Globe Trekker’s Zay Harding goes mountain biking in Whistler
Where: Around Whistler, southern British Columbia, West Canada
When: year round ski and sun activities
Activities: skiing is the big one – also mountain biking and niche extreme sports like zip-trekking, heli-skiing, and snow-mobiling
Whistler is renowned for the kind of skiing and outdoor sports that turns aficionados weak at the knees. Its name is said to derive from the piercing whistle of the hairy marmot – a small and rather chubby rodent which emits a distinctive shriek as a warning call. But you’d be lucky to hear it over the constant whir of SUVs and 4x4s as every year more than two million people visit Whistler. Over the last twenty years it has developed into one of the world’s most popular ski resorts – there’s even a Starbucks and a botox clinic here – yet Whistler’s home population is only 10,000.
Nestled amid the splendor of the Coast Mountains of British Columbia is Whistler, an almost charming alpine village, and the Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains – a resort that’s continuously rated top ski resort in North America. It not only has the largest vertical rise of any ski area in North America but its high alpine terrain rivals the major ski resorts of Europe. Whistler has twelve magnificent bowls, three glaciers and over 200 marked trails with steep powder chutes, difficult mogul fields, tree-skiing, and perfectly groomed runs.
And skiing isn’t the only winter sports option; be spoilt for choice with aerial sightseeing, dog sledding, heli-skiing, ice climbing, ice skating, mountain top sightseeing, sleigh rides, snow-mobiling, and snow-shoeing.
Mountain biking is Whistler’s biggest summer activity. Southern British Columbia is the nexus of the increasingly popular subgenre of freeriding. In 2004, Blackcomb opened seven new miles of trails, accessed by the Garbanzo lift, giving it a total of 125 miles of trails with a 3,200ft drop – claimed to be the largest downhill ride in North America.
What you can do depends on your ability level. For basic ability with no off-road experience, you can do cross country tours which entails cycling along gentle trails by the river’s edge, visit hidden lakes, and take in the mountain views with lots of time for picturesque photos. With off-road experience, go with Alpine Bike Tours for a guided 4000 feet vertical tour down Whistler Mountain. For those with intermediate experience, try Richie Schley Freeride Camps (two days), coached by famous biking professionals. Biking is a great way to see Whistler’s pine covered mountains, elevated views, and lakes.
Ziptrek Ecotours provide a three-hour journey in which you glide along a suspended steel cable, using a pulley and climbing harness. Along the way, they provide interpretive signage on platforms and around the course which illustrates key points about local ecology and wildlife. It is lots of fun and the only one of its kind in North America. You’ll see the precious, untouched coastal temperate rainforest surrounding Whistler village. You go through the forest canopy made up of Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock and Cedar trees. The forest is home to bear, cougar, hoary marmot, owl, deer, and other forest mammals. It costs $98 Canadian (£40/59Eu) for adults, or you could get a family pass for two adults and two children, which costs $298 (£120/180Eu)
Contact: David Udow
PO Box 734
V0N 1B0, Canada
Telephone: 604 935 0001
Fax: 604 935 4101
Toll Free: 866 935 0001
Experience the exhilaration of flying as you glide along steel ziplines suspended high above the breathtaking white-water river that divides Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.
Contact: Tom Radke
Whistler Blackcomb Mountains
Telephone: 604 932 3434
Toll free: 1 866 218 9690
For the ultimate mountain biking experience, check out some of the best downhill anywhere in the world.
By Richard Cooke