started off for us as a place to ski and bike as much as we could each respective season and progressed into where we built a home and are raising our family. This place has shaped a lot of me.”