Group of DH riders in the Sun Peaks Bike Park

Story and photos by Dylan Sherrard

Summer appeared suddenly this season, with a sort of charming change of pace. The timely arrival of steady rain felt fresh, filling the air with sweet alpine scents and a renewed energy to match the opening of the Bike Park.

“It feels like it’s going to be a really nice summer in this place,” Melissa declares with an optimistic nod and a smile, peering over the tops of trees as we ride the chairlift to the trails.

DH rider jumping stump at Sun Peaks Bike Park

“It was disappointing to miss out on riding last summer,” she continues. “I missed out on all the new trails that we worked so hard to open. It was hard to be less active [with the unfortunate incident of developing carpal tunnel in each wrist] but I still made it a fun summer. I’m just happy to be finding flow on the trails again and hopeful I’ll be able to ride for the whole season this year. Especially now that we have so many new trails on the menu!”

Returning to riding after injury is a tricky ride in its own right. As we coast through the park, though, Melissa transmutes any apprehensions into a flowing succession of airs and turns.

Dh rider at Sun Peaks Bike Park

Melissa Da Silva at Sun Peaks Bike Park

She first found herself in Sun Peaks seven years ago when she decided to give it a try as a snowboard instructor from Ontario.

“You never really know if a place is going to be what they advertise themselves as” Melissa laughs while we pause to rest our hands beneath summer sunshine, reminiscing about rolling the dice on her move. “But Sun Peaks ticked all the boxes.”

DH rider cornering at Sun Peaks Bike Park

Pan shot of DH rider in the Sun Peaks Bike Park

The small town energy, feeling ‘mildly remote,’ matched with proximity to a city like Kamloops felt like a real sweet spot. Now a Level 4 snowboard instructor in the winter (one of only 10 women in the association to hold that level of certification) and Bike Park Supervisor in the summer, she’s been calling Sun Peaks home ever since.

“You know when something happens so gradually you almost don’t notice it?” asks Melissa. “Sun Peaks feeling like home kind of snuck up on me that way.”

Group of DH riders at Sun Peaks Bike Park

Group of DH riders at Sun Peaks Bike Park

The trails are rolling smooth and Melissa is on pace like she never skipped a beat. Carving turns and floating over chunky rocks in effortless fashion. We saddle up for another lap and I wonder how Melissa balances the work and play of her day to day.

“How do you maintain the drive to focus so much of your energy on shaping other riders' experiences?”

“We’ve got a really great team dynamic and the whole crew is so passionate about the work,” Melissa responds as fluid as she rides. “I’m motivated to make people’s sweetest times as memorable as they can be. I’m having a lot of fun too, though!” She cracks into laughter. “It’s not entirely selfless.”

Group of DH riders at Sun Peaks Bike Park

“I actually feel privileged to do this work,” Melissa continues “I know that our team is impacting people's experiences, their vacations and once in a lifetime experiences. So I feel fortunate to be playing a part in that, not to mention living here and enjoying this space and these experiences every day.”

And as our ride slowly fades into the lazy summer lap feeling, we’re both wide eyed with enthusiasm while marvelling at what this place has become. The volume of variety now available is almost overwhelming, and I ask Melissa what she’s most hopeful this summer will bring for her.

Melissa Da Silva at Sun Peaks Bike Park

“I’m just hopeful I’ll get to ride for the whole season. Biking has been a little different for me each year. One summer I had a routine of riding to the lake at 6:00am a few mornings a week. Another season I spent mostly climbing the XC trails on Morrisey. Or getting comfy with more consistency on the jump trails. I just love finding the flow in all of it, and I’m thankful this place has all of it now.”

Melissa Da Silva at Sun Peaks Bike Park

The shade of the evening falls over the forest and a distinct summer night breeze circulates between the trees. We fight the early season buzz of squeezing ‘one more lap’ and call it good on the few fast laps we’ve enjoyed. The sky is aglow and I’m short on words as I attempt to express my excitement for the summer ahead of us in Sun Peaks.

“It’s just my home,” Melissa laughs in deep content. “It’s pretty simple really.”