Mountain biking in Whistler
Mountain biking in Whistler
Of all British Columbia’s ski / MTB destinations, Whistler is the largest and most famous.
The destination is often referred to as ‘Whistler-Blackcomb’ with Blackcomb being the name of the adjacent mountain included in the overall park. For such a massive resort, it’s surprising to learn that the first development in Whistler only began in 1966. It’s a purpose-built resort.
With massive peaks surrounding Whistler Village in every direction, and chairlifts that operate throughout the summer, it’s not surprising that downhill and freeride mountain biking are the top attractions here for riding. Whistler is in the heart of the Coast Mountains. Although the mountains are rugged, riders can find beginner trails that follow the contours, through to the steepest downhill trails with up to 1,600 meters (5,000 feet) of descending.
The resort's network of trails caters for all levels of riders from beginners to world champions. There's even a Bike School that offers daily lessons for everyone from complete beginners and for kids as young as three years old.
The Whistler mountain bike park operates four chairlifts. Mountain biking and other summer activities are now so popular that of Whistler’s three million visitors per year, 45% come in winter and 55% in summer!
When to go
Since 2004, each year in August, Whistler hosts its famous Crankworx festival. What started as a Whistler only event is now the biggest event of the Crankworx World Tour. Crankworx attracts the world’s best downhill and extreme mountain bikers. There’s also a large expo where most of the major bike brands not only exhibit but also offer demo bikes for test riding.
Subject to weather conditions, Whistler is open for mountain biking from May until October. Due to snow conditions, the chairlifts lowest on the mountain are the first to open and the last to shut. The highest lift, the Peak Express, is only open from early July until middle September. This is the peak season for mountain biking, during which time the lifts stay open until 8pm each evening.
All the info
Where to ride
It’s recommended that not only first-time visitors, but also the most experienced mountain bikers familiarize themselves with Whistler and its terrain by starting with the EZ Does It Trail. This is a great introduction to the area and you'll love this as an orientation ride no matter your level of experience, fitness and skill.
Whistler mountain bike park is divided into four zones, with Fitzsimmons being the lower slopes next to the village. Above that is Garbanzo, followed by the less creatively named Peak zone which is for advanced riders only. Overlapping all three zones on another face of the mountain is Creekside, which was only opened in 2018 with five trails totaling 13 km (8 miles).
When all sections are open, they’re serviced by six chairlifts.
Where to stay
Whistler has a permanent population of just under 12,000 but an additional capacity for no less than 30,000 overnight visitors! This capacity is spread across 150 hotels, chalets, hostels and campsites, of which we've included a selection below of those which are most bike-friendly.
Aava Whistler Hotel http://www.aavawhistlerhotel.com markets itself as a mountain biker’s hotel. It offers a bike vault (secure storage), bike valet, bike wash and tool station, all included in the standard room price. It even allows dogs!
If you're traveling with a large group of say 6-10 people you can also rent entire houses for $350 to $500 per night that will work out to a very economical rate per person per night.
Where to eat and drink
As you might expect in such a large resort, there's a multitude of places to eat and drink, with everything from budget burger bars to expensive steakhouses and an Irish pub.
If you’re after traditional mountain bike rider’s food of pasta or pizza there are more than 10 Italian restaurants! You'll be well carbed-up.
Most restaurants are in Whistler Village at the base of the mountain but there are also a few on the slopes to save you having to go all the way back down for lunch.
Bike stores and rentals
There are about 20 different bike hire businesses in Whistler. Most of these hire skis and snowboards in the winter and bikes in summer.
Many of these are full-service bicycle shops that also sell new bikes and accessories and have a mechanic on duty to serve your personal bike. These include Fanatyk Ski & Cycle, Gateway Bikes, and Fineline.
Book a tour
Whistler offers several MTB guide companies that will ride with you and show you the trails. The oldest is Whistler Bike Guides
Transport and shuttle services
You can book a float plane through Tyax Adventures to fly from Whistler to remote lakes and then ride back into Whistler for an absolutely unforgettable experience.
Or you can book a helicopter to take you to places the chairlifts don’t reach. A local guide is recommended for these rides. www.blackcombaviation.co
Events, key attractions and other points of interest
Roadies are not entirely ignored at Whistler. The sole road to the resort, the spectacular Sea to Sky Highway 99, is completely closed to traffic for one day of the year to host the GranFondo Whistler. This is part of the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships and attracts 4,500 riders.
Whistler was initially founded as part of an ultimately unsuccessful bid for the 1968 winter Olympics. Decades later, Whistler hosted the downhill ski events for the 2010 Winter Olympics.