Story and photos by local rider, Dylan Sherrard.
“Sun Peaks has been the place where I’ve pushed myself to reach new goals,” Kyleigh explains along our quick commute from Kamloops. The Bike Park opening is a sure sign of summer in the interior, and after a spring spent traveling around the globe, there isn’t a place Kyleigh Stewart would rather be cruising.
“This summer is looking like a mix of time at the shop and a few more trips down south with Kona, and I’m really excited to have more time close to home. With a bit of bike coaching at the resort and especially with the new developments on Sundance, I’m pretty excited to see what the summer holds at Sun Peaks, and to get back into the mix of gnarlier terrain we are missing down in Kamloops.”
Arriving in the village, we remember a long lingering spring characterized by unseasonably rainy days is still making for a slow start to summer, creating a long discussion about how we should plan our evening in the park, and which laps take priority in case of a storm rolling in.
“If I could pick just one…” Kyleigh hums. “I’d love to hit a Hi Octane to Smitties to Bermalade, because the top is so steep and fast, the bottom compliments that edge of control with mellow jumps and berms and a lot of flow to counter the adrenaline up top!”
But something always feels magnetic about Steam Shovel. “The rebuild really takes the cake!” Kyleigh shouts and we steer ourselves toward a more playful lap.
On we charge, carving and floating through endless arcs and rolls. The hoots and hollers of traction lost and quickly found echo between the trees. “How’s the vibe?” I shout through a mix of laughing and screaming.
“It’s incredible!” Kyleigh affirms through a sizeable grin as we skid to a halt atop mid Steam Shovel’s drop in. I’ve thought this place was incredible since the first time I visited back in 2004 or 2005. When I was just a 12 year old TOT casing jumps on the old Steam Shovel all day. Ha!”
“I remember doing the same myself!” I add, as we reminisce about the fringy freeride days of years gone by, and the skill it took to navigate terrain on bikes that still weren’t so purpose built yet. “It took me a couple years,” Kyleigh admits with a grin. “But now I love this trail. And I always get stoked for other people to ride it for the first time as well.” And I find that a fitting perspective, considering a focus on other people’s riding experiences have been such a big part of Kyleigh’s time at Sun Peaks. Always involved with varying versions of camps, coaching, and guiding, Kyleigh loves that Sun Peaks has become a space so much more inviting to riders of all ages and abilities.
“I’m excited to see what else the future holds for mtb in Sun Peaks.” She adds, “With the new developments there is more terrain for people of all ages, ability levels, and interests which will only lead to more growth of the sport, which is the ultimate goal.”
Whips fade into scrubs and the trail flows on forever. I’m surrounded by glowing trees as I shout, “What could ever make this place better?”
“I’m looking forward to seeing some more intermediate tech terrain opening up,” Kyleigh continues, “And a deeper pool of grassroots level racing and events - the kind of things I’ve had to travel to take part in over the years - would be amazing to have closer to home and allow more riders a greater sense of involvement with the bike park.” And as those last few berms go wrapping left and right in the fading light, I think how rare it is to be for a person like Kyleigh to be so deeply appreciative of place, yet filled with positive future vision simultaneously.
Kyleigh guides me through a series of snappy whips and sneaky side hits, a flowing succession of supporting evidence for the playful and steezy riding style she hopes people would recognize her for. We bounce out into the village and discuss ending a great rally on a high note. “I guess Sun Peaks is really becoming the place where I can achieve things that I never thought were possible before,” Kyleigh adds to her earlier praise of the park.
“Let's do another!”