If you’re looking for a cycling tour that has the feel of Patagonia but is more accessible, British Columbia’s Kootenay region is the answer. Fjord-like lakes and mighty glaciers meet quiet waterfront and forested roads in this magical area just west of the Canadian Rockies.
The 400km “Wild Kootenays” loop is surely one of the best (and least known) multi-day bike trips in Canada. With 3,500 metres (11,500 feet) of elevation gain, it offers just the right amount of challenge and reward for self-supported cycling tours. We recommend taking five or six days to savour the ride and experience the charming towns along the way.
Mark Holt is the most productive trail builder in BC. I’m standing by that. If anyone wants to challenge me, go ahead. I’d like to see who else has built over 40 trails. I’m not sure there is anyone. Not just dinky little trails either; these are monstrous and sharp toothed snaking leviathans wrapping themselves around entire mountains. Mark never stops. He builds before work, after work, on weekends. He skips work to build. His mind is a vault of trail knowledge. As he rides, he files away spots needing repair, and then dutifully returns to upgrade the trail. He is unassuming, intense, committed, humble, and does not need the praise of others to motivate him. His drive is both personal and an act of sharing. His trails have contributed to the happiness of so many riders, both local and from elsewhere. The legends of Nelson, a true BC mountain town, are born and bred on his hand built ribbons of hillside gnarl. His drive to craft tracks of excessive downwardness through the timber strewn Kootenay slopes creates the tales, the stories that are shared amongst those who have given into the call of the mountains. The crashes, the new friends made, the obstacles conquered, the ridge line rides in perfect evening light, are in many ways all because of him. Trails are not just lines through the woods, they are places where people go to experience challenge, face fear, and find flow. Nobody knows that better than Mark.
Every time we end up finding a new trail or hearing about a new trail in Nelson it’s always pretty much built by Mark. He is a machine. I would say of all his trails the one I have ridden most is Newtsack, I’ve ridden that trail so many times and never get bored of it. Every Wednesday night all the local dudes gang up and hang out at the Sacred Ride Bike Shop and I never miss it when I’m home. The Sacred Ride is definitely my go-to shop.
Kurt Sorge – Nelson resident and Redbull Rampage Champion
Mark is definitely the father of the Nelson riding scene: that guy built like every trail! I’ve been riding his trails since I was about 10 years old and he just keeps adding them! It’s pretty crazy if you stop and just think about all the work he has done out there. Mind blowing actually.
Garett Buehler – Nelson resident, BC’s Big Mountain Badass
Holt showed me how awesome mountain biking could be. He let me, a 15-year-old punk, tag along on group rides up Idaho Peak or Rossland, he’d drive me to races all over the Kootenays, and put up with my little crew spending hours in his bike shop, poring over catalogs and bike movies. He eventually relented and gave me a summer job wrenching on bikes. Mark showed us how to build bike trails, and instilled in us the importance of giving back to the community you live in. My first awesome (and to this day my favourite) bike I bought from Mark was a custom painted Dekerf Team hardtail, with matching painted Judy DH forks. I didn’t think it could get any better than that. Simply put, Nelson mountain biking would not exist without Mark Holt.
Joe Schwartz – Born and bred in Nelson, legendary freerider and mountain guide
My favourite thing about a Holt trail is how you know it’s a Holt trail. The man likes to make you work. He’s not afraid to put some tech side-hill into a DH run, or a climb for that matter. His trails take you places, not just the path of least resistance, and he still does that without losing flow. His trails work by making you work.
Mitchell Scott – Nelson resident and mountain biking’s most prolific writer