Tag Archives: Whistler Ski Resort

Whistler Mountain Bike Park – Day 2

This is the second part of Jeff’s guest post!

On day two, I decided to head all the way up the mountain. After all, this was my last day here, and I wanted to make the most of the mountain. Enough trails were completed on the first day on the lower mountain that it seemed to make sense to skip this section until later that day. There was a pronounced thermocline heading up to the Garbonzo area. The wind picked up a little and the temperature dropped about 10-15 degrees. Although the chairlift passed through a cloud at one point, I was able to start the trails with great visibility and sunshine. I took Una Mas (a blue free ride trail) followed by Mid-Guard, South Park, and Earth Circus (all very large, sweeping downhills with jumps) down the other side of the mountain to the bottom of Creekside, and took the Gondola back up.

After getting off the Gondola, it was time for Freight Train (black diamond free ride trail), followed by an accidental double-black diamond technical run called No Duff. Oops, I didn’t mean to do that! This double-diamond run was about the sketchiest run I had ever been on.  Some sections I walked down, and on other sections I wasn’t sure what to do – it was that steep! The rock section was about 100 feet down and I couldn’t even get an eyeball on  parts, due to the grade. Ultimately, I was faced with three choices:  head back up to the junction (a long, steep uphill), slide down on my butt (with the bike) or take my chances on the downhill.  (This is where the downhill rig would have been very helpful!) After some water and more contemplating, I decided to mount my steed and cautiously head down. Whew, made it!

After the sketchy downhill this trail took me to an open field area, where I noticed another black bear a little distance off the trail. I took my camera out and shot a couple of bear pictures. Shortly thereafter I saw that this black bear had 3 small cubs with her! This is something not to mess with, so this time I scurried off down the trail with extreme urgency. I finished up doing black and blue free ride and technical trails, with a couple more double-diamond ones thrown in the middle. By the end of the day, I was a little more comfortable with the more extreme trails. I packed my stuff and drove back to Ferndale, Washington, very happy to be in one piece. The only casualty was my Reverb seat post, which broke on one of the many jumps.

Whistler Mountain Bike Park – Day 1

This is a guest post by Jeff!

Whistler, touted as the downhill capital of the world among mountain bikers, is located in British Columbia, Canada. Whistler has been on my radar since the late 1990s, but given its remote location it was a challenge to reach from Florida. As such, it has been on my “must do” mountain bike bucket list since starting our West Coast Tour. The drive from Ferndale, Washington takes about 2 hours, however the scenery starting from Vancouver and heading north to Whistler is nothing short of spectacular. Serious eye candy! The north and west showcases the Strait of Georgia followed by snow-capped mountains, and to the east for the entire drive are steep mountains laced with lush emerald green forests and rocky cliff faces. Whistler is similar to most ski-resort type towns with its many quaint shops, restaurants, and hotels. During the summer the town is transformed into a mountain bike mecca sporting the latest in downhill bicycles, equipment, and gear. My “all mountain” mountain bike is about the minimum recommended rig for this mountain, and countless times during my two day trip I could have used more suspension as mine bottomed out on the larger jumps and drops. One of those downhill bikes would have been nice, but I decided to stay with my rig.

Upon arrival, I parked in one of the many lots for $7.00/day, suited up in my downhill gear (full-face helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, and gloves), grabbed my carbon-fiber steed, and headed for the ticketing area. The ticketing area was bustling with all kinds of people and bicycles. Hikers could take the gondola up in one direction to the subalpine and alpine hiking trails, and a chair lift was used for the mountain bikers, whisking them up in another direction. A lift pass for a bicycle is similar to a skier in that it costs about $53.00/day, and the lifts are open from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. My stamina isn’t what it used to be, so 6 hours of mountain biking was plenty for me, before retiring to my hotel (hopefully in one piece). After paying for my lift ticket and getting a trail map, it was time to catch the first chair lift.

While on the chair lift, I studied the map only to figure out that there were many chair lifts and a gondola which serviced the mountain bikers. The main area, called Fitzsimmons, was the original Whistler downhill area. This took up one entire side of the trail map, with a seemingly endless intertwined spaghetti bowl of trails. I flipped the trail map over to find two more large sections of trails. One trail area was higher up on the mountain, called Garbonzo, and the other trail area which encompassed the opposite side of the mountain was called Creekside. After getting off the chair lift, I discovered that the Garbonzo area chair lift was labelled, “experts only.” Consequently, I felt it was prudent to stay on the lower section of the mountain first, before venturing further. Given that the lower section had everything from easy to “Pro Lines”, it would take the better part of the day just to figure out the lower trail system.

The trail map yielded a wealth of information. I determined that the trails were further subdivided into “Technical” and “Free Ride” trails. About 70% was setup for technical riding, and about 30% was earmarked for “Free Ride.” If you don’t mind leaving the earth from time to time, the Free Ride trails offered buff single track, with various jumps and table tops, all broken down from beginner to Double-Black expert levels. The technical trails are much less buff, and generally contained natural obstacles, roots, rocks, logs, drops, jumps, and other natural or constructed features that required technical riding skills, and again were divided from beginner to expert levels. I started on an easy free ride section called “Easy Does It”, and it proved to be a great introduction to the large, sweeping berms all the way down the mountain. Throughout the first day, I spent my time on mainly blue intermediate free ride and technical trails, but ventured down a couple of black diamond free ride and technical trails just to get the flow of the mountain. On my last run of the day, I about ran into a rather large black bear hanging out on the trails. Good thing my disk brakes work well! The bear saw me, and scurried off down the trail. A great first day!

Chill time

It’s quite nice to be in real-life mode, rather than vacation mode. Vacation mode, for us, means an almost non-stop schedule of activities, driven by a short-term visit to an area and a desire to see and do everything possible in the time we have. That’s exciting, but also a bit tiring. Settling here for a month is allowing us to relax into more of what I call “real life” mode. We are still exploring, but at a slower pace. It allows for just chill time – time to read, watch movies, and just enjoy our camping spot. It’s nice, like a vacation from vacation mode!

This area of far northwest Washington state offers quite a lot to do. I already posted about our whale watching tour, which was one of my favorite activities so far on this full time RV journey.  I’d do that again!

One of Jeff’s goals on our journey has been to visit Whistler ski resort north of Vancouver, which is touted as one of the best downhill mountain bike parks in the world. It was too far for a day trip, so he scheduled a quick overnight journey. Because of Pumpkin kitty, I am loath to leave overnight, plus I needed to work, so I stayed behind. It allowed me to catch up on some household chores, plus do my consulting work.  He’ll have to post about his adventure sometime, but he is much better at adventuring than posting! Here’s a couple photos though.

We hopped the motorcycle one day and made the 2.5 hour trek eastward to the North Cascades National Park. It is beautiful, but largely inaccessible except by foot. One major road takes you east-west through the park, along rivers and overlooks to glaciated peaks and turquoise lakes. The glacier river is dammed in three places, forming the beautiful lakes, controlling flooding, and generating clean power for the Seattle area. The lowest power plant offered a self-guided tour* and garden-like paths along the river.  The park was lovely, but unless you’re up for a major backpack trip or want to play on the lakes, there’s not so much to do.

Another day we journeyed up to the (closer) Mount Baker, whose snow-frosted peak is visible from our campground. A ski resort in winter, the mountain gets an immense amount of snow, which was still quite evident during our visit. In fact, several of the hikes we wanted to do in the higher elevations were still completely snow covered. I guess you need to visit in late August in order to really do much hiking – that, or wear snow gear! The huge mounds of melting snow formed interesting snow caves and shapes.

More on our explorations to come …

* Side note:  On the self-guide power plant tour, the exhibit included quite a funny statement about engineers. We took a photo, but here’s the text if you can’t read it:

“An ENGINEER is one who passes as an expert on the strength of being able to turn out with prolific fortitude, strings of incomprehensible formulae calculated with micromatic precision from extremely vague assumptions which are based on debatable figures acquired from inconclusive tests and quite incomplete experiments carried out with instruments of problematic accuracy by persons of doubtful reliability and of rather dubious mentality with the particular anticipation of disconcerting and annoying everyone outside of their own fraternity.”