First things first, I spent only four days in Whistler. This is not enough. I visited a friend who has lived there for four months – a whole summer – this is more like it. If you are a rider or any sort of lover of the outdoors, I guarantee you will fall in love with Whistler. Not just the place, but the people, the atmosphere and the magic. Whistler is a two hour drive north of Vancouver along one of the most beautiful roads in the world (the Sea-to-Sky highway) in B.C., Canada.
A Local Perspective
I was lucky enough to stay with a family that live in Creek Side (just outside of Whistler village). Within hours of arriving, I was having a BBQ dinner at a house around the corner, talking riding, climbing, travels and weather. I get the feeling that this is normal for most locals in the area, with friends on every street and the outdoors always at the top of their minds. You will be hard pressed to find an unfriendly face anywhere near Whistler. It is a vibrant mix of true locals and those like my friend who are there to experience a season. This being said, I would recommend staying with locals if you can (Airbnb is a good way of doing so) because they can show you the real Whistler.
Exploring Whistler and Blackcomb Peaks
As I mentioned, Whistler thrives on the outdoors in everything, so don’t waste your time staying in and watching a movie, even if it’s raining. That’s another reason why four days is not enough, you should allow for a few “weather days” so that you can pick and choose your activities to accommodate for the sometimes miserable conditions that Whistler encourages, especially if you’re there outside of summer like I was. Getting to the village, if you’re cheap like me, you’ll park in either Lot 4 or 5 where it’s free, if not, you can pay $ to be a little closer to the village. After you’ve wandered through the bike, ski, gear shops and cafes of Olympic Village, suck it up and pay the $60-odd for a trip up the gondolas. This ticket gets you a ride to the top of Whistler Peak, across the Peak-to-Peak gondola over to Blackcomb Mountain to access some sweet hiking. I only had half a day to enjoy this, but you really need a whole day to make the most of it. I did the Decker Loop hike via the Overlord trail and the views of Overlord Glacier were even more spectacular than what you can see from the gondolas. Back on Whistler Peak, the locals tell me that the High Note Trail is the pick of hikes from Whistler Peak, I’m bummed I missed out on that one. Be prepared on these hikes for any weather! Another hike I missed out on due to time and weather is the Sea-to-Sky Trail, a relatively new trail to Whistler that is outstanding according to anyone I talked to, so if you have the time and weather, definitely save that one for a sunny day.
Mountain biking is the heart and soul of Whistler (for summer anyway) and I’m not just talking about the bike park. No matter what your skill level, you can get lost in the charms of Whistler’s single track and ride until your legs can’t take it anymore.
A Local’s Whistler
My first ride was an insight to a local’s Whistler, an easy scenic ride that rolled up and down, not involving a lot of leg work. My local mate was showing me the Cheakamus River from every angle. Towards the end of the ride, we did a few technical loops that are not only well built, but leave the natural features intact to give you a feel of exploration as you ride. “Trash” was my pick of these, which leads you over moss-covered boulders and forest roots to a powerful part of the Cheakamus River. Every trail runner, rider and their dog that we met on the trail gave us a hearty local welcome.
Getting Lost in the Valley
Unfortunately I had a rainy day but this did not stop me riding in the valley and nor should it stop you! Just be respectful of the trails (they are fragile and prone to damage in the wet) and you’ll be ok. You can look at the two loops I did at the link below and make your own adventure, but make sure you include “The River Runs Through It”, the network of blue trails on the west side of Lost Lake and at least one section of “Comfortably Numb”. The “River” trail is the perfect mix of natural-cut trails and man-made bridges and connectors. It is a local favourite and easy to understand why. The east side of the Lost Lake trail network takes you up to a great viewpoint of Green Lake. Even though you’re climbing the whole way, the nature of the trails makes it seem like that is not so. You can really have fun on this stuff. If you can make it out to the west side of Lost Lake, it’s here you really get the impression that you’re out in the wilderness. It takes you through beautiful forest that tempts you to lose your focus as you tip toe across features only a few tire-widths wide.
The Bike Park
I don’t need to talk much about this since there is so much out there already. All I will say is that while the bike park ticket is pricy at $70, it is well worth it. I spent the day covered in mud and missing feeling in my feet and hands from the cold and I was still all smiles. The trails are not only well-constructed, they are safe. While you shouldn’t go hell-for-leather on your first run, it is easy to stay out of trouble, even when you’re on a cross-country bike like mine.
Top Riding Tips
If you’re going riding in the Valley, make sure you download the Trailforks app before you go, it is perfect for navigating yourself around the maze of trails available to you.
Avoid the common burdock at all costs! This nasty weed will get attached to anything (in my case shoes and gloves) and you will spend a good half hour picking every last thorn out. They are also a nuisance to the plant life so if you get any on you, stop straight away and get rid of it so you don’t spread it.
If your’e going to the bike park in the wet, get a mud guard, even if you have to fashion one out of a large soft drink bottle (like I did). It is essential.
So Much More On Offer
Whistler is surrounded by peaks, lakes and mountains just waiting to be explored on two feet (and sometimes two hands). In my short time, I summitted the Stawamus Chief, went canoeing across Callaghan Lake and hiked up a waterfall to Cirque Lake. If these trips are any sort of indicator of the beauty of the rest of Whistler, B.C.’s wilderness, then a trip here will lift your spirit.
Hit El Furniture Warehouse in the Village for $4.95 meals that are hearty and delicious (seriously, not small at all!). To warm up after and during bike park adventures, seek out Fat Tony’s Pizza for generously sized $2 slices of dough that will warm you to the core (it is tucked away behind Stonesedge Kitchen with all the umbrellas out front).