Taking a rare day off from river guiding, Ico and I took off to the nearby town of Invermere, south-east of Golden, for his first chance at kayak racing this season on the Toby Creek. For sheer novelty value, I wanted to see Windermere Lake, the namesake of my local Lake in England. Sadly my aim of SUPing didn’t work out as we headed a further 20 km out of town and up towards the Panorama ski resort to the race start.
All I knew of Panorama was that it’s a popular ski resort in wintertime, but summer sees a web of downhill trails weaving down the mountainside, making best use of the network of chairlifts as the sun shines. I was itching to get on my bike and go explore. With no local knowledge or prior planning, I went directly to the local bike shop to pick the brains of the cheerful mechanic, who’d soon enough convinced us to take the adventure xc trail to the summit and ride the sweet singletrack trail known as Hopeful. I could foresee a case of FOMO, so we agreed to go together once the river race was over.
With the sun scorching, waiting a while for the heat to abate was a welcome decision. Once on the gondola, we has a short lift to almost midway, the starting point for the ascent to the summit at 2408 m. Starting the ride we already had massive grins on our faces as we took off down the blue downhill trails, a mildly rude awakening to what was to come later in the ride. We headed up the very long, very steep and winding fire road. We’d had prior warning of its drudgery, followed by convincing assurance that what was to come was worth it. Looking at the trail guide online, it’s a double black diamond climb and a black diamond decent so your money’s not wasted, even if you’re legs are by the top!
Heeding the final words from the Hopeful trail sign post, we saw we had 1277 m of climbing to do, most of which I spent gasping in the heat and altitude amid gripping my handlebars with my teeth…
A false summit in the shape of a gondola station has us deceived momentarily, before gagging a little at the hike-a-bike in front. Someone got very lazy up there and decide just to motor directly towards the summit, no weaving European roads here! All good training of course, so we wearily took our bikes for a walk, which thankful crested out and became a bearable last few kilometres to the actual summit peak. There was an almost eery feel to it; we came upon the mountain hut that’s clearly seen a lot of apre -action when winter is in full swing. Stopping to take in the views, we were the only ones up there. Hungrily, we munched our much needed banana cake in the sunshine, reviving the blood sugar and letting our legs catch back up.
The Hopeful trail begins from here and soon we switched to a rocky and loose descent, dropping the post and letting go with a grin. We could see mountains for miles, a true taste of alpine riding. The path led us finally onto flowing singletrack terrain that skirts the sides of the mountain with steep drop offs only inches from our wheels. A sincerly adventurous XC track, I took one foot out as we rode a sketchy, loose line that’s more a goat track than a bike trail. Ico called instructions to me but I was utterly focused on just staying upright. Punchy, technical climbing kicking again, opening out to a trail in the woods that split, with an arrow pointing for Goldie Lake. After the crowds we’d encountered from most of the glacial lakes we’d seen so far, we had this one all to ourselves and we savoured the isolation, sunshine and clear water – taking a rest stop before the true reward.
Soon after the singletrack begins and happily doesn’t end for at least a satisfying 45 minutes or so. Ico took off in front and I dropped the post again as the trail whipped through the trees and offered up turn after turn. Rocks and roots make the trail playful; technical enough to have to focus and pick your line, but nothing teeth chattering or wildly scary – simple, flowing singletrack that we never wanted to end.
Nearing the bottom of the trail, the small streams made harder work of the track, it became muddy and loose, but never lots its momentum. We finally reached the end, with a short traverse to finally hit a fire road – and some nasty, nippy uphill – then it was onto the purpose built downhill trails once more. Picking up the green and blue trails, the smooth, bermy nature is a massive but very welcome contrast and there’s certainly value for money from the $20 lift ticket. Huge link turns came one after another; brining us out eventually to the bottom – where i’m sure had the lift not been closed, we’d have scrapped together our last few dollars and gone back up again!
For more details of the trail, you can find it on Trail Forks. Hopeful is certainly of the best natural rides i’ve done in a long time; for the views, the adventurous and rugged nature and the isolation, which all make it worth the panting and the pain on the uphill!