After two punishing years, the pulaskis are almost done pounding in the north Okanagan. With potential to rank amongst epic trails in New Zealand and the Colorado Rockies, Silverstar Mountain Resort’s new 35-kilometre cross-country extravaganza is just waiting to be slain.
Cam Sorenson hands me a steaming cup of sweet tea from his thermos as we survey the Putnam Creek Valley, tucked well below our viewpoint off Silverstar Mountain Resort, near Vernon, British Columbia. The cold rain of the day before has subsided and the sun pokes through the clouds, leaving tacky trails in the storm’s wake. The tea and sun have warmed us, and we drop into the descent, railing freshly built berms.
For the last two years, bike-park manager Sorenson and his crew have been slowly carving out Beowulf, a 5-kilometre loop starting and ending at the top of Silverstar Mountain Resort. The crew builds 100 to 150 metres of trail per day, using both machines and hand tools. It’s laborious and painstakingly slow work, but what they’ve created so far is a mountain-bike work of art. With flowing climbs leading to exciting descents, Beowulf exposes riders to a lesser-travelled side of the resort, even introducing long-time locals to new vistas.
With this addition to the existing kilometres of XC trails—accessed from Silverstar for the nominal fee of eight dollars a day or $59 for the season—and over kilometres of downhill trails, Silverstar will be eligible for International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) Gold status, giving Beowulf the designation of an IMBA Epic Trail. The endorsement would put the resort on the same world stage as destinations like Rotorua, New Zealand, and the Colorado Trail.
While Silverstar is known for its downhill trails in its bike park, the goal with Beowulf is to cater to a wider variety of mountain-bike styles. With places like Whistler now including similar pedal-driven rides out of their park, Sorenson sums up the industry’s shift: “I want to ride XC laps in the morning, rip a few DH laps with my friends in the afternoon and then head out to the lookout on Beowulf for sunset.”
This summer Beowulf will operate as an out-and-back ride, with a stop sign turning riders around at the construction site. With a little luck and elbow grease, though, the loop will be complete by late season.
As we near Putnam Creek, low-hanging mist plays with rays of sunlight, encircling the cedars of the valley floor. The moods of Beowulf change around every corner, and our group howls as we slalom through the ethereal woods. Sorenson beams like a proud papa, showing off his pride and joy. We start the climb back towards the resort and the trail becomes so fresh that our tires leave the first marks in the dirt, but not for long.
Written by: Joe Schwartz