Top of the World: Whistler Bike Park 5k Descent

Aug 2, 2012 at 0:01
Aug 2, 2012
by Freehub Magazine  
 
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Brian Finestone can’t help but smile. Sure, he’s been overseeing the Whistler-Blackcomb Bike Park for close to a decade and has orchestrated many groundbreaking projects, but we are standing atop a new era for pedal-powered descents: the snow-banked trailhead for Top Of The World.

It is a day before the official public opening of the new alpine trail and the lifties are still getting used to loading and unloading bikes on Whistler’s Peak Chair. Indeed, watching $5,000 dangle from a single hook 100 feet over the monolithic boulders of Whistler Bowl can be a nerve-wracking experience. At the top, a middle-aged woman cheers as she unloads my ride successfully. We are a group of a dozen or so riders—everyone from mountain bike beginners from the Globe and Mail to guys like Finestone and Whistler-Blackcomb’s own Peter Lonergan who rip the park on a daily basis, and myself, Freehub Publisher Brandon Watts, and a couple of other local media types.

Photo by Colin Wiseman

Jared Vandergriend makes the first turn on the Top Of The World with Black Tusk in the background.



We look over to views of the iconic Black Tusk drifting in and out of spotty cloud cover. The top section of the trail is loose, rocky, and a little intimidating for those who don’t ride much downhill, mostly due to a bit of exposure and tight switchbacks. But after a half dozen turns, the trail settles into loamy, winding singletrack alongside the first stunted evergreens at treeline with views to the Coast Mountains fading into the distance.

Photo by Colin Wiseman

Yes, it's rocky off the top. Eric Johnson (front) and Jared Vandergriend (back) through the switchbacks.



Photo by Colin Wiseman

Finding flow - Eric Johnson pumps a benched-out section before the trail makes its first road crossing and drops into the loam.



Photo by Colin Wiseman

Jared Vandergriend navigates one of the more technical sections near the top of the trail.



Yet this is just a taste—the Top Of The World trail is still under construction. Only two of five sections are complete, and the bulk of the descent below treeline utilizes existing winter runs to bring riders back to the west side of the Garbanzo zone, where, after 2,000-plus vertical feet of descending, riders link into another 3,000 feet back to the village. However, Finestone explains plans to rough out singletrack below Cockalorum in West Bowl, which will link singletrack from the peak to the park. And, eventually, they hope to break ground on subsequent alpine trails to provide a decidedly different aspect the Whistler Bike Park—more of an all-mountain, trail-bike-ready experience at 7,000 feet; a type of riding suited to cyclists looking to add some seclusion and alpine vistas to their gravity experience.

Photo by Colin Wiseman

Top Of The World reconnects with the Garbanzo zone of the Whistler Bike Park on the upper reaches of Freight Train, just in time for Eric Johnson to send a few wall rides in the tunnel.



Photo by Colin Wiseman

Just before entering the lower mountain, Eric Johnson rallies Drop In Clinic while Jared Vandergriend follows behind.



As we reconvene within the bike park proper, our group splits into a few groups, with the more experienced riders dropping into the high speed confines of Freight Train and the well-traveled haunts of the lower mountain. For now, only 100 Peak Chair bike passes will be sold per day, ensuring the trail will not become congested or overcrowded. We will ride for two more days, being several of the lucky 100 to score a Peak Pass and find some alpine flow Saturday evening. And we will leave with a new perspective on what riding the Whistler Bike Park can mean.

Words and Photos by Colin Wiseman.

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43 Comments

  • + 7
 I haven't been up top of the world yet but have heard a few responses from people I ride with regularly and they were generally disappointed for spending $15 to ride a lot of gravel road- as the article says only 2/5ths done, so may be worth waiting till finished unless your itching for view and some gravel road riding
  • + 4
 This ^^^^
"utilizes existing winter runs" aka gravel road. A friend and I rode it on Monday. I didn't mind it, but I got a free ticket. Also, I was on my 6&6 bike. My friend who had paid $16 to go up, and was on his DH rig, was disappointed. We both agreed, that this year, its a bit too early for the trail. Next year, when more is completed, it will be an epic, well worth it, ride. If you are going to go ride it this year, go for the view, not the trail. However, put it on your to-do list for late 2013!
  • + 1
 We rode the 3rd section which was newly open yesterday, The 4th section is slated for completion this year (weather gods permitting - alpine storms are harsh). The 5th section is the section that will replace a fair amount of the Hwy 86 access road trundle but is scheduled for next year
  • + 8
 At least its only $15-16 though. The view from way up there would probably be worth the 15 for me.
  • + 2
 The view would be worth it as would be the feeling of such a long descent. You can do it in the winter and now in the summer too. I'm looking forward to riding it in late August.
  • + 1
 I remember doing this run off the top years ago and we were encouraged to slow down and enjoy the views as you rode because that's how you got down, was on dirt roads. I'm glad I did instead of trying to bomb the road. For the price they're offering, with some trails thrown in now, it will be worth it to do at least once, granted you take in your surroundings.
  • + 15
 Newsflash - Whistler expands and gets better In other news - Australian Government still trying to understand tubeless tires Usless bunch of tits
[Reply]
  • + 3
 to all the people hating on this trail, saying they r disapointed. remember that no-one actually said nor was it publisised that the trail was finished. it is however something that is very new to whistler and personaly i think the trail is amazing. it will be awesome when the trail is finished but for now take advantage of bieng able to take ur bike to the highest point of whistler and ride it down. its the first time u can do it without a guide. huge props to Brian and the trail crew on an amazing new trail, ill also add the new additions to the bike park and the changes to the trails this year r making my love for riding my bike even stronger.
  • + 1
 I agree. I feel a bit bad for my comment earlier as when I re-read it, it was a bit more negative than what it was meant to be! I think we were more disappointed that we didn't know it wasn't finished and went up with such high expectations. If I had read that it was only 2/5th finished before we went, then I think our attitudes would have been different. I am really looking forward to riding the trail again and seeing it through to completion!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 $15 is the equivalent to almost two frothy coffees at Starbucks, or a beer and a half at a Jays game. Sign me up! Just think of us poor schmucks here in Ontario that would trade the world to be able to regularly hit a trail like this.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I rode it on Sunday and would have surely skipped the $15 if I knew it wasn't complete. All the action you see in the first four pictures is in the first ten minutes (for a slow rider) then you ride a rocky fire road....

The first section is however, epic. I can see some mass carnage occurring for those not heading the warning that this is an expert trail.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Rode TOTW about a week ago after a new section had been opened. Brilliant trail, well worth the extra money, not sure its grading of double black is accurate, although it is very exposed and quite remote. First section is probably the most technical, but it all flows well. It links onto trails such as Ride Dont Slide or Khyber Pass, or onto Garbanzo if you like. Took a DH bike, some others I rode with had 4'' trail bikes, and both were absolutely fine, very little climbing sections. Highly recommended.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 once it opens, can they honestly stop you from riding up say from the village or more realistically the top of Garbo to ride it? W/B is on crown land/provincial park isn't it? How can they restrict access to Khyber Pass to guided groups?
  • + 1
 Access roads even in crown land under tenured license (this is the case for W/B or forest op companies or cat skiing ops for example) can be barred to public travel for safety, permit-related or other legally binding reasons. You can access land which isn't an access road in tenured ops under most circumstances if you don't use access roads. Interesting for winter access but pretty tough for summer unless you appetite for bushwhacking coastal salal is high.

Simple answer - you could try to get up to ride that trail but you can be restricted from using Hwy 86 or other access roads to do so. having said that as long as you're not being a safety hazard or menace (eg having beers in the middle of a construction zone or leaving garbage etc) NOTE _ this is just my best guess and not an official position. Good luck!
  • + 1
 Thanks. Is the 100 riders/day quota a BC parks restriction? No big deal really; I would drive by tonnes of better alpine rides on my way there...
  • + 1
 Its a voluntary restriction to mitigate erosion
[Reply]
  • + 1
 That looks amazing. Great article and great pictures, it is nice to see a different side of whistler. Out of interest how long does the lift up to the top take and how many changes do you need to make?
  • + 1
 24 minutes up the gondola. One change to peak peak chair and another 5 to 7 minute ( I can't remember) ride.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Living in NC, I ache for a true alpine ride. We have wonderful trails, but we don't have lifts. Oh well. One day the pilgrimage to mountain bike mecca will happen. One day.
  • + 4
 That sounds like a case of the "grass is greeners" You have Mt. Mitchell and Pisgah. Compare that to anything in Florida and you're considered spoiled.
  • + 1
 Pisgah is on my bucket list for sure. And, since NC is closer to the Midwest than Whistler, I'm sure I'll get there first.
  • + 3
 Agree with rupintart. If it's lifts you're after, sure, Whistler for the win. But even Whistler XC doesn't compare to Pisgah.
  • + 1
 Pisgah is wonderful. So is DuPont. I'm definitely guilty of grass is greener. Or rocks are grayer?
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I was one of the first public 100 to ride. Must say it was amazing. Yes a bunch of lines are sill closed off and under construction, but it was still a hell of a ride. Good job whistler!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I did it (at no additional charge). It was fun to do once as an scenic experience - but not something I would bother to do regularly at this point.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Yeah, I was UP there last week riding with Claire Buchar and a group from Andrew Shandro's SGC. It was really cool. And the ride was awesome. Get after it in Whistler!!!
[Reply]
  • + 0
 Personally i think it's a great idea, but who would want to spend 15 extra dollars if you already have trails like A-Line and Dirt Merchant?
  • + 3
 because it's a totally different riding experience, like comparing chalk 'n cheese, epic 'n steeze
[Reply]
  • + 1
 This looks epic! My type of riding big time, nice trail but epic views! Must go to Whistler before I die... many times over!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I'm hoping to do this run in August.....reckon it's worth it?? Should be epic!
[Reply]
  • - 2
 Looks like ALpe d´Huez Megavalanche! So is this going to be the next big mass start venue in northamerica ?? Humm.... Exodus whattever, we need you also arrange big wide field in to the top and perhaps spread some artificial snow!!?
  • + 1
 its the peak dude, artificial snow isnt needed whistlers got the real thing
[Reply]
  • + 1
 This appeals to me big time.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 anyone know when the whole alpine side will be done??
[Reply]
  • + 1
 You sir have fine taste in trails. BTW a new section opened up today.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 2 weeks and I get to ride this! So pumped!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Sounds like lift operated epic. I wanna go!
[Reply]
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