The favourite part of my career in motorsports has definitely been getting to travel and ride different machines all over the country. When people ask me where my favourite place to ride is, I tell them it’s pretty hard to beat British Columbia. I had the amazing opportunity to go sledding in the mountains two winters ago with a couple of girlfriends in the Pemberton and Whistler areas and I thought I had seen BC at its best. This winter sledding trip was actually my first encounter with BC and I was literally brought to tears with the beauty of the mountains. I couldn’t even imagine having a better or more memorable experience.
A year and a half later, I got the chance to go off-roading in southern British Columbia and I was once again met with that same feeling of awe and wonder. Here is a place like no other. The trails in the Invermere area came in all different skill levels with varying terrains and vistas galore. The trails started out easy and wide as we followed some old mining roads up the mountain. The local tour operator has been taking care of the trails for years and their dedication really showed. The trail was easy on the back, easy on the shoulders and yet still really enjoyable. The views are what set this trail apart from anything I have ever been on.
In reality, the beginning of the ride was really just a tease. Slowly going up the mountain, I started getting sneak peeks of the vast open space between the mountains, glimpses of snow dotted peaks and glimmers of grasslands high above the treeline. The trail was beautiful and very easy going. A washout here or there from the snow melt made for some easy but fun obstacles to get us prepared for the more technical riding to come. As we continued riding up the mountain, the trails narrowed and became more intricate. We began encountering long sweeping ledges with spectacular views and a number of big switchback corners as the mountain became steeper and steeper. As we neared the top of our climb, the temperature began to drop to a perfect 18 °C and I began seeing patches of snow holding on in the shade around us.
After stopping for a quick lunch and a short tour of what was once a copper mine, we continued the now short climb to the end of our first day adventure. The views from the top were so surreal that the old “pinch me I must be dreaming” saying was spoken a number of times by the group I was with. The scenery looked like it was perfectly selected from the stunning photos I have seen for years in magazines and online. No wonder people love watching documentaries about the mountains! However, no video or photo can ever do it justice. The blue sky and the grey mountains with white patches of snow still clinging on into July were beautifully contrasted against the beautiful dark and light greens of the mountain pines and grassy slopes of the alpine tundra. As a photographer I was in heaven. As a powersports junky I was in paradise!
As a snowmobile enthusiast, I figured winter would be the peak of riding season in British Columbia. I remember being so overwhelmed by the sites of the mountains in the winter that I couldn’t believe I was even more stunned by what I saw in the summer. After reaching the top of the mountain that was home to these glorious off-road trails, I was so sad that our first day of riding was almost over. As we descended the trail, I couldn’t help but get excited for what we would see the following day, when we would be descending the other side of the mountain into the remote valley. But luckily for you, readers, you won’t have to spend two sleepless nights awaiting that second day of riding!
Day 2 of riding led us quickly back up the mountain to where we turned around on Day 1. Now that the group was ready for some more intricate and technical riding, we began descending the northern side of the mountain. It is hard to believe but the views on this side were even more stunning! The trails definitely became more aggressive as they became narrower, rockier and the switchback corners became visibly more dangerous. Riding in the mountains is breathtaking and exhilarating but it also comes with a responsibility to ourselves, our fellow riders and your guides to be careful and only drive within your abilities. A mistake in the remote areas of the mountains can have serious consequences and driving appropriately needs to be a key part of the trip.
With safety in mind, the group toured down this narrow path that was lined by ledges that dropped hundreds of feet (and thousands in some areas) to the valley below. These ledges created panoramas of the mountains above and the valley below like nothing you could ever imagine. A number of times, we found ourselves driving through avalanche paths that still had big piles of snow that had to be cleared off the trail! What a crazy feeling seeing this much snow in July! We definitely enjoyed a few snowmobile fights along the way.
After descending into this remote valley, we had a quick break to check out some of the old fur trader cabins, now not much more than stacks of timber reclaimed by the forest around them. It was amazing to think that a few brave people once lived so far from civilization, when they had to walk or ride in on horseback instead of the fancy and comfortable ATVs and SxSs of today.
After a small trip down history lane, we came to a rather large river crossing. The frigid river was a beautiful blue from the melting snow high above in the mountains, but the river stones lining the area made it look surreal. Although the waters were chilly, we had great fun ripping the machines through the river! I stopped to snap some photos of the group and collected a few rocks for keepsakes along the way.
Our guide had plans to take us further into the valley for our lunch break and only a few kilometers from our destination we ran into an entertaining roadblock. With the above average rain fall and late thaw, the trail ahead had literally become a river. At over 3 feet deep in areas and water gushing down at crazy speeds, the small trail turned river became an interesting obstacle. The machines made glorious attempts at making it through, with three of the SxSs and the ATV driven by our guide making it to the other side. However, a few of the less experienced drivers were in over their heads so to speak. This is where knowing your limits really comes into play. The risk was not worth the reward, so we got the other machines backed up and we stopped for lunch in one of the nearby open areas that had been cleared by avalanches during the winter. This seemed so backwards to me: in the winter time you NEVER stop in an avalanche zone, but in the summer they make perfect spots for having a relaxing lunch and looking at the breathtaking scenery around you.
As someone who loves to collect rocks during my travels, I was a little overwhelmed at all the options of beautiful rocks of all shapes, sizes and colours that were pushed down the mountains by the avalanches and snow-melts over the centuries. These open fields of shrubs and stones gave the land such contrast and texture that there was always something new to see and find.
As we finished our meal, we packed our garbage and slowly got ready for the ride back to civilization. As excited as everyone was to begin the day’s ride, the group was now very somber in comparison. The thing was, no one wanted to leave. Not only had we been given the amazing opportunity to ride in British Columbia, we had been given the gift of seeing the real BC: the remote valleys where snow melts bring rock lined rivers to life, where wildlife flourishes unaffected by mankind and where the beauty of Canada shines brighter and truer than any flame I have ever seen. We didn’t just get to ATV and SxS amazing trails with spectacular vistas, we got to have an experience of a lifetime that none of us will ever forget.