Whistler is somewhat of a mecca for mountain bikers across the world. What was originally a ski-resort north of Vancouver in Canada’s British Colombia is now one of the most popular mountain bike destinations in the world. As well as the mass of downhill tracks, mountain biking in Whistler provides miles and miles of cross-country trails, free ride areas and skills parks to keep you on your toes whatever your discipline.
Located in the village around Whistler mountain ski area lift system, The Bike Park is at the centre of Whistler’s riding, both literally and metaphorically. The trails here go in one direction – down – but how you descend is up to you. Whether you want super-fast, super-techy or super-jumps the choice is almost endless.
Trails are well marked in both their difficulty as well as the type of riding to expect, and there’s plenty for the early intermediate rider as well as the seasoned downhiller. The names of the trails also provide clues to what you’ll find as you swoop and pick your way down; Freight Train is fast, whereas Ninja Cougar is tricky and fiddly and requires your full wit to pick your way through the obstacles.
The famous Top of the World trail is a must-ride, taking you from the barren rocky landscape at the peak of Whistler Mountain all the way down to the valley bottom.
Although it’s possible to pick your trails and ride in the Bike Park on a cross-country bike you’ll have more fun (and less bruises if my experience is anything to go by) on a downhill bike. It’s amazing what a big bike and full pads can do for your riding and confidence. There are loads of places in the village where can hire bikes and the Bike Park offer coaches and guides who will take you out for the day, whatever your level.
The current generation of long travel all-mountain bikes will see you through too, and have the advantage of being able to climb as well as descend – perfect for the other riding on offer in the area.
Outside the Bike Park there’s a myriad of cross-country trails to suit every riding level whether you’re out on a family jaunt, a beginner, cross-country whippet or enduro dude. Even if you’re more downhill orientated you shouldn’t ignore what’s on offer; there are some really super-techy trails with every kind of obstacle you can imagine whilst mountain biking in Whistler. Both the World Enduro Series and the BC Bike Race used some of these tracks in this year’s races.
The massive network of trails has developed through commercial projects, local funding and non-official building. As in the Bike Park, all of it is well marked and there is a great map and app available which describes the trails to help you plan your way.
There are four main trail areas located around Whistler itself and the Valley Trail system provides an easy off-road way to get around the area and networks the other trail areas. Closest to Whistler village itself are the Lost Lake Park trails; a network of fun intermediate trails that are based in a small area in and around a recreational lake. The criss-cross layout of the trails mean you can ride for ages without going out the area which eliminates the need to keep checking your map, and you can have a cooling swim in the lake when you’re finished.
South of Whistler the trails offer steadier riding, perfect for a beginner or if you need a bit of a rest after a tiring few days in the Bike Park. North of Whistler you’ll find the more epic trails including Kill Me Thrill Me – one of the most fun and hardest trails I’ve ridden – and Comfortably Numb, a single trail which stretches over 20km, will take you most of the day to ride and has no phone signal or water points to help you out of trouble.
To the west of Whistler are the Flank trails which make the most of the hill side and interconnecting logging roads which dissect the forest areas. There is a real mix of trails here from downhill and free ride steep descents that make the most of the hillside to longer steady XC trails that run the length of the valley.
Whistler itself offers loads of accommodation, restaurants and bars as well as loads of bike shops for browsing, drooling and buying. Make sure you bring plenty of spares however; prices for everything upwards of inner tubes in are high as it’s a captive market.
It’s very much as stereotypical ski-resort so if you’re are after something other than Irish-theme pubs and nightclubs you might want to head out of the resort a bit. But if you stay further afield, don’t miss out on a post-ride refreshing pint and the opportunity to eat your own body weight in chips after an utterly exhausting and exhilarating day on your bike.
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