Revelstoke, Grizzly Bears and Railroad Origins

One of the West Kootenays’ rare alpine rides, Frisby Ridge is a one-of-a-kind alpine epic, winding through meadows and ringed by the towering Selkirks. Lorraine Blancher pedals her way through one of the trail’s signature meadows under a blazing sunset. CANON, 1/2000 sec, f/3.5, ISO 1600

Revelstoke, Grizzly Bears and Railroad Origins Ryan Creary

Dropping off the east side of Eagle Pass, BC on the Trans-Canada Highway, it’s only 13 miles to the small town of Revelstoke. Fenced on both sides by imposing pine and granite walls, it’s winding, narrow confines feel almost claustrophobic.

And then the highway makes one final curve, and the Columbia River is raging below and train rumbling across the road ahead. Two giant grizzly bear statues rear up on both sides of the main road as a welcome, and the town’s railroad origins are obvious in the massive rail yard bordering the highway. But at first glance, that’s all lost in the expansive valley spreading out beyond the town, the Columbia River threading like a zipper between two gargantuan mountain ranges.

It’s that vast openness—and the Selkirk and Monashee Ranges—that sets mountain biking in Revelstoke apart from the rest of the Kootenays, with alpine riding rarely seen in British Columbia. Old growth rainforest climbs towards high-country meadows, the wildflowers webbed with trails and surrounded by views of glaciated peaks. From a photo perspective, the colors and massive scenery is a dreamland. From a riding perspective, it’s the ultimate high-alpine playground.

Revelstoke’s fame as a mountain biking destination may be a recent phenomenon, but a deep bike culture and community has developed to keep up. Two of the most vocal advocates are Matt Yaki and Lorraine Blancher. Matt runs Wandering Wheels, a local shuttle company, and Lorraine is one of Canada’s most sought-after female mountain bike coaches. Both are adventurous riders who are keen to get out whatever the conditions, and both have beautiful style. And, to top it off, Matt’s dog seems to love single track as much as we do.

Beneath a fading sunset and with giant peaks as a backdrop, Lorraine Blancher races darkness on her way back to the Keystone trailhead. CANON, 1/125 sec, f/5.0, ISO 3200

If there are two trails that can be credited as a huge part of Revelstoke’s recent notoriety, it’s Frisby Ridge and Keystone Standard. Both iconic high-alpine epics, Frisby is a perfectly graded climb that even passes an alpine lake (great for a mid-ride swim) before dropping into a wicked-fast descent. Keystone is one of the area’s more remote trails, with huge mountain views, sweeping basins and deliciously technical riding both out and back. One ride on either, and it’s immediately obvious their fame is deserved.

Closer to town is Flowdown, Revelstoke’s newest flow trail and one of it’s most popular. Built in 2011, Flowdown laces between Monashee rainforest old growth, connecting the Mount Macpherson trail network to town and the closest thing I’ve found to summer snowboarding. Not bad, considering you can get in a lap and still make it to work on time.

Among the pantheon of Kootenay hotspots like Nelson and Slocan, Revelstoke is relatively new—but that’s the exciting part for the mountain biking-minded souls who call the place home. Each year brings fresh trails, whether they be high-country epics or in-town pump tracks, but the classics still leave me with a grin after every lap, no matter how many times I’ve ridden them.

Revelstoke—and the Selkirk Range in general—is known for it’s ever-changing and often-ominous weather. Frisby Ridge, one of the town’s most iconic trails, is known for its expansive views, even more impressive under the infamous storms. CANON, 1/1250 sec, f/10, ISO 2500
Double complete rainbow! The same temperamental weather that Revelstoke is infamous for can also be credited for some truly unique views. A hopeful Matt Yaki winds through wild flowers towards an alpine pot of gold. CANON, 1/50 sec, f/22, ISO 800
The Frisby Ridge trailhead is easily accessible by car, but for a more serious ride, you can bike the 2,500 vertical feet from town in about two hours. Matt Yaki and Lorraine Blancher opt for the shuttle route for a few extra laps. CANON, 1/1600 sec, f/4.0, ISO 800
Wildlife isn’t always pleasant—Lorraine Blancher stops just long enough for some of the most irritable to make their presence known. CANON, 1/1000 sec, f/2.8, ISO 800
Epic views and equally epic miles. A glimpse of the full experience. CANON, 1/640 sec, f/6.3, ISO 400
Flowdown earned its name for a reason— as one of the smoothest trails in the Mt. Macpherson trail system, just a short distance out of town, its borderline bike park in its swoops and berms. Matt Yaki and Lorraine Blancher put the name to the test. CANON, 1/1250 sec, f/9.0, ISO 1600
Lorraine Blancher blasts through one of Flowdown’s many berms—it’s Flowdown, not “Slow Down.” CANON, 1/50 sec, f/10, ISO 2500
Trailside snacks are always worth the stop. Lorraine Blancher takes a few minutes to enjoy the fruits of nature. CANON, 1/1250 sec, f/7.1, ISO 1600
Matt Yaki rounds the corner in a storm of wild flowers. The inland rains are heavily responsible for the dampened trails—and the plethora of color on either side. CANON, 1/1600 sec, f/5.0, ISO 1000
Two wheels and four legs—trail-dog Wiley, showing the tell-tale signs of another muddy fun-fest along Flowdown. CANON, 1/1600 sec, f/5.0, ISO 1000
Another recent Revelstoke classice, the Keystone Basin Trail winds through vast alpine meadows, crosses dozens of mountain streams and is generally mind-blowing. Matt Yaki and Lorraine Blancher pedal through Selkirk glory on the way to Keystone Cabin. CANON, 1/1000 sec, f/7.1, ISO 800
Bike lights are a must for Keystone Basin, as daylight fades quickly in the Selkirks and time spent enjoying the scenery adds up. Matt Yaki packs up for the final descent as Wiley watches on. CANON, 1/125 sec, f/4.5, ISO 3200
With the alpenglow lighting up the surrounding peaks, Matt Yaki flips on his light and takes in the last of the sunset before making the final descent. CANON, 1/50 sec, f/2.8, ISO 3200
Cool temperatures and limited direct sunlight keep patches of snow on the ground year-round in the Keystone Basin. Matt Yaki races the shadows of the surrounding peaks and climbs towards the snow on the trail’s return trip. CANON, 1/1600 sec, f/8.0, ISO 400