Whistler Mountain Bike Park
While doing some Downhill MTB in Queenstown, New Zealand I was told by all locals that Whistler was the “Mecca”. This made me shit my pants because Whistler is in my backyard (I live in Washington). So I scheduled a trip there in June, shortly after it opened for the season which goes until there is snow on the ground in September. Here’s some info so you don’t have to do the research.
First of all, Whistler is small and accommodation is everywhere. Find the cheapest place possible and go from there. Renting a bike costs $100 – $130 a day for a full day. DON’T DO HALF DAY. You will of course save money if you do 2 or 3 day. DO THIS. Bikes are great, come with full face helmet, gloves, shin pads, and elbow pads. You only need to bring shoes.
Lift tickets (around $60) are cheaper if you book in advance. DO THIS. Go to Lift Tickets
The park is split in 2 zones (Fitzsimmons and Garbanzo), by Color (difficulty) and Type (Technical or Flow). Fitzsimmons is the lower section served by the first chairlift you take from the bottom. Garbanzo is the upper section served by the chairlift you will see when you get off of the first lift.
Technical is exactly what it sounds like. Slower speed, more difficult features such as rock faces, logs, narrow trails, what not.
Flow is fast flowing with jumps. When I say fast flowing, I mean FAST. Guys fly down these so go fast or stay out the way. In my opinion flow is the most fun, but that’s because I like jumping.
Green Runs (Beginner): easiest, no berms, gentle slopes. I recommend you stay off unless you want a sit-down ride. This is for people who have never ridden a bike off-road before.
Blue Runs (Intermediate): Still easy, anyone could ride them. They have jumps, berms, but no gaps. All jumps are table-tops and relatively small.
Black Runs (advanced): Here is where it starts to get hard. The technical get pretty crazy and the flows get bigger and faster. There will be gaps and drops introduced here. I recommend you follow a local through first so you can match his speed and know what to expect because if you try to crawl through alone, you might end up getting hurt. There are a lot of blind spots on these trails and guys FLY. Just wait at the start and when a local drops in, drop in behind him and follow.
Double Black (Expert Only): These are like the blacks but stepped up a BIG notch. If the blacks weren’t enough for you then congratulations, follow a local through these.
Orange Diamond (Pro Only): These get crazy, the jumps are huge (Motocross sized). Stay away unless you are a Pro. I went for the jumps at Crab Apple and busted my elbow dearly on Jump number 3. Then again, I wasn’t ready for it. Next time.
If you have done Downhill before then start the day in Fitzsimmons zone on B-Line or Crank it up (blue runs) to get warmed up. These are fun and loaded with Table top jumps. If you want to warm up in Garbanzo zone then start with Blue Velvet (Blue run), this is loaded with jumps and cool features. It ended on a long gravel road though due to construction, which is a joy kill.
Once you are ready to get on some blacks I recommend:
A-Line and Dirt Merchant in Fitzsimmons zone
Freight Train/ No Joke in Garbanzo zone to get started.
These are some pretty awesome flow runs that get pretty big, but aren’t too much for the intermediate rider.
If you want to get into some Technical Blacks, I started with Original sin and Sidetrack in Garbanzo. These were passible for me and I AM NOT a technical rider.
If you want to step it up a notch on the jumping, then go to Crab Apple, These are all you need for a good time.
Honestly, I stayed up in Garbanzo most of the day because it had virtually NO lift line. Whereas, the bottom is usually packed because people get lost and end up there. If you are looking for a good time, then take both lifts to the top and do full mountain runs, these will put your grip to the test.
Overall, Whistler is loaded with Runs and it is almost impossible to cover it all in a day, but entirely possible to get lost in its vastness. Go to the Mountain at 1000 (10am) when it opens and rip it up till 2000 (8pm) when it closes. This is the best place for MTB I have ever been. Then again, I am still a newb.