Mighty Pedals and Paddles in Peace River
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Peace River, AB - It’s taken years of work, from engaging local authorities to raising funds and planning to finally beginning to chop and dig in trails, but the Misery Mountain Bike Association (MMBA) is on the cusp of a major milestone for Northern Alberta: the launch of lift-accessed biking in Peace River.
The level of stoke is running higher than ever. For MMBA members, it’s been a long time coming. But they see great potential in the region, and they should know: they’ve been pedalling and paddling their way through the area for years. To get a taste of just how good it can get, I joined locals and MMBA members Alex Power and Scott Weston on a ride-along (and some paddling!) as they shared what makes the region so great for adventure travel.
Early morning is effervescing along the River River when Alex Power slips in his kayak and into the water. He looks up at the red-roofed cabins of the Peace River Cabins and Outdoors, and remembers how, prior to moving to Peace River, he and his wife enjoyed a stay in the cabins. It was a deciding visit for the Power family; over five years later they’re still in town.
The ranging property slopes down to the water, green and lush. Each cabin has its own secluded river frontage. Last night’s guests enjoy their privacy as Power paddles by, the drip of his paddle barely audible as his kayak slips along in the current.
Sitting at the confluence of the Smoky and the Peace rivers, the Town of Peace River already has a breathtaking natural attraction. But Power was almost immediately drawn in by the lure of mountain biking along the rolling valley trails, and after his first time bombing down Misery Mountain’s bouncy terrain, he knew had to be a part of the effort to bring lift-accessed biking to the Peace.
Soon after moving here, Power joined the MMBA. His regular riding buddy, Scott Weston, is president and Power is vice president of the association. Along with a core group of riders-slash-board members, they began pursuing a plan to get things rolling.
Weston and Power bring me up to speed over a dinner at the Board ‘n’ Barrel. “We kind of formed it about six or seven years ago,” Weston says. “It took us a while to get ski hill and town support, then finally the town gave us a grant to get the Hoots plans.”
Weston is referring to renowned community bike park builder Jay Hoots, who has been instrumental in building the Hinton Mountain Bike Park, and many others throughout Alberta and BC. On his first visit here, says Weston, Hoots immediately saw the potential of Misery. Now it's coming to fruition with approval to start adapting chairlifts for bike transport, which the MMBA projects to be ready by fall.
After the protracted planning phase, the association is excited to move into development. “We’re getting past the paperwork, now we can stick to dirt and biking!” Weston grins. “There’s not a lot of places that have bike parks right in town.”
For Power, it’s exciting to see their hard work and dedication pay off. “My family and I found this place by chance and the stuff we’re doing now and growing into, it’s the coolest thing,” he says. “To watch this grow into something that will benefit this small northern town, it feels pretty incredible.”
“It’s completely free of judgment and we encourage people to come out. We have a pretty inclusive atmosphere and we’re just trying to grow,” says Power, extending a welcome to riders looking to visit the area. “Come on out. If you’re not sure if your skill level is going to match, we’ll take you on a nice leisurely ride. There are lots of different skill levels here and everybody is okay just riding to the level of the group.”
As we sit on the Board 'n' Barrel patio overlooking the river and the mountain beyond, with crispy arancini, spicy rich flatbreads and glazed short ribs peeling off the bone, it feels a lot more like an interior BC resort than my assumptions of what Alberta’s north would be.
Evening finds the whole crew up on the mountain, proud to show me the results of their labours over the last five plus years. It’s impressive. While the construction is still a work in progress, Hoots clearly understood the potential of the hill. The s-turns and berms down the first of their finished trails feel mountainous and playful. Misery Mountain is neither miserable nor a mountain but it feels joyous and gigantic as the whole gang converges on the plateau just ahead of sunset.
Off the back side of the mountain a trail winds along the spine of a range of sparse green hillocks, plunging towards town and the converging rivers below. It’s as if we’ve been transported to the Scottish Highlands.
I don’t have long to acclimatize as we soon plunge down it, one rider after the other in a line. It’s raw, rugged and beautiful in ways I couldn’t even have imagined when I first came to the Peace in winter to ski.
As the sun lingers up in this northern latitude, we make our way back up for one more lap. It’s nearly 11 p.m. and dusk is still at bay. The possibility of near endless riding here in the Peace Region simmers like a reddening horizon. And it’s only going to get better.
WHEN YOU GO
- Misery Mountain is about a 15-minute ride from downtown over the new pedestrian bridge, so downtown and all its amenities are within easy reach.
- Join the Misery Mountain Bike Association Facebook page for updates and info on trail access at the hill.
- For a post-ride treat, stop in at Billie’s Cones.
- For a filling meal post-ride, there's fine dining at Board 'n' Barrel. A few doors down, Peace River Brewing offers tasty local beers and hot, salty soft pretzels (and they are also a sponsoring partner of the Misery Mountain Bike Association).
- For waterside access and a quiet nature retreat, stay and rent kayaks at Peace River Cabins & Outdoors.
- Get out on the river and explore with the regional Paddle the Peace event, taking place the third week of August.
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