Running and Racing in the Canadian Rockies: Three’s a Charm
Tripling up with running in the Canadian Rockies is all the rage this summer.
Photo credit above: William Eaton, Golden Ultra
With two tremendous events, both hosting three days of incredibly scenic and enticing trail running, you have your pick of courses and distances in a ruggedly accommodating part of the world. The Trailstoke Trifecta Triplestoke and Golden Ultra are both held in Canadian destination ski resorts that are just as beautiful in the summer as they are in the winter. If you’re a running aficionado, and even if you’re not, these spots are definitely bucket-list-worthy.
Getting Stoked in Revelstoke: The Trailstoke Triplestoke
New for 2016, the race organizers of the Trailstoke Triplestoke have combined two of their favorite events into one featuring three races over as many days, August 26-29.
The TrailStoke trifecta is mashup of multiple races they’ve offered in the past—TrailStoke, Hill Stoke and Glacier Grind—turning them into one epic weekend of trail running. The weekend going forward will consist of:
- Hill Stoke on Friday, a 15km uphill run
- Half Stoke on Saturday, 25km in the alpine
- Full Stoke on Sunday: 44km marathon in Revelstoke National Park. Of note, the organizers partnered with Parks Canada for the first time last year in hosting this inaugural event, complete with uniformed wardens on course and in the pre-race safety meetings.
You can do one of the races or all three and even team up with your friends for a relay dividing and conquering the three days: One does Hill Stoke, one does Half Stoke, and one does Full Stoke.
Spectacular scenery is par for the course. Photo credit: Bruno Long
Adam Campbell, one of the race organizers and past winner of various races that make up the Triplestoke, holds the area in high regard, “Revelstoke and the surrounding mountains is the birthplace of mountain sports in Canada. The Revelstoke trifecta tries to embrace that history, hosting a series of races that showcases the diversity and challenging terrain in the area. The race has athletes running through dense old-growth rainforest of giant cedars and hemlocks, traveling up through subalpine forest, and finally has you run through alpine meadows and tundra.” Campbell further observes that “the views take in wild flowers, as well as an alpine sea of ice-clad peaks of the Selkirk Mountains and the Monashee Mountains to the west. Each course is a true mountain run that will test your legs, challenge your lungs and will awe your soul.”
One thing runners need to be aware of is that Revelstoke in prime black bear and grizzly bear habitat. The race organization takes bears very seriously and often bear spray is mandatory gear in their races. Both organizers and Parks Canada wardens monitor the bears very carefully during race week to ensure safety for all participants and bears. With those safety precautions, you should feel very secure about entering any of the Triplestoke events.
Another noteworthy fact is that Revelstoke Mountain Resort is less than a decade old and boasts North America’s greatest vertical at 1,713 meters (5,620 feet). What this means to race participants is that there is a lot of climbing and descending and you may want to consider training with and bringing trekking poles to the event.
Held in Revelstoke, British Columbia, a mountain community of just over 7,000 people that is situated in some of the most impressive mountains in the world. Flying over them and into Kelowna, the closest airport, a two-hour drive away, you get the delight of seeing a full view of the Canadian Rockies, looking like the Alps on ‘roids. The town’s name is well appointed, given that “Revel” means “to take great pleasure or delight or make merry, and “Stoke” means to stir up, fuel or show real excitement or thrill. It is located in southeastern British Columbia, on the banks of the Columbia River, just south of the Revelstoke Dam. To the east of Revelstoke you see the Selkirk Mountains and Glacier National Park. Mount Revelstoke National Park is just north of the town.
There is a Western pioneering feel to the town and the museum is worth an easy walk through to get some of the relatively recent history. It was founded in the 1880s, when the Canadian Pacific Railway was built through the region and mining was an important early industry. With the building of the Trans-Canada Highway in 1962, the area was able to grow, thanks to an influx of deserving tourism and skiers who flocked to what is now more than 3,000 acres of fall-line skiing plus high alpine bowls, 13 areas of gladed terrain and cat, heli and backcountry skiing. The resort holds the Canadian snow record for the more than 80 feet of snow that fell during the 1971-72 season.
The town is now home to some of the country’s top athletes; skiers, skimo racers, runners, mountain bikers, climbers and runners. There’s a relaxed feel to the town, and the inhabitants have purposely chosen it for the beauty and access to some of the most pristine wilderness in Canada.
If You Go
Event lodging is conveniently provided by the Sutton Place Hotel. With both Hill Stoke and Half Stoke based at the Revelstoke Mountain Resort, the Sutton Place Hotel is the easiest choice, not to mention rather posh, with kitchens and a superb outdoor hot tub and pool and very affordable rates. In addition, Revelstoke has a wide variety of hotels and campgrounds.
For those not running, or if you want to wrap the three days of running around other activities, the area boasts tons of hiking, kayaking, white water rafting, stand up paddling, rock climbing and mountain biking. At night, there is free live music in Grizzly Plaza.
Golden Ultra: Blood, Sweat and Tears (of Joy)
Like the Revelstoke Trifecta, the Golden Ultra is a triumvirate of running held over three days, this year on September 23-25.
There are two different distance options on each day; the full event over all three days, is aptly known as “Blood, Sweat, and Tears.” If this sounds a bit intimidating, there is also the “Half-Pint” option, more encouragingly called “Climb, Conquer, and Cruise.”
- Blood (Friday afternoon): A vertical kilometer that heads straight up the ski slopes of Kicking Horse Resort, peaking out at the top of the gondola in about 5km of access road, grass, rock, and trail. The ride down goes over a grizzly refuge where Boo, a 700-lb gentle giant who was orphaned when his mother was shot by a poacher, sits and forages and appears to enjoy his observers and caretakers. (Climb: 3km)
- Sweat (Saturday): Starting and ending in downtown Golden and covering 60km (36 mi) of mostly singletrack and more than 6,500 in elevation gain and a long ridge-line ascent featuring tremendous views of Canyon Creek, a deep gorge below, and some rocky maneuvering up a high ridge that is the Dogtooth range of the Purcell Mountains. (Conquer: 30km)
- Tears (Sunday): A half marathon of flowing singletrack that also starts and finishes in Golden, with a much more runnable 1,250 in gain. (Cruise: 10.5km)
Participants can race all three or mix and match and can also do the event as a relay.
Golden is a town of 4,000 that is all about living where you want to play. In addition to the Kicking Horse Resort, home of the outstanding ski terrain experienced on the first two days of the even, it also offers sensational mountain biking, river rafting, kayaking, whitewater SUPing, paragliding, skydiving, and other outdoor pursuits. The town’s only “traffic” is caused by train crossings and because of a one-lane bridge separating the municipality from the resort access. Then again, the stunning views of changing leaves, white-capped mountains and chalky blue rivers are cause for pause too.
Golden is home to many young families that have fled city life to pursue their outdoor passions. This is facilitated by relatively affordable homes and job availability. It is common to hear Aussie and Kiwi accents, as the sporty life, the area’s natural beauty and resort employment tends to lure those from Down Under.
Although the Sweat is a hell of a beast that requires serious training, the Golden Ultra is highly recommended and promises to grow by leaps and bounds in years to come.