The Whistler Mountain Bike Park is Going BIG!
WB - Justa Jeskova
While it’s always been a great place for mountain bikers to “go big” (a slang phrase meaning to jump as high and far as possible), the Whistler Mountain Bike Park is about to go big itself, with the recent announcement of major development plans that will add more than 50 kilometres of new trails and expand the park to nearly double its current size.
The bike park expansion is just one aspect of Whistler Blackcomb’s much larger Renaissance plan, a long-term development strategy announced in the spring. The Renaissance outlines $345 million in future investments including new day lodges, an indoor action sports complex and an indoor waterpark, the re- introduction of night skiing at Whistler Blackcomb and the significant addition to the Whistler Mountain Bike Park. For more information on the Renaissance plan, go to renaissance.whistlerblackcomb. com.
Most of the new bike park trails will be added in the Creekside area, which opened last fall with two trails descending to the Creekside base. On Aug. 7, 2015, the Creekside Gondola became part of the bike park lift network, allowing riders to access the entire park or lap the new trails in what will become known as the Lower Creek Zone. The expansion plans envision an entirely new Upper Creek Zone at mid-elevation on the west side of Whistler Mountain.
Since the terrain in the Creek Zone is fairly steep, the two existing trails in the lower area (Dusty’s Downhill and B.C. Trail) are intended for advanced or expert-level riders only. Despite the challenging landscape, Rob McSkimming, Whistler Blackcomb’s VP of Business Development, says the resort intends to provide a range of different trails to accommodate all skill levels, much like the existing Fitzsimmons and Garbanzo zones. Eventually, the majority of the Creek Zone trails will be blue-square rated, medium-difficulty runs.
“The terrain there is reasonably steep, so for us to be able to get that right balance, which we think is important, is a bit of a challenge. We’re planning on one machine-built trail that would be as close to a green trail as we can get it. That’ll form a main trail and provide all of our rescue access,” explains McSkimming. The Upper Creek Zone will only be accessible from the Top of the World trail, which descends from Whistler Mountain’s peak … at least in the beginning. Because of trail maintenance requirements and lift capacity, there is currently a daily limit on how many riders can access the Peak Chair to ride Top of the World. As the Upper Creek Zone expands and generates more traffic, WB hasn’t ruled out the possibility of allowing more daily access to the Peak Chair or adding more bike trails that descend through the Peak Zone.
There is also the possibility of more chairlifts appearing on the west side of Whistler Mountain. WB has already gone public with tentative plans for this potential expansion but nothing is expected to happen for several years. The bike park expansion plan currently covers only the next five years.
Local riders may recognize that there are already established mountain biking trails within this zone. When the Lower Creek Zone opened, it absorbed the existing B.C. Trail (originally built by Whistler’s World Cup ski legend Rob Boyd and World Cup/ Olympic snowboarder Darren Chalmers) into in-bounds terrain. Similarly, existing trails like Kashmir, Khyber’s Pass, and Ride Don’t Slide may also become part of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park.
“This year with Ride Don’t Slide and Kashmir, we have invested quite a bit of money into maintaining them and making them more sustainable, even though we mark those trails as being out of the boundary. Eventually that will be in-bounds terrain, though I’m not sure exactly when in the planning process that will happen,” McSkimming says.
Since these future developments for the Whistler Mountain Bike Park (and many other components of the Renaissance plan) hinge on gaining approvals from the provincial government and local First Nations, there is no specific timeline for when construction will begin. A handful of trails in the new Creek Zone have already been mapped out and WB intends to start digging as soon as the approvals are secured. If the approval process is quick enough, it is possible riders will see these trails under construction this season, but no precise timeline had been confirmed as of press time.
Riders can also expect to see more bike- related amenities coming to the Creekside Village. Can-Ski will continue to be Whistler Blackcomb’s bike rental/repair facility, but the new base area will also receive more public-use facilities such as tool benches and air pumps.
For the 2016 season, the Creekside Gondola will run daily from June 18 to Sept. 5, and on weekends from Sept. 10 to 18. The lift runs from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
For more information, visit bike.whistlerblackcomb.com.