By the time the powerful Revelstoke spring sun finally burns out the heavy winter clouds that fill the valley, it’s already potent, handing out goggle tans and sunburned shoulders on its debut appearance.
The sun’s daily path from the Selkirk Mountains to the Monashees arcs higher in the sky everyday, scouring out the snow so quickly it seems that every path, every trail, every outdoor experience needs a daily snow-intelligence report. You’ll overhear the excited conversations sitting by the blossoming Revelstoke spring bulbs on Mackenzie Avenue.
The River Run is good, they’ll say. Sex on the Beach is OK but there’s still a few wet spots. I heard you shuttled up to Logging Leftovers? How was it?
April is the multi-sport month of Revelstoke spring, when residents split their day between snowboarding and dirt biking, or skiing and mountain biking. They ski tour, suntan and share a camp stove feast under the shade of a spruce.
I packed a camera along for one week to record some of my dual-sport experiences. Here are some of my Revelstoke spring favourites, all of them easily accessible and beginner friendly:
Mount Revelstoke National Park
It’s hike/bike-in only in April. The famed roadway to the top — Meadows in the Sky Parkway — doesn’t open until May.
We hiked up to the Monashee Lookout, about an hour on foot from downtown Revelstoke. A passing couple is all smiles as their dogs splash in the spring runoff. Windfall trees present giant umbrella-shaped fungi up close. A grouse bolts from near my feet, leaving a shower of rustling leaves behind.
At the Monashee Lookout there’s a sweeping view of Revelstoke, the Columbia River Valley and the iconic Mount Begbie. A CP Rail train winds its way up the entrance to the Eagle Valley.
Nobody’s around, so we take off some clothes and stretch out on the picnic tables. It’s glorious — the miracle that is bug-free Revelstoke spring. We snooze and earn our first full-body rays of the year.
We vow to come back at dusk in a few days for a campfire dinner at the lookout (free firewood in the cabin!). The Northern Lights have been acting up lately, and it’ll be a front-row seat fireside with the ethereal greens waves that wash the night sky.
Stoke to Spoke
This ender-weekend event is Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s celebration of the intertwined ski/run/bike culture that’s in our mountain DNA. In the morning I’m in the alpine enjoying a weekend of classic Revelstoke spring powder.
After noon, the relay starts with a stampede of ski boots at the gondola top, followed by a Chinese downhill-style slalom. At mid-mountain, bikers take the baton and charge down a winding course to the village, where runners completed their leg by sucking a beer through a straw in front of a sunbathing apres-ski crowd.
The fun race is a window into the Revelstoke vibe; a town that is full of serious mountain people, but no one takes this race too seriously. It’s a group-fun ethic that’s been going strong since Revelstoke skiers first strapped into leather bindings over a century ago.
I head out with mountain biking guide Matt Yaki to scout some trails and saw up windfall trees. He’s the founder of Wandering Wheels, a tenured Revelstoke bike guiding operation.
Mount Macpherson is the go-to trail biking network in Revelstoke. It’s a ten minute drive south of town (about 30 minutes by bike). The extensive trail network is cross-country focused and has plenty for newcomers. Although there are a variety of entrance points, the easiest way to get your bearings is to park by the log framed Revelstoke Nordic Ski Lodge and go from there.
The rainforest network is flush with the Monashee mix of fir, spruce, hemlock and cedar. Steep slopes are broken up by marshy plateaus and a string of tiny, postcard lakes in the area. Free trail maps are available at the Revelstoke Visitor Centre, the two bike shops in town, or online.
Revelstoke spring biking opens on the lower level trails first, but we’re scouting out one of the main trails that’s a bit higher up, plowing through snow patches and more windfall.
Yaki talks about the growing popularity of the network, which has been getting coverage in big mountain biking publications. The volunteer Revelstoke Cycling Association maintains the network and has done a tremendous amount of building and maintenance in the past five years.
Touring groups from all over B.C., Alberta and the U.S. are a daily occurrence, especially during the summer months when they come to ride Revelstoke’s signature alpine trails.
More than anything, it’s a big locals’ scene. The lot is packed on the weekends and after work.
The long, flat slope of Mount Cartier is heaved up towards the baking southern sun, making it the first mountain to thaw (and have amazing Revelstoke spring avalanches). It’s the pre-early season hiking/biking spot in Revelstoke spring, accessible by an easy warm-up ride along Airport Way Road.
Don’t get discouraged by the muddy switchbacks; the trail soon breaks into a long, dry traverse ending in a lookout. Two golden eagles soar beneath me, touching down in the riverside trees.
Revelstoke Cycling Association organizer Richard Brittin explains future plans for the trail. “It gets the sun early and we want to turn the one-way trail into a loop,” he explains. For now, it’s a half-hour ride to the lookout, but in coming years (probably two-plus, three years away) you’ll be able to loop back.
The Columbia River flats
The easiest nature walk/bike/run from Revelstoke follows the old railway spur line. This pathway stretches south from Revelstoke for about 15 kilometres in the spring, cruising through grasslands, marshes and cottonwood stands.
It’s a bird-watcher’s dream. Giant blue herons are almost a given near the Cashato Bench marshlands. Osprey abound. On Machete Island western bluebirds playfully engage in the rites of Revelstoke spring this time of year.
The unofficial rail trail is a Revelstoke spring thing. As summer progresses, the flatlands being to flood, so the longest journeys south are only available in early Revelstoke spring. Grab a Revelstoke City Map to help you find the starting point across the pedestrian bridge.
Revelstoke Spring activities are easily accessible
Revelstoke is an adventure town that’s known for extremes, but you don’t need to be an alpine adventure nut for the activities above. Everything I’ve shared from this week is available and accessible to everyday folk with a little equipment, and most of the bikes are hikeable.