The view towards Mt. Cartier from the top of the Fifty Six Twenty trail at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

The longstanding wish of many mountain bikers in the Revelstoke area has come true with the opening of Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s (RMR) new lift-access bike trail at the resort on July 26. I pedalled up on opening day to check it out.

Revelstoke has an ever-growing networks of mountain bike trails, but this is the first time the gondola has spun for mountain bikes. Until now, it’s been push, pedal, shuttle or heli to the top of local descents.

Here’s the view from the top of the gondola — it only gets better from here. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

The trail, named Fifty Six Twenty after RMR’s 5,620 feet of vertical lift-access terrain, is a 15-kilometre long marathon of a trail winding from the alpine near the top of the Stoke Chair down to the resort’s base village.

If you’ve never been to RMR, this photo is taken from the top of the gondola. Your destination near the top of the Stoke chair is visible at the top right of the frame. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

Starting at the base of the mountain, you ride the gondola to the top, then pedal up a seven-kilometre trail that winds through the trees, the sub-alpine, then pokes out into alpine meadows at the end. The uptrack is a wide, machine-built trail that’s mostly free of rocks and roots.

The climb trail starts in the trees. Here, Revelstoke mountain biking veteran Trent Kappler gets after it on opening day. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

From the top, there’s a great view of the Columbia River valley below, and the mountains towards Cartier and Ghost peak to the other side of the mountain. You can rest up among the wildflowers and watch Revelstoke Paragliding do take-offs nearby before you do the descent.

A view from the climb up as the trees give way to sub-alpine. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

From the top, tighten up your chinstrap and get ready for a brake-sizzling descent down a brand-new flow-oriented trail. The vast majority of the trail down is also machine-built and fairly wide. A big majority of the corners are bermed and there are lots of jumps, rollers and tabletops the whole way down.

Generally, the corners are wider near the top and then get tighter as you descend into the trees.

The final leg of the climb is through open fields of wildflowers. In Revelstoke, mid-August is peak wildflower season. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

I wasn’t counting, but it seemed like there’s about 50 optional jumps and other features on the way down; almost all of them have a beginner-oriented roll-through option next to them.

A breather at the top before the long descent down Fifty Six Twenty. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

From near the top of the gondola, there is also an out-and-back trail to the Greeley area of the mountain that doesn’t have a lot of elevation gain. RMR staff said the trail is complete, but when I went it wasn’t open due to wet conditions on the trail, the result of our unusually rainy summer this year. It should be opening soon.

Revelstoke Paragliding launches from near the top of the trail. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

Locals have been calling for lift-access biking for the dozen years since RMR opened for winter operations. The new trail was welcomed by the Revy biking crowd, although not everyone in the downhill shuttling crowd was happy. There’s not an option to connect to the lower half of the trail from gondola top (staff warned you can get your winter pass pulled if you leave the trail), meaning downhillers are going to have to pedal or push their heavy, spring-shocked bikes to the top — at least for this season.

The view towards Mt. Cartier from the top of the Fifty Six Twenty trail at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

RMR spokesperson Carly Moran said the resort is planning to open more trails leading down from the gondola top in the future, starting with one next year. That’ll allow for gondola laps with no uphill. Moran said there are no plans to open the Stoke chair to bikes.

Local reaction

The trail starts just inside the alpine zone where the turns are wider. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

“It’s so looong!” was the most common reaction. There are long descents in the Revelstoke area, but they are either pre-existing hiking trails, or, like Frisby Ridge, purpose-built biking trails but without the wall-to-wall berms and features of Fifty Six Twenty. In general, the crowd is pumped for the new trail.

A 1.2-kilometre section of the trail is as-yet incomplete. Staff said they ran into bedrock while building it and are looking to re-route it. Instead, you travel down a winter CAT track for the section. The trail is already so long that I really didn’t feel like I missed out, though.

The trail definitely fills an gap in the local mountain bike trail offerings. It’s the easiest way up to alpine views. It’s got berms and features without vehicle shuttles.

Tips

A typical section of the trail, which gets tighter as the trees close in. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

-Budget time to take a couple breathers on the downhill.

-If you’re new to flow trails, give your brakes a once-over before you go, especially if you’re on a cross-country oriented bike with smaller brake rotors. They’re going to get really hot.

-The climb trail requires a level of fitness, but they do rent e-bikes if you have a weaker rider in the group.

-For newcomers to flow trails like this, the descent has roll-through bypasses for almost all of the jump features. It’s not for complete newcomers to mountain biking — resort staff say they’re not permitting beginners on the trail, only intermediate-level riders and up.

Details

The trail is seven kilometres up and 15 kilometres down. It’s not worth rushing; budget at least a couple of hours per lap for intermediate-level riders and up. A day ticket is $35 for adults or $169 for a summer pass. If you have an winter pass already, you can get an add-on summer pass for $109. Special rates for kids aged 6-12. Ask for the locals’ discount if you’re a Revy resident with ID. First gondola is at 8 a.m. and last upload is 3:30 p.m. The hours change in early September. The season runs until September 22. Check the RMR website here for prices, times and details. The resort rents bikes, including electric-assist bikes at the village, and you can also rent bikes in town. If you’re on a road trip with non-bikers or children there are lots of activities for the rest to do at the base, including restaurants, the new Aerial Adventure Park and the very popular Pipe Mountain Coaster. Or they can check out the thriving cafe, restaurant, retail and culture scenes in Revelstoke’s heritage downtown core — it’s mostly downhill or flat from the resort base into town, so you could ride there in under 15 minutes.

Check out the RMR opening day video for more

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