Get In Gear
A popular saying in Whistler is: “It’s not what you do, but what you have time to do!” Whistler’s stunning forests and mountains have diverse biking trails offering something for everyone: whether a casual pedal, a singletrack cross-country adventure or the momentum, thrill and challenge of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. Here are some tips and recommendations that any bike enthusiast can attempt, including a few local secrets.
The Whistler Mountain Bike Park is not like any other biking experience you have ever had. There are trails to suit a wide variety of tastes and abilities.
Video courtesy Whistler Blackcomb.
A-LINE AND B-LINE
With both these epic trails located in the Fitzsimmons Zone, A-Line is perhaps the most famous trail in the world. The first of its kind, it’s a roller coaster-esque mountain bike trail with jumps and berms. It has spawned a long list of imitators but none quite live up to the daddy of modern mountain bike thrills. However, in the shadow of A-Line is B-Line. Whereas the former is rated black diamond and requires a high level of skill to ride, the latter is more approachable. B-Line, a blue-intermediate trail, is where techniques are learned and refined, particularly one of the most fundamental skills: cornering. Without the ability to carve a good line and make clean turns, no rider will truly progress. So get onto B-Line and practice “pointing your pecker” and “screwing into your bike” before you throw yourself to the wolves on A-Line.
To view Bike Park trail maps visit bike.whistlerblackcomb.com.
TOP OF THE WORLD
This spectacular Peak Zone alpine trail starts at the very top of the Peak Chair on Whistler Mountain and links back into the Bike Park’s Garbanzo Zone. The whole ride descends nearly 5,000 feet right back to the Whistler Village, so it requires some advanced skill, but the reward is a fantastic winding sinew of singletrack set among the backdrop of the Coast Mountains with views of azure blue alpine lakes nestled among the jagged peaks. Open 11 am to 4 pm, June 27 to September 20 (except August 8 and 9). Every rider is required to purchase a one-time Peak Ride ticket ( $18) in addition to any pass or lift ticket or Top of the World Express ticket ( $33, which includes one Gondola ride and one Peak Chair ride). The Peak Ride ticket is valid for a specific day and is limited to only one hundred riders per day.
LIV - WOMEN’S WEDNESDAYS
Women’s-only bike skills drop-in clinics provide a pressure-free environment for women to get comfortable and progress their riding at their own pace. The coaches of the Whistler Bike Park provide the instruction, and after each lesson there is an après session at the GLC with great draw prizes. Evening sessions are held every Monday and Wednesday 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm through the peak of summer. Sessions are $21 if you already have a pass, $33 without, and $79 with rentals. If you want to refine your skills, buy a season pass and ride any, or all, of the thirty-one nights!
GET A LESSON
You really can teach old dogs new tricks. Even experienced riders can benefit from a little coaching. Whether it is accomplishing something new (like a certain feature in the park), honing your skills, getting faster, or jumping farther, the experienced coaches know their stuff and will help you improve. It might just be the best mountain biking investment you ever make.
Beginners can try Bike Park 101, with lessons starting at $119, including a lift ticket, dual-suspension bike, helmet, pads and glove rental. Half-day and full-day Max4 lessons are also available, as well as children’s DFX Daily Kids full-day camps, and youth or adult privates.
For more information visit bike.whistlerblackcomb.com, or call 1-800-766-0449.
RIDE SAFELY AND BE PREPARED
Mountain biking can be innately risky but it isn’t necessarily dangerous. There are a few critical things that anyone can do to avoid becoming a statistic at the Whistler Health Care Centre. For example, always wear protection: helmets are mandatory in the Whistler Mountain Bike Park; and make sure you are well rested and hydrated at all times while riding. You might think rolling downhill isn’t strenuous, but it’ll take more out of you than you imagine. Plan your day and be sure to refer to Whistler Blackcomb’s Mountain Bike Checklist and Mountain Bikers Responsibility Code on their website bike.whistlerblackcomb.com. Don’t be scared, be prepared.
Experience the trails - Beyond the bike park
Just minutes from the village is the tranquil recreation wonderland of Lost Lake. Throughout the forest is a dense network of trails suitable for both beginner and intermediate riders. This area provides a great introduction to the local cross-country riding in Whistler so any rider who wishes to explore Whistler’s 250 kilometres of singletrack owes it to themselves to start on the Lost Lake trails and get a feeling for the type of terrain, features, and style of cross-country riding that Whistler is characterized by. After an exhilarating loop, try Tin Pants, Fountain of Love, Pinocchio’s Furniture, Jelly Roll Gum Drop, Central Scrutinizer and Grand Wazoo, finishing at Lost Lake for a refreshing swim and a cold soda from the refreshment kiosk. You won’t be the first person to think they have found paradise here.
A classic piece of singletrack on the west side of the valley that is well worth the adventure to get there, Danimal is split into three pieces these days (imaginatively called North-, Middle- and South-), and is best to start with the Middle or North first. If you want to gain elevation quickly, climb on the sealed Stonebridge Road and look for the marble plinths that mark the trails; or start on Alta Lake Road and climb up Lower Sproatt (use the Piece of Cake and A La Mode ride-arounds; you’ll be thankful.) until you see the Danimal crossing. Take the right turn for Middle, which leads to North-Danimal, or go for the more challenging but shorter South-Danimal trail on your left.
The trail network in Whistler can feel like a maze to first timers. Find the most up-to-date map you can from a local bike shop and ask for a good starting point to start exploring. Black diamond trails are very challenging so be prepared as even ‘blue’ trails can sometimes feel more like black or double-black diamond trails.
CHEAKAMUS LAKE TRAIL
Often overlooked, even by local mountain bikers, is the stunning Cheakamus Lake Trail which leads to some of Whistler’s finest views. Starting at Cheakamus Crossing (approximately 8 kilometres south of Whistler), follow the Riverside trail to the suspension bridge. Cross to the north side of the river and continue to climb on logging road until you get to the Cheakamus Lake car park. (You can cheat and drive to this point if squeezed for time.) From there, cruise through the old-growth forest on well-maintained, easy to moderate singletrack trails that run parallel to the lake. Eventually the trails come to a dead end, so take the opportunity to stretch out on the lake’s edge and admire the view. Take a dip in the glacier-fed lake, if you dare!
THE NO FLOW ZONE
The trails in the Emerald Zone (not to be confused with Emerald Forest) are perhaps Whistler’s hardest and most challenging. They are rocky, awkward, technical and very physical. What makes them so hard is that they are neither uphill nor downhill trails – they are everything at once. Most locals swear off this area and refer to it as the “No Flow Zone”; but spend enough time in there and the testing trails become an enchanting adventure. To “clean” (that is, not to put a foot down while riding) on these trails is a huge achievement. If you really want to challenge yourself, then this is the place to go.
Comfortably Numb is on the IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association) Epic Rides list. The trail takes between three to six hours to complete and despite being relatively short (24 kilometres), it will make you feel like you’ve ridden three times the distance. Beware: once you are on the trail, there are only two ways out, forwards or backwards. The trail is best ridden from north to south, requiring a good road ride to get there first but finishes in the Lost Lake trail network just minutes from Whistler Village. The trail is rough and rooty: not one metre of gain is easily achieved and the winding nature of the trail will have you marvelling at the madness of the trail’s builder, Chris Markle.
Lots of water, food, and emergency supplies for medical incidents or bicycle repairs are must-haves for this ride. Cell coverage is almost non-existent once you are on the trail.
Note that most cross-country trails in Whistler are multi-use, so expect hikers/ joggers, and announce yourself to share the trails.
For more information on biking options in Whistler:
Tourism Whistler - whistler.com
Whistler Blackcomb Bike Rentals - whistlerbike.com/rentals
Cross Country Connection - crosscountryconnection.ca
Bear Back Biking - bearbackbiking.com
Whistler Bike Guide - whistlerbikeguide.com